I'm hoping to get motivated enough to write a review. It'll be a nice way to think through my thoughts around this book that has had such a significan...moreI'm hoping to get motivated enough to write a review. It'll be a nice way to think through my thoughts around this book that has had such a significant impact on my life.(less)
I was really impressed by this book. Possibly in part because it's not the kind of thing I expected to read from Freud given everything I knew(or thou...moreI was really impressed by this book. Possibly in part because it's not the kind of thing I expected to read from Freud given everything I knew(or thought I knew) about him.
The book is his thoughts on man relinquishing the need for religion. But really it's about society and civilization, and man's place within them. As a criticism of religion I wouldn't call it particularly profound(and i have issues with his belief that God and religion in part developed from a father complex). To be fair, Freud even states that as a criticism of religion the book is no feat. But as an exploration of the idea of man subjugating his instincts for the benefits gained from being a part of society it was surprisingly interesting. As well as some other ideas about the development and infusion of religious ideas in society.
There were also some passages I found interesting towards the end about educating children, neurosis, and anxiety. (less)
It took me a long time to read this book, and I'm not sure how much these disparate readings affected my overall impression of the book. Pirsig doesn'...moreIt took me a long time to read this book, and I'm not sure how much these disparate readings affected my overall impression of the book. Pirsig doesn't have a narrative structure, he wanders. And these wanderings tend to circle back around and all tie in to a greater point or idea he's trying to get to the root of. Leaving the book for days or weeks at a time makes it hard to follow that strand and keep a sense of how the ideas you're reading about tie into the overall purpose of the book.
Zen is one of my all time favorite books and had a profound impact on my person. So I'm not 100% certain what it was about this book that didn't work for me. It could be that i'm an older more discerning reader these days, and that maybe if I read Zen again today (though I have re-read it a handful of times in the past) it wouldn't resonate as true with me either. I am certainly more knowledgeable about certain matters of science that I wasn't on my first readings of Zen. This was something that I noticed a few times earlier on in Lila. I found myself disagreeing with some things Pirsig was saying and I questioned whether it was because he was wrong, or if it was something I just wasn't able to grasp yet. This is what struck me as different about this book. When reading Zen I found myself instantaneously agreeing with and seeing the truth of much of what Pirsig said, and the things which I didn't understand in the book I assumed I would in time, after more thought and reading (which I have), because I thoroughly believed in the rest of the ideas i was reading. In the case of Lila, I thought I understood more, and found that I had more disagreements with Pirsig.
This was a first reading though, and having read Zen multiples times, I always get more out of it with each subsequent read. It may be a bit early to fully judge Lila. I've also wondered if Zen was simply more appealing to me because I love motorcycles and was able to instantly connect with that aspect of the book, whereas Lila herself and their story didn't really engage me in any way. Pirsig's thoughts and ideas fascinate, but maybe the story he wrapped them in this time just had no appeal for me. I was also really disappointed with the ending.
My problems with the actual ideas presented were twofold. Certain ideas just rang false based on my understanding of the universe (I'm being vague, i know, but there's too much to respond to specifically). Certain others I question the manner in which he comes to his conclusions. Many of his ideas come to him in flashes. He sees the truth of it, and then puts together all the pieces of the puzzle to explain it. I wonder whether his reasoning is just a post hoc rationalization without any real merit. That he is just finding things to fit his conclusions, which is what makes the simple brilliance of his ideas so right sounding to him (and to the reader).
I will say that my thoughts did seem to change as the book went on. I found his ideas about insanity really insightful. And at some point all his talk of dynamic vs. static quality, inorganic vs. organic patterns, and biological, social, and intellectual patterns all started to make sense. There seemed to be some sort of logical leap at the end though that jumped from the intellectual pattern being subservient to the mystic pattern which I think he equated with full dynamic quality.
In the end, I think this is a worthwhile read, though it lacked the cohesion of Zen. It purported to be "an inquiry into morals" and in my mind failed in a true exploration of that purpose. But it further explores ideas in Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality and even if many of the ideas he talks about don't all tie together neatly, they are all mostly fascinating in their own right. For every idea I read which I disagreed with there were many more that I not only agreed with, but almost felt this great sigh of relief escape me because here finally someone was able to express in words thoughts I have not been able to do so for myself. Because no matter how rational and logical my reasoning is, how much it is based on a deep scientific understanding of the universe, there is a point where certain ideas i have about morals and ethics and "good" come down to certain assumptions that I have no method or framework to explain. At the base of all his writings Pirsig is trying to explain this same something and so I very much value his works. Not only because I think he is mostly correct in his assertions, but because I believe he is mostly responsible and thoughtful in his methods. I appreciate that his process of explanation incorporates his understanding of physics and biology, evolution and anthropology, eastern mysticism and personal experience, and that he weaves all these different ways of understanding the universe into one grand idea. (less)
The book is basically a history of philosophy wrapped around an extremely loose plot. While this book was a lot of re-hash for me, I still thought it...moreThe book is basically a history of philosophy wrapped around an extremely loose plot. While this book was a lot of re-hash for me, I still thought it was really great. It's the kind of thing I really wish I had read anywhere in my teenage years and serves as a fantastic introduction to the world of philosophy. It covers most western philosophy from the early greeks to the present day(with some passing comments here and there of eastern philosophy and religions), without going into all that much detail.
What I appreciated most about the book was the author's emphasis on the importance of scientific inquiry and understanding, and the time spent talking about scientists as well as philosophers. I've always said that asking philosophical questions is great in and of itself, but useless if you don't take into account our current scientific understanding of the universe. Not only can scientific inquiry help answer many philosophical questions, but it more fundamentally provides a base to even begin asking new questions from.
My only complaint about the book was that the author seemed to put a bit too much stock into Freud. I don't mean to take away from his influence or importance. But I never bought the stress placed on the Oedipus complex and all the latent sexual desire in his theories. I'm not really sure of the current state of psychology in regards to those ideas though.
this was an enjoyable audio experience. Nichols does a commendable job of discussing issues to do with free will from a philosophical perspective.
He...morethis was an enjoyable audio experience. Nichols does a commendable job of discussing issues to do with free will from a philosophical perspective.
He starts by giving many classic conceptions of free will and determinism, religious and otherwise, and follows by detailing many of the different philosophical theories regarding free will and determinism. He then moves on to different branches of science and what they have to say about free will and determinism, and ends by discussing different ethical systems and how they are impacted by the knowledge we gain from the free will/determinism debate. I know I keep using both free will and determinism a lot, but it's important to make the distinction that lack of free will can be compatible with indeterminism.
It had some weak points, particularly in the science sections. But on the whole he does a pretty thorough job of discussing all the different aspects important to this issue. I was a little surprised that as a philosopher who is obviously at least somewhat well versed in science he didn't offer up any suggestions for how scientific knowledge about cognition in general should effect our ethics. Maybe that wasn't his intent, he focused solely on preexisting theories(utilitarianism, consequentialism, etc..) and only as to how free will and determinism effect them. Interesting, and good food for thought, but in the end not very practical.(less)
This is a book that brings two of my favorite things together in one book.
This book will be awesome.
The book certainly wasn't bad, and I'd still probably recommend it those with any sort of passing interest in either subject, and maybe in particular those who think they're only interested in one. But it failed in living up to my dreams and I think there is one main reason.
A few years ago I read a simply marvelous book called The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul. A fantastic philosophy book edited by Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter. Similar to this book, they bring together stories and essays by various individuals, but what really made Mind's I stand out in my opinion, is the end of chapter analyses by Dennett and Hofstadter. This is exactly what Schneider's book could have used. Short write ups discussing the essay, how it relates to science fiction or philosophy, and maybe further explorations of the issues. It really could have helped engage the reader in the ideas discussed, particularly for a few of the essays that didn't seem to relate to science fiction in an immediately obvious way.
It's worth noting that had every chapter in the book been fantastically brilliant, I may not have had the desire for better write ups after each one. There were still enough interesting essays to make the book worth reading, it just didn't live up to my, admittedly high, expectations. (less)