First published in 1967, the moral philosophy it deals with is undoubtedly less 'contemporary' than it once was. However, philosophy is a relatively s...moreFirst published in 1967, the moral philosophy it deals with is undoubtedly less 'contemporary' than it once was. However, philosophy is a relatively slow moving animal, and so the book is still a useful guide to certain areas of moral debate. It is short (77 pages or so) and deals with three main theories: intuitionism, emotivism, and prescriptivism (the latter at most length). There are also additional chapters which briefly set out the author's own position on more general questions. Considering how brief it is in scope and length, it's not the best introduction to ethics, but it is nonetheless a good account of early to middle 20th century ethics. Ideal for a student on a degree course, I'd say.(less)
Quite fascinating. There was a time when philosophers wrote about psychology in a way that neither contemporary psychologists nor philosophers now do....moreQuite fascinating. There was a time when philosophers wrote about psychology in a way that neither contemporary psychologists nor philosophers now do. Like Descartes, Hume and others, Cogan is interested in categorising and cataloguing the 'passions and affections' (as he calls them), identifying the underlying principles that shape them, and analysing how they affect our thoughts, actions and general character. The result is a sort of philosophy of the emotions. For instance, he argues that all passions are formed either by 'love' (a desire for the good) or 'hate' (an aversion to the loss of the good). From this, all other things are born: sorrow springs from a sort of grief at the loss of some desired thing, joy from its sudden arrival; benevolence is a recognition of the good in others and selfless celebration of their possession of it. It's an intriguing read. Its one downside perhaps is that the language is a little dated - some sentences go on forever and some terms are somewhat obscure (animadversion, hebetude, and so on). But it's worth getting past that. This is not to say that you will agree with him - his views on gender are entertainingly dated, and Nietzsche would take him to task on his optimistic account of compassion and gratitude (but then, Nietzsche took everyone to task!). But Cogan is insightful and plausible much of the time, and the Treatise will repay a slow thoughtful reading.(less)
Louise Welsh writes beautifully, and she's very adept at realistically capturing the seedy underworld and painting characters that you can understand...moreLouise Welsh writes beautifully, and she's very adept at realistically capturing the seedy underworld and painting characters that you can understand if never completely empathise with. This said, there is a slight pattern emerging - there are plot parallels with The Cutting Room, for instance. Nonetheless, if you like noir crime fiction, then it's some of the best around. (less)
A good, comprehensive introduction to Plato's thought. Probably too detailed and involved for beginners, but is ideal for students, especially at degr...moreA good, comprehensive introduction to Plato's thought. Probably too detailed and involved for beginners, but is ideal for students, especially at degree level. Covers the theory of Forms, Plato's ethics, politics, his attitude to art and theology, his relationship with Socrates, as well as some interesting brief chapters on other topics. (less)
I remember buying this book years ago when looking for something outlandish to read, but when I finally got around to reading it, I realised that I'd...moreI remember buying this book years ago when looking for something outlandish to read, but when I finally got around to reading it, I realised that I'd misjudged it - well, partly. The authors don't hide the fact that they are open to many of the subjects discussed - alien contact, the pyramids of Mars, Atlantis - but most of the book adopts quite an agnostic approach to these central questions. But it's most interesting aspect is that it provides a fascinating account of how various intelligence agencies, cults and organisations have manipulated - perhaps, created - the so-called New Age for their own agenda (sometimes 'spiritual', but often political or even military). Furthermore, the links it makes between these various individuals and organisations are often not conjectural, but documented fact - which is quite worrying, really. Do people in high places really think that aliens built the pyramids, or created life on Earth? Or is it all just some elaborate social experiment to road-test a new means of social control? The authors, to their credit, remain relatively open minded - which was, for someone with a sceptical disposition, something of a pleasant surprise for me! Saying that, their tracing of the endless and intricate web of connections may leave some readers cold.(less)
PKD's last novels are an obsessive reworking of a single theme: the idea that some supernatural/extra-terrestrial intelligence was trying to communica...morePKD's last novels are an obsessive reworking of a single theme: the idea that some supernatural/extra-terrestrial intelligence was trying to communicate with humanity in order to free it from an oppressive, satanic force. This in turn was based on experiences which Dick himself had undergone late in life, and the last books (VALIS, The Divine Invasion, etc) are an attempt to analyse and understand what they might mean. Delusory, drug-induced, paranoid fantasies? Religious revelation? Extra-terrestrial contact? The interesting thing is that Dick was himself open minded as to their true nature. In this final book, released after his death (it seems to have been an early version of VALIS), Dick is himself one of the main characters, but the visionary experiences are given to another character - so as to better analyse their nature, perhaps, to create a dialogue between the rational, sceptical, sci-fi writer, and the person who was tempted to treat the experiences as real and convincing proof of 'something other'. As a novel, I think it's fair to say, it doesn't completely work. There are some interesting ideas, and it is well-written, but it's main appeal will be to those interested in Dick's life and later experiences. Such people may want to seek out the autobiographical writings commonly referred to as the Exegesis, in which Dick attempts to come to terms with his experiences.(less)
Having recommended this book recently, I thought I'd better re-read it. It's a fantastic introduction to Nietzsche's thought. It debunks myths and mis...moreHaving recommended this book recently, I thought I'd better re-read it. It's a fantastic introduction to Nietzsche's thought. It debunks myths and misconceptions, gives an overview of his works and main theories, and basically provides all that anyone coming to his philosophy for the first time can need - and more. Actually, it's a good read even for those familiar with his work. It also gives a balanced view - Nietzsche's somewhat misogynistic attitudes are not spared, and it provides a good basis for further criticism. Clearly and accessibly written, so ideal for any serious beginner, but especially recommended to anyone studying philosophy.(less)
This book is a close analysis of psychological motivation as it appears in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. Dealing initially with Plato's tri...moreThis book is a close analysis of psychological motivation as it appears in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. Dealing initially with Plato's tripartite model of the soul in the Republic (mind, spirit, appetite), Lorenz goes on to show how this model is taken up and refined by Aristotle. He then, in great detail, shows how such a model can give a sophisticated and powerful account of psychological motivation.
As such, this book is too detailed for the general reader, and in fact will be of interest mainly to students of Plato, Aristotle or the history of psychology. However, within this scope, it is quite fascinating. I think it also shows just how important psychology is for philosophy, for it shapes approaches to ethics and the acquisition of knowledge. To be virtuous, for example, it is perhaps essential to 'know thyself' - that is, to understand specifically what is involved in virtuous actions, and also so as to avoid vicious ones. Understanding - for instance - how appetite can be controlled, how imagination can be used to serve reason, etc, provide a practical basis for ethical action. Thus Lorenz does a fine job of revealing just how sophisticated and well-observed the Platonic/Aristotelian concepts of the mind were - a fact that is perhaps not so hidden in Aristotle, but, I always feel, is more obscured in Plato by virtue of the dialogue form. Lorenz's analysis, however, reveals Plato's systematic and careful development of a working psychology that will certainly send interested students back to the dialogues with fresh eyes.(less)
This is a great book. From Plato right through to the 19th century, philosophers approached questions of ethics and knowledge through an understanding...moreThis is a great book. From Plato right through to the 19th century, philosophers approached questions of ethics and knowledge through an understanding of how the mind worked. In Bacon's time, this took the form of what's now called faculty psychology, which saw the functioning of the mind in terms of overlapping and interrelated faculties. The faculty of understanding apprehended the direct forms of things, which was then analysed by reason, and, with the aid of imagination, used to direct and influence the appetite and will. However, this view was so common that Bacon often takes it for granted - he assumed that his readers would be familiar with this picture. Wallace therefore does an invaluable service in filling in the background to Bacon's philosophy - and that of Hobbes, Descartes, Locke and other near contemporaries. This is a fascinating picture in itself, and presents an interesting contrast to the modern view of the mind via neuroscience, which is perhaps not so popular or easy to get a handle on. Arguably, we now no longer have a common language of psychological action and motivation that can act as a basis for popular understanding, for the discussion of ethics and self-knowledge. Such pictures as do exist seem vague and imprecise - we talk more generally of mind and emotion and desire, whereas the classical picture was both more holistic and more complex. (less)
I did enjoy this book - I'd probably give it a 3.5, if the rating system allowed. It is meticulously researched, and throws interesting light on the d...moreI did enjoy this book - I'd probably give it a 3.5, if the rating system allowed. It is meticulously researched, and throws interesting light on the development of science in the 17th and 18th centuries. It shows that science is not some abstract pursuit, divorced from real concerns, but tied up with military ambitions, commerce, colonialism. The first authors of guides to aspects of the natural world - fishes, plants, insects - were as concerned with turning a profit from selling specimens and drugs as they were in furthering knowledge. Also, the first pioneer scientists are an eccentric bunch. Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle shared an interest in alchemy. Robert Hooke, the Royal Society's foremost inventor and experimenter, was a talented artist, who supplied the engravings for his own Micrographia, one of the first collections of everyday objects (fleas, plant seeds) as seen through the microscope. He was also a keen self-medicator, dosing himself with everything from opium to mercury and lead (a practice also maintained by many of his contemporaries). We also learn interesting facts: St Paul's Cathedral was originally designed with a view to providing means to conduct scientific experiments; scientific collaboration continued between scientists of different nationalities, even when their countries were at war. Lisa Jardine writes well, and succeeds in giving fresh life to this early stage of the scientific revolution, and the book is a worthy read for anyone interested in the history of science. However, I do feel that it lacks commentary, to an extent. Whilst tracing the complicated web of influences upon the development of science, she rarely stands back and draws any explicit lessons or observations - which is fine, in a sense. Some may applaud this lack of editorialising. Personally, however, I think this survey would have benefited from more of this type of commentary. Without this, the book tends to degenerate at times into a mass of data - a sea of names, projects, publications, incidents, dates. And the history of science, like science itself, is more than just data collection.(less)
A fascinating book. Bacon is much underrated as a philosopher. His vision for the reform of philosophy and science - well, of learning in general - is...moreA fascinating book. Bacon is much underrated as a philosopher. His vision for the reform of philosophy and science - well, of learning in general - is quite breathtaking in its scope and audacity. He's also a great writer.
The one thing that spoils it is the quality of this edition. There are no notes, no translation of the extremely frequent Latin quotations with which Bacon illustrates his points, which makes for a very frustrating experience.
Also, this is the original English text. Bacon later translated and augmented The AoL, so it might be an easier and more enjoyable read in an English translation of the later Latin edition.(less)