Linguistically this short book is quite naive, apparently blissfully unaware of the Sapir-Whorf philosophy it is espousing, and the incredulous view t...moreLinguistically this short book is quite naive, apparently blissfully unaware of the Sapir-Whorf philosophy it is espousing, and the incredulous view the academic world takes of that philosophy. Nonetheless, I found this an excellent and profitable read. I don't think my pleasure was purely from a personal perspective.
I read this book as I was preparing for my own several-month trip to China. For me, the real insight of this book was in discussing the fundamental difference in western and eastern ways of reasoning. According to Brown, the Chinese way of thinking is harmonious and about building connections, the same way their writing systems work; rather than breaking things down to an alphabet, they are built up out of ideas that fit together to compose new words and concepts. In medicine as well as science, Western culture analyzes by breaking things into ever-smaller components; Easter culture, says Brown, puts things together and regards their relationships; if an organ is failing and won't respond to treatment, the Oriental approach is to treat the parent-organ of the failing one, and then keep working up the tree of relationships.
After my time in China I still don't feel confident enough to completely certify Jones' view of their philosophy; a lot has changed in the westernization of China since he was there. But I did find his two different ways of looking at things as something I regularly considered in dealing with the people and the language, and something that has effected me significantly as I look for new ways of approaching problems and solving troubles.
If you approach this book expecting scientific rigor or psycholinguistic theory, you will be disappointed. But if you read it prepared for a friendly conversation about some interesting ideas, I hope you will find it as valuable as I did. They are ways of looking at the world that have been very valuable to me in the years since. (less)
An excellent overview of discourse analysis and the ways in which Discourse Analysis surveys all the most interesting components of language, includin...moreAn excellent overview of discourse analysis and the ways in which Discourse Analysis surveys all the most interesting components of language, including rhetoric, power, style, purpose, and world-influence. It left me hungry for more. (less)
A book with great potential and many, many good messages but whose overall structure I found difficult to cope with. There is little narrative thread...moreA book with great potential and many, many good messages but whose overall structure I found difficult to cope with. There is little narrative thread throughout this book because it is a stitched together collage, centered on the idea of Americans in 19th century Paris. In meta-critique it contrasts American pioneers gone west with other pioneers gone east to Paris, seeking instead of land and homestead, culture and education. But you must take this as a piece-meal, smorgasbord of history, relishing each miniature history rather than seeking coherence in the book as a whole. (less)
I'm giving it four stars not for the quality of writing -- I found the one-sided rhetoric tiresome by half way through -- but for the importance of th...moreI'm giving it four stars not for the quality of writing -- I found the one-sided rhetoric tiresome by half way through -- but for the importance of the ideas it has. Despite taking an extreme stance in this book, Kohn gives a solid argument with intelligent research backing it.
The fundamental idea is that competition is destructive in all its forms, and is built into our society to the detriment of all: it is in our education, our economy, or legal system, and our recreation. He systematically approaches each claim for the validity, giving fair voice to their justifications for competition: that it is natural, that it is character-building, that it produces excellence, and that it is naturally desirable to us.
His case against competition is somewhat strong and worth digesting. The suggested alternatives, however, were somewhat lacking. It is in conceiving of solutions that we should use this book as fuel, giving us some ideas of how to convert our environments into non-competitive solutions that will bring the added self-confidence, creativity, and motivation that come from true cooperation. But more I could use more of a picture on a wide-spread vision of cooperation other than his slightly communistic musings and conclusive "competition is evil" voice.
Again, a worthy read with some important ideas to consider, even if it is more of a starting point than any kind of ending. (less)
A truly excellent book. Blending psychology, sociology, discourse analysis, and philosophy, Dr. Ochs provides a broad, rich look at narrative as the t...moreA truly excellent book. Blending psychology, sociology, discourse analysis, and philosophy, Dr. Ochs provides a broad, rich look at narrative as the tool mankind universally uses to shape and make sense of reality, proposing a multi-dimensional grade that is used not to define "what is narrative" but rather, to determine the narrative qualities at work in a given discourse. The text discusses narrative for sense-making, for planning, and as our minds develop from child to adult and the changes apparent in the narrative we employ. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on narrative and prayer, which both considers narrative in prayer and also the elements of prayer in all narrative. This is a book worth reading and studying, with principles that could be of use to anyone. Although it takes an academic and theoretical approach, it is grounded in real (and interesting) examples from adults, children, the autistic, agoraphobic, and more, and is quite accessible. It suggests that our daily, conversational narratives, narratives of personal experience, deserve understanding at least as much as the polished narratives that have been the principle studies of narratology. (less)
Finally a book on memory improvement that is more than just a pop-psych dollar-read! This book is approachable by the lay reader, but offers the rigor...moreFinally a book on memory improvement that is more than just a pop-psych dollar-read! This book is approachable by the lay reader, but offers the rigor and references you would expect from an academic work. Worthen and Hunt do an excellent job on explaining the historical reasons that the study of memory-improvement techniques has departed from our regular school curricula and the psychological basis on which the most effective techniques work. For those interested in history, psychology, or just improving their memory, this book will be a good investment. In addition to background, the theoretical exposition cross referenced with psychology theory provides the understanding necessary to start constructing your own mnemonic tools, understanding the situations and memory-types that need to be compensated for to have success. (less)
Some useful information and fairly pleasant. I finished it in about 45 minutes without feeling I missed much; but it was a useful refresher on basic m...moreSome useful information and fairly pleasant. I finished it in about 45 minutes without feeling I missed much; but it was a useful refresher on basic memory principles. If you want some quick tips on name, number, and list memory, this book may do it for you.(less)
Although it contained a great deal of useful information, it somehow managed to present it in a rote and lifeless way. There is nothing really wrong w...moreAlthough it contained a great deal of useful information, it somehow managed to present it in a rote and lifeless way. There is nothing really wrong with this book, other than that it simply fails to be overly rhetorically effective itself. I did not read this for class and was hoping to extend my understanding of the power of language; this book seems to have the resources, but they are in such a raw and uninspiring form that mining them takes more effort than I would like. Nonetheless, if this happens to be the only rhetoric theory book you have on hand, it should be a good reference. The chapters on narrative and metaphor were particularly intriguing, but received only a gloss and weren't interconnected much with the rest of the book (unlike, say, the chapter on dramatic rhetorical theory). (less)
High rating not because it was a masterpiece overall -- I sped-read the bulk of the book -- but it provides valuable insight into human nature. My gre...moreHigh rating not because it was a masterpiece overall -- I sped-read the bulk of the book -- but it provides valuable insight into human nature. My great take-home message was that there are autistic elements in all of us, and very often they are our greatest qualities. Additionally, the concept of thinking without words is compelling.
The final two chapters of the book were truly captivating to me. She talks about geniuses and the autistic qualities displayed by people like Einstein and Feynman -- and how it may have been their autistic qualities that made them great. Likewise, success in our careers often involves us developing the sort of concentration or intensity that come easily to some autistics, while also recognize the traits in us that will remove us from the job or our coworkers (something hard for many autistic people to learn). Overall it is good to know more about the thoughts, feelings, and lives of some autistic people (I qualify this, knowing that "autism" covers a very wide spectrum of situations) and so to be more understanding, sympathetic, and patient with them, even seeing the tremendous qualities they possess. (less)
Having read an earlier reader's brief criticism based on the egocentricity of the author, I began warily and indeed found that egocentric author in what seemed to me wearisome and gratuitous verbiage in the first chapter. But that sense of dullness quickly left as I immersed myself in the message of the book and found myself hungrily turning the pages of what is not necessarily an entry-level book on philosophy and rhetoric. Although my own experience with these genres is certainly lacking, by slowing down I was able to digest concepts that illuminated and substantized my own thoughts and experiences.
This book is a superb complement to Pirsig's masterwork, elaborating and clarifying key principles. Of greatest value to me is the key goal of transcending traditional dualist conceptions and binary totalities in order to have a perspective of wholeness. In terms of rhetoric, this means being able to use rhetoric for dialogue as well argument. McPhail's proposed approach is based on a founding principle that all things have a basic oneness and that we are better profited by interrelating things based on coherence to this oneness than by critical attacking or persuading (particularly, dissuading) based on the negative difference that has preoccupied classical and philosophical thought.
It is a challenging book, and I am looking forward to immediately starting a second round through it. The challenges it offers to the classically trained mind are significant, in that our most ancient assumptions may be called into question -- not a questioning of doubt, but of eager exploration with the understanding that because all things are interwoven with eachother, exploration will result in "otherness" that dissolves on inspection and adds to the greater whole.
While his more heavily philosophical chapters were slow going for me, with dictionary in hand, I found that his comparison to martial arts and his explication of both western and eastern approaches to world-view were precisely accurate for me and worked great. I recommend readers go through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance first -- it is a more digestible book that will lead well to this one -- and then come to this book with a willingness to increase understanding of how language shapes reality.