This is the third time I’ve read Notes From Underground, the first two times I felt it was a book full of great lines (‘Man is the ungrateful biped’)This is the third time I’ve read Notes From Underground, the first two times I felt it was a book full of great lines (‘Man is the ungrateful biped’) and ideas but as a whole difficult and disjointed. However, this time around I found I had not read it with the right perspective or plain didn’t get it the first two times. The book still jars in places, this I think is due to the structure of how it is written; how does one write a madman’s soliloquy over a 100 pages long without getting into some sticky awkward narrative issues. But on the whole this illustrates perfectly G K Chestertons comments on madness: that madness isn’t the loss of rationality, but the loss of everything other than rationality.
The man from the underground is the extreme form of an over emphasise on consciousness (a Cartesian monster). A twisted version of Buridan’s Ass: if everything is equal and logical, then it loses all meaning and how does one decide anything – how can one make a decision, if in the end every choice is the same and meaningless? If at bottom there is no foundation, just more questions - does one just suffer vertigo?
I had in the past rated this book below his key major four works (although in my opinion the Idiot isn’t as strong as the other three works: The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and Demons). After reading this again, I couldn’t help feeling it matched his strongest works.
The Gambler on the other hand is a well written Dostoyevsky yarn, with delicious capricious characters throwing rationality to the wind, but isn’t quite as strong as Notes from Underground, but perhaps an easier lighter read. ...more
Pragmatism is a book outlining the thoughts of its main founders – Pierce, Jameson, Dewey, Mead and Lewis. Coming to this book from an interest in PhePragmatism is a book outlining the thoughts of its main founders – Pierce, Jameson, Dewey, Mead and Lewis. Coming to this book from an interest in Phenomenology, or continental philosophy, it does have several similarities, even if coming from different perspectives or positions, of which I found very rewarding.
Unlike Phenomenology, Pragmatism is accused of shutting down thought which is a tad unfair, as one of its main aims is to shut down metaphysical antinomies and to give a ‘cash value’ for thought; as in does the particular argument in question have any impact on reality, or not? As Pragmatism does tend to be a way of thought as opposed to a dogmatic system.
However, having said all this the old problems do tend to recur and some aren’t really addressed in the texts, or at least I found them untouched in an admittedly short-ish essay each Pragmatism has enclosed, which may be due to a lack of length in the essay or the audience they were addressing at the time.
Within the book and Pragmatic thought I did have a lot of sympathy towards Pierce and Jameson, especially Jameson’s thoughts on truth – although heavily criticised I do tend to agree with the pragmatic interpretation of thought on truth; as a conception of mutual agreement (similar to Heidegger and Phenomenology) as opposed to a universal a priori matter. The world is and our conceptions of it can be true or not, depending on their ‘cash value’ (do they work, do they fit into our world view, are they related to the question in hand, etc).
All in all, I would recommend this book. Whether it is a good reflection on Pragmatic thought in general or how it relates to contemporary Pragmatism I would not know. But as a reader of Heidegger and continental existentialism I did find some avenues of interest, which is strange for a philosophy based in scientific practice. ...more
Manjit Kumar’s Quantum is quite a different book on Quantum theory. It is essentially a history book, dealing with the individuals and their meetings,Manjit Kumar’s Quantum is quite a different book on Quantum theory. It is essentially a history book, dealing with the individuals and their meetings, as Quantum theory developed. Generally, I do prefer overarching descriptions of the scientific theory of Quantum Mechanics, which is why I wasn’t as interested as some other reviewers of this book. The history and the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the theory isn’t as absorbing as the ramifications of the Uncertainty Principle, non-locality, Schrodingers Cat, probability wave collapse, etc: it does include all these, but only in how they related to each theorist. The first half of the book is still very good, however.
Once we get into the pivotal divide between Einstein and Bohr it does start to get very interesting. Kumar opens up the philosophical differences between the Copenhagen Interpretation and Einstein; and a metaphysical battle begins upon the nature of reality. Does the world exist outside human observation? Does the Quantum world have any definite properties? Is the interference of observation unavoidable only in the physical act of observation (measurement) or is the interference actually nature being integrally uncertain? Is nature deterministic, causal? Einstein with his philosophy that informs his theory (the world exists outside observation), or Bohr’s theory that creates his philosophy (physics can only describe what is, never dictates what is).
A wonderful journey into the breakdown of classical physics and in turn an insight into the loss of faith in classical logic and rationalism. ...more
Zizek's use of the underlying ideology, covering the surface law, rules, etc, is a subject that fascinates me. This book was not the best of his worksZizek's use of the underlying ideology, covering the surface law, rules, etc, is a subject that fascinates me. This book was not the best of his works that I've read....more
Much has been said of Kierkegaard writing style, of its beauty and clarity. His writing is clear his subject matter is not so, like Camus I believe thMuch has been said of Kierkegaard writing style, of its beauty and clarity. His writing is clear his subject matter is not so, like Camus I believe that the text is at times appealing to our emotions, aesthetics, passions, rather than to any logic or rationality, which is no bad thing.
I have already been intorduced to Kierkegaard's ideas beforehand, so did find certain parts very easy (thanks to lectures found on i-tunes from Herbert Dreyfus on existentialism). The other elements of his thought, not already covered by my experience, where very difficult to address and I did find them a struggle to connect what I already knew of Kierkegaard.
His thoughts on existence/being are very apt for today as logic and rationality choke the life out of ... well life itself. His taking a leap of faith on the grounds of the absurd, does have some sense, even if logically speaking it is closer to non-sense....more
Sickness unto Death is the second Kierkegaard book I’ve read, not being knocked out by Fear and Trembling, I was expecting a rather well written tourSickness unto Death is the second Kierkegaard book I’ve read, not being knocked out by Fear and Trembling, I was expecting a rather well written tour de force of Lutheran Christianity, etc, but not necessarily much more. After reading this book I am going to have to take Kierkegaard very seriously. It doesn’t really matter whether you do or don’t believe in God (God being that all things are possible, and all things possible being God and not some bearded guy in the sky), as any other defining unconditional commitment, such as love, a cause or any such ‘calling’ will bring Faith, rather than Despair. His argument that we are all in despair, whether ignorant of it via distraction, partially aware of it but are turning away from the self, in defiance via Immediacy (Hegel’s notion of rationalizing, reasoning, etc) or despairing that one is in despair, are very convincing, although argument is rather a bad choice of words as Kierkegaard doesn’t really offer a blow by blow construction of Sickness unto Death or his Knights of Faith.
There are weaknesses to Kierkegaard’s point of view such as the role or place of society in his connection to God or that all things are possible, etc, or the possibility that this faith can condone the worst crimes (teleological suspension of the ethical), or that one cannot find this faith one merely finds oneself in it. But all this can generally be swiped aside due to the faith factor, which to some will be problematic or typical of a religious argument, but Kierkegaard’s faith isn’t trying to compete with science or logic, he likes theses things. He is merely trying to reconnect man with a deeper connection to the world, most certainly not with the next one, he truly does deserve some credit for creating what would develop into existentialism.
Furthermore, his critique of Socrates sin or wrong doing as ignorance, that it is impossible to be in ‘bad faith’ as a categorical imperative is a very good exposure of Philosophies dogmatic clinging to Platonic ethics and metaphysics and that being in despair is sin, rather than the actual act. Kierkegaard is a serious thinker, even if in my opinion he is still surpassed by Dostoevsky’s view on this subject of love, faith and existence, he is still very much worth engaging with. ...more
This book opened up some ideas of Derrida's to me; its bleeding of being and non-being, difference and sameness. But, I can't say I particular enjoyedThis book opened up some ideas of Derrida's to me; its bleeding of being and non-being, difference and sameness. But, I can't say I particular enjoyed it or found it that rewarding - although, it was infinitely clearer than Derrida, which isn't hard.
I think fundamentally Plato and I just don't get on. ...more
Chance (the) Gardener is a blank page, there is very little of the 'Dasein' in him. He is always overcoming, disclosing, because he is in the flow ofChance (the) Gardener is a blank page, there is very little of the 'Dasein' in him. He is always overcoming, disclosing, because he is in the flow of life, etc.
Chance to me seems to be a possible Heideggarian figure, but I'm not sure whether his being is being mocked?
He is a mirror to society and reflects what people want to hear in themselves. I'm not quite sure what the significance of the importance of TV has though? Possible to show his detachment, or that his only interactions (?) with people at first are those he learned while watching TV and people respond well to cliches?
Any-hoo, its a good read and I have a feeling it may be a slow burner even though it only takes a couple of hours to read. ...more
Plato is a read that makes you wish you could wade in with a cutting comment to Socrates, rather than the usually flimsy opposition. As Protarchus hasPlato is a read that makes you wish you could wade in with a cutting comment to Socrates, rather than the usually flimsy opposition. As Protarchus has the rhetoric skill of most of Plato's adversaries, which is generally minimal to non-existent, and Philebus basically sulks throughout the dialogue.
Plato's books are very good when there is a strong counter argument through the book, this does not have one. There are moments of interest concerning the nature of pleasure, but many arguments are rather misleading or just wrong. The constant misuse of analogy tends to get intensly irritating after the third wild statement made from the apparent faultless inductive method of comparing human virtues with different metals?!? I mean come on! Plato criticizes Sophists for word play, but seriously Plato is as guilty.
However, although I did not enjoy this book, it is mainly becaue I have very high expectations when reading Plato, as I do with many other classical Greek philisophers. As when he does have a serious debate, he is still relevant now....more