Manny's Reviews > The Problems of Philosophy

The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
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Apr 10, 2012

bookshelves: to-read, the-goodreads-experience, if-research-were-romance

Plato, in the Symposium, was perhaps the first person to consider the question of the "unliked review". If a review never receives any votes, can it truly be said to exist? This problem has tormented many of the world's greatest philosophers. Bishop Berkeley's famous answer is that God reads and likes every review, hence they all exist. Even at the time, this was not universally considered satisfactory; Rousseau's reply, le compte de Dieu est privé, is widely quoted as the standard objection.

By the time of Nietzsche, the theory was under serious attack. In a passage that the publisher insisted on removing from the first edition of Beyond Good and Evil, and which was only reinstated after a lengthy court case, the author argues that there is no clear evidence that God is a member of Goodreads in the first place; even if He was once a member, He could easily have left without anyone realizing.

Wittgenstein, in The Stripey, Off-White Notebook With A Gravy Stain On The Bottom Left (unpublished during his lifetime), considered that the question was not well-posed. The sentence "God liked my review" is syntactically ill-formed according to the strict rules of [continued for another 14 pages]
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08/07/2016 marked as: to-read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 60) (60 new)

notgettingenough "Executive Summary

The top reviewer list is still broken. Why can't someone fix it?"

Proof that God doesn't exist? Or that he doesn't care? Is this a 'yeah, if God existed, then like, why would goodreads links break all the time?'

message 2: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Exactly! You and Kierkegaard are, like, totally on the same page.

Stephen M I wonder what Kant would say about our duty to give out likes.

message 4: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny I think he'd say it was categorically imperative to do so.

Stephen M One must never read a review as a mere means to an end of learning about a book but instead to treat the review as an end in itself, a work to be valued on its own merits.

message 6: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny I look forward to your Prolegomena to Any Future Goodreads Reviewing. I can already see you've got a bestseller there.

message 7: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope What if God, as the System, were Goodreads and its appropriate name should then be Godreads?

message 8: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny An interesting heresy! But be careful you don't get martyred by accident...

message 9: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Would martyrdom by accident, rather than by intention, qualify in the same way for sanctity?

message 10: by Manny (last edited Jun 22, 2012 03:17AM) (new) - added it

Manny People are really asking tough questions today. Though on reflection I think it does qualify, as long as your intentions were pure when you committed the act that led to your martyrdom.

In fact, it's probably better than intentionally getting yourself martyred, which strikes me as theologically dubious. Yes, I'm convinced. Go for it!

message 11: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope If I go for it, it would not be accidental..!!!

message 12: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny You're right. I mean, forget we ever had this conversation, and then go for it. If that's what your heart tells you to do.

I never realized that martyrdom was so complicated...

message 13: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Ok. Thank you. I shall pretend I am not even writing this, and then hope something happens... Will let you know. Or may be not.

message 14: by MJ (last edited Jun 22, 2012 04:33AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls If a review of an unread book receives more likes than all the reviews of the book by people who have read it put together, is the Goodreads system faulty? Or is Manny just awesome?

message 15: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Flattering, but let's not forget the additional possibility that the book is kind of boring, and was only used as a placeholder because it had a suitable title...

message 16: by Mohit (last edited Jun 22, 2012 04:42AM) (new)

Mohit Parikh The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The Review that can be reviewed is not the top-most Review.

message 17: by Manny (last edited Jun 22, 2012 06:02AM) (new) - added it

Manny Mohit, that's an excellent summary of my feelings regarding Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

PS I think you may have a typo. Didn't you mean "The Tao that can be sold...?"

message 18: by René (new)

René what is the sound of one reviewer liking a placeholder book? Also, if he likes a book and is not a goodreads user, can the book be considered liked?

message 19: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny I am retiring to a distant mountain top (luckily, Switzerland is well-supplied) to meditate on these questions. I shall provide my oracular answers when I return.

message 20: by Robert (new)

Robert It's fortunate that mountain tops are vertically distant, otherwise Switzerland wouldn't be well supplied with them at all...

message 21: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny I'm talking about spiritual distance here, Robert. Honestly, you're so literal.

message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert Indeed, I am.

Simon Kalliope wrote: "What if God, as the System, were Goodreads and its appropriate name should then be Godreads?"

Great comment.

And great review. Congratulations. But honestly, Russell's book boring? I don't think so! I'm going to go like it now.

Simon Wait, I got carried away. One cannot "like" books on GR at all, can one? Only reviews of them. What's up with that?!?!?!?!

message 25: by Rose (new)

Rose Cimarron Would adding a "don't like" button give a clearer picture...or just divide us into camps and start a war...?

message 26: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Simon, thank you! I must confess that I haven't read this one - I was just offering a possible explanation for the lack of positive reviews. If you say it's good, I'm sure I believe you...

message 27: by Riku (last edited Jun 22, 2012 12:49PM) (new) - added it

Riku Sayuj I think Spinoza had constructed the logical system to work around the questions relating to the moral philosophy underlying the awarding of likes. Where did that book go... who took it off my tbr shelf. Surely there is a conspiracy here! *wishes goodreads allowed those wonky running smileys*

message 28: by David (last edited Jun 22, 2012 07:13PM) (new)

David Katzman Let's not forget that Wittgenstein would also propose that a Liked review does not validate it's existence since the meaning of the review itself is only valid within a given worldview. Thus to those outside the worldview, the review is not valid and should the worldview be dramatically altered within the environment, then the review would also be invalidated. The meaning of the review presumed by the Likes is merely an assumptive meaning and not an objective meaning. In conclusion, Wittgenstein would suggest that Likes are a worldview circle jerk.

So to speak.

Stephen M Don't forget the difficult Euthyphro dilemma: are reviews good merely because Goodreads bestows likes upon them? Then surely the 'goodness' of a review would be arbitrary and subject to the whims of Goodreads, or does Goodreads bestow likes because a review is intrinsically good, begging the question: do we really even need Goodreads?

message 30: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny does Goodreads bestow likes because a review is intrinsically good, begging the question: do we really even need Goodreads?

Wow. Talk about paradoxical.

message 31: by Chris (new)

Chris Bates If a reviewer reviews a book he's never read, did he really review it? Is that heresay or heresy? Especially if the title leads one to believe that after he's read it he may not give it a favorable review anyway, Diderot would say, "That is the safest way, if not the politest."

message 32: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny I would argue that you can legitimately review a book you've never read, just as you can legitimately have opinions about a person you've never met. Why is one less valid than the other? Pierre Bayard considers this line of reasoning in more detail.

message 33: by Chris (new)

Chris Bates If the purpose in discussing the book's topic is to have a meaningful conversation or even "un échange passionnant," then not reading a book is acceptable.
Plus your opinion may be more reliable than others' with secondhand knowledge of this book since according to your extensive list of read books you understand the context and the culture of philosophy and it's problems during the era of this book better than I do for example. Unless, of course, you've forgotten what you've read in them.

message 34: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny So you think that when I talk about books I haven't read, I'm often more reliable than other people who insist on giving their opinions without having read it? Hm... that must be the best back-handed compliment I've received today :)

message 35: by David (new)

David Katzman I question the semantic relationship between the word "legitimate" and "opinion." As Nietzche points out, there is no (objective) God of Goodreads to validate the legitimacy of a review or to Wittgenstein's point there is no ground for opinion other than more opinion. Thus the notion of legitimacy is no more than a self-fulfilling premise for our own opinions.

Further, I question the ability to judge an individual in his/her/hem's totality as an individual is not a "thing" but a process and a fluid inexplicable one at that. That isn't to say you can't/aren't able to judge what you want, but what you are judging isn't the person or the book (that you haven't read) but you are forming an opinion based on the totality of interactions, either first hand, second hand, or third hand, that you have interacted with. Your opinion is not of the thing itself (which properly speaking, doesn't truly exist) but your opinion is formed based on (roughly speaking) the ripples formed by the world interacting with that thing.

message 36: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy Evidence of God's opinion of our reviews is everywhere.

You have 23 "likes" for your review. But next to them is one big grey "unlike", which is reserved for God's opinion of your review.

God doesn't like your review.

If the grey button says "like", it means that God likes your review.

Whatever this button says, God doesn't want us to touch it.

message 37: by Chris (last edited Jun 28, 2012 11:24PM) (new)

Chris Bates The parallel I draw between people and books is they are the two entities that change us the most: the people we meet and the books we read. Charlie Jones' Life Is Tremendous presents this idea (It's interesting how he gets his son to read books). Perhaps not as effective at impacting us are the people we avoid after developing an opinion about them and the books we don't read. The effects of choosing to read or not to read a book was enlightening from the French text you suggested. At once it's a fact of life and a mystery of how different our lives may have been if we read other books instead.

message 38: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 The top reviewer list is still broken. Why can't someone fix it?

Here, here!

And also I have nothing spiritual or philosophical to add at this juncture.

message 39: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Of that we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent.

message 40: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 " "

message 41: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Nicely put!

message 42: by Stefan (new) - added it

Stefan Matei "God liked my review", I love this.

message 43: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Thank you. But it's still syntactically ill-formed, and I can prove it.

message 44: by Stefan (new) - added it

Stefan Matei Is there more to it than taking (at least) an agnostic position? Even the position of agnostic theist would suffice.

message 45: by Manny (new) - added it

Manny Well... I thought I could prove it. But the details are unaccountably less clear than I had believed they were.

Khalil this book has been on my list almost a year , I wasn't willing to read it , but reading this " or maybe that " review makes too much motivation :)

message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2014 08:46AM) (new)

Ian wrote: Evidence of God's opinion of our reviews is everywhere.

I've yet to see any evidence that God has liked any reviews here on Goodreads. Is he here at all? My personal theory is that his Goodreads account was deleted some time ago because he kept going off-topic and talking about trivialities like good and evil, instead of the important stuff, i.e. books.

message 48: by Robert (new)

Robert Chris wrote: "Ian wrote: Evidence of God's opinion of our reviews is everywhere.

I've yet to see any evidence that God has liked any reviews here on Goodreads. Is he here at all? My personal theory is that his ..."

On the other hand he could be the Ultimate BBA, what with having flooded the world because people didn't pay enough attention to his book and so forth...

message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

Getting back to Russell, though, the problem I have with his book, as with all philosophy books, is that I see no reason to believe that they exist when I'm not actually reading them. And Russell himself may simply be an idea in the mind of God. (I'm sure this is the case with Richard Dawkins.)

message 50: by Robert (new)

Robert Chris wrote: "Getting back to Russell, though, the problem I have with his book, as with all philosophy books, is that I see no reason to believe that they exist when I'm not actually reading them. And Russell h..."

Dawkins was a bad idea, who-ever was responsible...

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