Tolle Lege!.

Science, Philosophy and History. I need to know, I need to understand and I need to read books. Facebook only makes you stupid.

On the Geneology of Morals

On the Geneology of Morals - Friedrich Nietzsche Three essays each coherent. This is Nietzsche's best work. Almost all of his major ideas lurk within this book. I would recommend the audio version. There's just something about Nietzsche that when he's read aloud you just feel the contempt and frustration you know he has for mankind and even the reader of his book.

He'll say the world needs artist and poets. He feels his truths and the reader feels them too. There's good and there's bad with Nietzsche. He has special dislike for women and feminism which even transcends the time period he's writing in. I could probably identify 10 statements through out the book that even a modern day misogynist would blush at. I hope that doesn't stop modern readers from reading this short masterpiece of a work.

Everything we know is tinted by our current context, its history and our expectations. Nietzsche does say in the book that most of philosophy is ahistorical, but in order to understand the proper context history must first be understood. (One of my favorite statements made by modern day homophobes often in the guise of religion is "marriage is between a man and a woman and it was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden not Adam and Steve". They always forget to mention the talking snake, and they were right when they made it a tautology, but, unfortunately for them, the world has moved and now it's 'marriage is between consenting adults' and there is a new tautology in play).

The theme that really ties all three essays together is that 'man prefers the will to nihilism more than the will to nothing'. The Christian (and Nietzsche seems to focus mostly on the most popular religion in Western Europe at that time) is the most nihilistic person of all for they have outsourced their morality to somebody else. Who truly acts for the good? The person who is promised an eternal life for performing according to scripture or the person who does the good for its own sake. Nietzsche is not a nihilist. He has a system and he defends them within these three essays.

"There are no truths, there are only perspectives" leading to the 'free spirit' as he said in the third essay, and in the first essay (or maybe the second?) he says what free spirit would actually do wrong because he has no God keeping him from acting wrongly? Almost none! The more inclusive set of beliefs that include the other inferior systems (a recursive process of sorts) give his rank order of being leading to his 'perspectivism' of truth and keeping out of a nihilistic trap.

He's really clued into the 'pernicious teleological' way for thinking that permeates society today. He illustrates by saying "the hand was made to grasp" after all that's what we do with it. The world gives but it also takes. Idle chatter distracts. He does obliquely mention his solution of 'modified poverty' (my words) for the fulfillment of a philosopher (artist, poet, or even a regular human like me). The philosopher should only have the bare minimum necessary to survive and the rest is too much (this will be another spot where he makes a gratuitous misogynistic statement which adds nothing to the point) and ends up taking more than giving (except for the gratuitous statement against women I have hearitly endorsed this advice for my life).

He has hints of his 'eternal return' within the second essay. But he only takes it as far as the absolute determination of the world. He knows man is an animal but quotes Spencer ('survival of the fittest') more than Darwin (or Huxely, Darwin's bulldog). He's definitely got a book that Nazis could embraced if they ignore the parts they don't like. He is not anti-Semite (he goes out of his way to attack the anti-Semites), but he does state the last great man was Napoleon, and Germans after 1930 could put Hitler within Nietsche's context of greatness. This book surprised me by how much what the Nazis thought could fit into this book with a little bit of editing.

"Will to Power" is a term people love to throw out when discussing Nietzsche. Nobody gets it right. I suspect even Nietzsche doesn't always know what he means by it. But, in the context of some of the book, he will say "man's instinct to freedom or what I call 'will to power'". Nietzsche doesn't believe in 'free will' as originally defined by St. Augustine because St. Augustine uses it for man analogously to God creating the universe. The 'will' is more in line with that which contain all of our feelings, passions, and emotions, the Dionysian man, our rational intuitions of sorts. The power is our drive (or driving, because Nietzsche would say we are always becoming we never are). Our drive comes about because everything that is must maintain itself and strives to conquer what is beyond it. (That's why Nietzsche calls out Napoleon as he does. That's why the Nazis would have embraced this book because Hitler would be their ideal man. Their aesthetic priest).

Man is an animal and thus has the instincts of an animal. Debt and Guilt (apparently practically the same word in German) are the onus society puts on us. Historically, cutting off someone's arm would compensate for my loss. As if, their suffering would make me better. That's how religion gets started. The ultimate Christian sacrifice is of course Jesus on the Cross as payment. Of course, Nietzsche calls all of this bunk. Everything up til know has been designed in such a way to take away our 'instinct of freedom' or our 'will to power'. The masters have been enslaved by the slaves (the Roman Nobels by the Jews according to Nietzsche). Our system of values have been turned upside down where the pitifiul, the needy, and the vulgar has been made the nobel, the good and the hoped for.

Nietzsche is clear. Man took a wrong turn after Homer. Truth (or the best perspective) is disclosed to man by appearance. It's not necessarily to have a Copernican Revolution of the Mind (he quotes Kant surprisingly often and actually in flattering ways) or to think that Plato's Cave with ideal forms is helpful. Truth is not correctness.

There are clear links to existentialism running throughout this book. Man is absolutely responsible for his own actions because of his freedom that he is given (according to him). Man first historically has created someone to blame (this is another one of the 10 times he'll single out women in a misogynistic way) thus leading to religion and probably psychiatrists. The hermeneutics of suspicion used by Nietzsche are clearly borrowed by the early 20th century psychoanalysts and this book shows why.

It's not what we see when we look at the great piece of art, but it's what the artist thinks. That forms the basis of his aesthetic ideal. They are going to lead us out of the wilderness.

I don't like most of what Nietzsche says, but I love his thought process. I'm glad that Republicans don't like him because they falsely see him as a Nihilist (but he surely is an Atheist), and they would be able to argue their viewpoints from a stronger perspective if they would take the time to read a masterpiece like this (Nietzsche knows how to 'feel' his way to the best perspective and in no uncertain terms he like the Republicans put the onus on the individual, and they would discount time and chance and say that government (or society) is the problem not the solution and most of all would never think "there but for the grace of the universe go I" since they both think the absolute freedom trumps equality almost always ). I suspect Nietzsche never wrote anything more coherent than this book of essays, but he's always worth reading and I would recommend this book because of the depth and cohesion within the book.

The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an

The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an - Mohammed Marmaduke Picthall Moses is a major character in the narrative. The other messengers of God, Adam, Noah, Jesus, Abraham, John the Baptist, Mohammad and some others are entwined in the story. St. Paul is not. Particularly anything that gives credence to Jesus as being the Son of God or God or any credence to the Trinity is completely shot down. This are things that I did not realize about the Koran.

There are also sections that deal with how to vanquish your enemy and how to fairly treat them afterwards, some basic beliefs necessary for being a Muslim, and how important it is to be kind to others (orphans, the poor, the less fortunate and basically everyone else). God is all knowing, all forgiving, all wise, all just and other 'omnis'. There is a more clear cut nature to God than there is within Christianity. There are also statements on rights for women and inheritances and by 7th century standards not too bad. Though, slavery is allowed in some forms.

Clearly, from the book itself, there is more insistence on orthopraxy than orthodox behavior. Christianity can go either way depending on how you settle on the belief verse works question. I saw this interesting article recently in the New York Times where they interviewed an Evangelist who clearly sided on the side of belief such that he would say the only thing that matter for your salvation is that you believed that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and you accept that belief. The article Kristoff New York Times Column on what makes a Christian The Koran sides mostly on the works side of the debate. The protestant revolution (at least Luther and Calvin) lean towards the belief side of the equation. They go back to the Necessary God of Augustine with his made up 'free will' and negate Pelagius (or later on Erasmus) with his prayer or works making a difference for ones salvation. The Doctor of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas allows for a God who cares about the individual and works can make a difference because God necessarily created this world with a certain set of natural laws.

I know I went astray in the last paragraph and lost focus of the Koran itself. The New Testament itself can be read either way depending on the parts you want to emphasize. Mostly, if you ignore Paul and his letters, and focus on Jesus and his words you'll think our behavior matters more than our beliefs. There is an appeal that the Koran would have for someone who is not a big fan of St. Paul or for some one who never understood the Trinity, or for someone who beliefs that there is only one God and God would never have a Son (or as mentioned in the Koran God could have a son since he is all powerful but never would).

Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan

Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan - Anthony T. Kronman The author at the end of this book makes an apologetic like statement after 'having taxed the reader's patience with a long and abstract book....'. This is one reader who was never taxed and fully appreciated the author's abstract thoughts. Most books that I enjoyed as much as this one turn out to be dense and difficult for me to recommend since they are hard to follow but this one was a pleasant read while at the same time dealing with somewhat complex ideas and was able to tie together most of the books or Great Courses I've read or listened to over the last year (2016).

Slightly over a year ago I ran out of popular science books and came across[a:Martin Heidegger|6191|Martin Heidegger|] [b:Being and Time|92307|Being and Time|Martin Heidegger||1309352]. That opened my eyes to the value of primary source books on thinking and the nature of being. Instead of reading books or Great Courses about the famous philosophers or schools of thought, I started to branch into the works of the great thinkers themselves.

The author realizes that their has been a 2400 year old conversation around the intelligibility of the universe and the world we live in. He starts with the pre-Socratics and he's going to end the discussion with Walt Whitman.

The author wants to bring Joy back into the world by taking away our sense of entitlement and giving us Gratitude by re-introducing Pride. The author really doesn't like 'nihilism' and is going to argue that the world is eternal and divine making his 'born-again' paganism more than just pantheism and wants to bring back mystery. He even justifies this by embracing 'patriotism', and I would even say that he would not agree with the sentiment 'there but for the grace of God go I' because he puts the responsibility only on the individual and he'll even say that we are under 'the stupor of political correctness' today and that's what Nietzsche was getting at. The author is clearly an anti-humanist and anti-modernist and not particularly pro-Enlightenment and loves his Edmund Burke (Burkeian Bells always go off in my head when conservatives quote Burke, and it's clear this author is a conservative but one who doesn't believe in God putting him in a corner of sorts nearly alone), and he's got a weird Freudian psychoanalytical streak (just look up 'breast feeding' in his index, btw, that index is one of the best I've ever come across. I love a good index, and that is a good index!). All the things within this paragraph are major themes within this book, and for which I tend not to agree with whatsoever, but I still would recommend this book strongly because of the way the author puts all the pieces together and for how the book overlapped with my last years reading list so closely and allowed me to put the great thinkers into a proper context.

To fully understand why this book is so cool I'm going to relate it to some of my last years reading. I was concurrently reading [b:A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years|6957725|A History of Christianity The First Three Thousand Years|Diarmaid MacCulloch||7194000] and I was completely lost on the meaning of Christianity. It wasn't the fault of the book, after all it was a history book, but [a:Anthony T Kronman|15946794|Anthony T Kronman|] gave me the necessary insights. He'll explain how it was Augustine who will create a 'necessary' God because the Christian God is a creator God and Pelagius tries to sneak in human behavior and prayers making a difference to God. The Catholics side with Augustine and his concept of 'free will' for the next 800 years meaning that our salvation comes through Grace. This argument is going to play out through out the middle ages up until Thomas Aquinas and then William of Ockham will try to have the last word on it by disagreeing with Thomas Aquinas by declaring that nothing is necessary for God and the universe must be contingent because God is omnipotent.

The author is going to take the argument up to Luther and the reformation. In 2016 I had been reading many different books related to this but the author was able to tie them all together for me because the books (and Great Courses) were only focused on one particular aspect of the situation, this book tied them all together for me.

Also, last year I focused on 'being' and 'ethics' and 'metaphysics'. I had read various works by and on [a:Aristotle|2192|Aristotle|] such as his [b:Metaphysics|208036|Metaphysics|Aristotle||2479557], [b:The Nicomachean Ethics|19068|The Nicomachean Ethics|Aristotle||2919427], [b:Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle|7723891|Masters of Greek Thought Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle (Great Courses, #4460)|Robert C. Bartlett||10481760] and a general book on Greek Philosophers, [b:The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance|26530383|The Dream of Reason A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance|Anthony Gottlieb||681250]. Each of these were enlightening in their own way, but this book, "Born-Again" made it such that I no longer recite Aristotles' four causes from memory now I realized what he really meant and his causes just flows naturally out of me. This would not have happened if not for this book, and I now realize why the species (form) of Aristotle is such a problem for understanding a God who must know of the individual.

I'm being somewhat presumptuous in calling the author an anti-humanist, but it was clear to me. The author was definitely more interested in [a:Heidegger Martin|2931175|Heidegger Martin|]'s post [b:Being and Time|92307|Being and Time|Martin Heidegger||1309352] work. I have just recently reread [b:Being and Time|92307|Being and Time|Martin Heidegger||1309352] and it's clear that Heidegger takes an anti-humanist position after [b:Being and Time|92307|Being and Time|Martin Heidegger||1309352]. Heidegger tries to bring the mystery back into the universe and hearkens back to the Greeks of the Iliad with their 'truth as disclosure' and curses the 'dehumanization of man' because truth gets equated with 'correctness' (what the post "Being and Time" Heidegger would call the 2000 year mistake). This book "Born-Again' defends that Heideggerian position and the excellent Great Course lecture that I listened to last year, [b:Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida|10982690|Modern Intellectual Tradition From Descartes to Derrida|Lawrence Cahoone||15901068] shows how Heidgegger took an anti-humanist turn.

The author really likes Spinoza and Nietzsche and will step the reader through their major works and what they are really getting at. Last year, I read [a:Spinoza|13980412|Spinoza|]'s [b:Ethics|205218|Ethics|Baruch Spinoza||1218789], and [a:Friedrich Nietzsche|1938|Friedrich Nietzsche|]'s [b:Thus Spoke Zarathustra|51893|Thus Spoke Zarathustra|Friedrich Nietzsche||196327]. I loved Spinoza and relate to him. Nietzsche clearly reworks Spinoza but takes out Spinoza's humanism. That's why the author probably prefers Nietzsche in his 'born-again paganism'. Spinoza has the formulation God is Nature and Nature is God, but he also allows for a panentheistic (the universe is alive and is God) interpretation, in [a:Ernest Holmes|79431|Ernest Holmes|]'s [b:The Science of Mind|149197|The Science of Mind|Ernest Holmes||143993] which I also read last year he's got a similar formulation or at least to the point where he would say "the man who thinks is God, and God thinks". The author, Kronman, will in detail describe Nietzsche's 'rank order of being', "a picture of the world that organizes a larger order of it in accordance with its own principle of interpretation is more powerful and therefore real than the viewpoints it incorporates in itself". This leads to Nietzsche's view point of "perspectives". Something worth understanding and for which this book does a superb job at. Also, since I do like learning and sharing, Nietzsche would say that everything that is wants to maintain what it is and always wants to take that which is around it (a quick summary of 'will to power', but the author really does a good job at explaining this).

Part of understanding where the author is coming from is by seeing who he doesn't talk about. He'll barely mention [a:Soren Kierkegaard|16308674|Soren Kierkegaard|], [a:Hegel G W F|14721821|Hegel G W F|] or [a:Parmenides|357208|Parmenides|]. Last year I read, [b:Fear and Trembling|24965|Fear and Trembling|Søren Kierkegaard||813445], [b:Phenomenology of Spirit|9454|Phenomenology of Spirit|Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel||995802] and [b:Parmenides|381185|Parmenides (Philosophical Library)|Plato||370973] by Plato. Each of these thinkers go against what he's trying to show. Kierkegaard would have the answer Kronman is looking for in his Knights of Truth and how we each must take our own stand based on ourselves, Hegel brings spirit alive by having it become aware of itself, and Parmenides would cause the most difficulty for Kornman to resolve because the author despises relativism (he'll use the word 'nihilism') but he really wants is to bring the necessary, the certain, and the universal back into the world, but he can't do it with God and Revelation because he rejects those two things.

Parmenides gives us the block universe of Einstein. The author Kornman states what he really is trying to do is take Einstein's formulation of the God of Spinoza and bring intelligibility to the world itself through adopting the eternal, divine and using science. This is definitely a problem I had with this book. The author really didn't understand the philosophy of science and its issues and I would recommend the pedantic and dense book [b:Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues|31844|Philosophy of Science The Central Issues|Martin Curd||32060], one of my all time favorite books which I read last year, but would be reluctant to recommend because it is a tough read. BTW, [a:Ludwig Wittgenstein|7672|Ludwig Wittgenstein|] is barely mentioned, in his [b:Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus|491127|Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus|Ludwig Wittgenstein||3157863] he will say there is no structure to the world, but that would go against what the author is trying to say.

I haven't yet got to [a:Kant Immanual|5160419|Kant Immanual|]. Last year I just finished his [b:Critique of Pure Reason|18288|Critique of Pure Reason|Immanuel Kant||1072226] and that is a recurring character within this book. He does one of the best jobs explaining what it means in the context of his world view. The author definitely likes Kant because the author clearly dislikes relativism of any kind, but at the same time the author will show how Kant lacks a proper 'ground' when need be, and as a reader of Kant, it's clear that Kant must create his categories of intuition (transcendence) in order to escape relativism.

The author will show in detail five modern works of literature and how they relate to what he's been talking about. He does such a good job I can recall all five of them but I won't. I'll just mentioned I read one of them, both the comic book version, "In Search of Lost Time" the graphic novel and the real book version (don't laugh, the Graphic Novel is incredibly pleasing and informative). He made me fully understand how they relate to Nietzsche and Spinoza.

The author really likes reason. Cause and effect rule supreme. Everything happens for a reason and he embraces the 'principal of sufficient reason'. Similar to two other books I read last year, [b:On the Nature of Things|195771|On the Nature of Things|Titus Lucretius Carus||189338] and [b:Monadology|346074|Monadology|Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz||14377158]. The first explains the world in terms of atoms and the second in terms of monads.

Also, I would like to relate what my favorite fictional book I have ever read and I did read it last year, [b:Gravity's Rainbow|415|Gravity's Rainbow|Thomas Pynchon||866393] to this book. Gravity's Rainbow is concerned with the "temporal bandwidth" which gives us a infinity of time as death approaches, the rebirth of all parts including the machine gun from WW I which leads to an eternal recurrence (a big theme within "Born-again"), there is no extinction just renewal, and everything happens for a reason or nothing happens for a reason (paranoia and anti-paranoia), Kornman favors the paranoia view point.

A final book that I read last year that I'll mention that relates to this book is [b:Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher|535430|Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher|Anonymous||522901]. By far my favorite book in the Old Testament. The real theme of that book (and also a theme within Gravity's Rainbow) is that the race doesn't always go to the swiftest or the smartest, but time and chance will often decide. Those are themes that I embraced, or as I said above "there but for the Grace of God go I", a sentiment which runs counter to "Born-Again". I could say that if I were to relive this life, I would not be able to give myself any general advice to have improved my lot because I was born this way and couldn't really be any different from who I was. Time and chance have made my destiny. The author, clearly thinks we are to blame for our own problems, but I believe that the luck we have and unearned gifts we have received make us who we are.

Overall, any book in which I can relate almost all of my previous years reading too, is a good book and I would recommend it, but mentioned that the 'born-again paganism' is not why I'm recommending the book, but I would recommend it for other reasons.

Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky

Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky - Paul  Johnson This is not a book about what why each of the profiled intellectuals profiled are worthy of being remembered, but it's mostly how they are flawed human beings. The author would pick an intellectual, barely explain why they are important today, and then dwell on the persons foibles to a churlish degree making the listener lose sight of why the person is of interest today.

Does the author really know that Marx had "anger is heart" but didn't really act on it? Sometimes it can help to understand the artist (philosopher, writer, poet,...) as an individual and how they are different from their art but not at the expense of understanding why we should know about them today. Give me the complete package of the intellectuals but don't think you've denigrated their body of work by denigrating the person. Hemingway was a dick, but boy, could he write! We know him for his writing not for his life. Yes, we can better understand his writing by understanding the man, but his dickish behavior doesn't negate his writing.

I really despised this approach to story telling. It was not about what the intellectuals thought or why they are special. It is about why they are flawed humans. (Besides is it really flawed not to believe in supernatural transcendental beings based on no real evidence? The author seemed to think most of his subjects were flawed because they saw the world in human terms. Whatever).

Using the author's modus operandi, I could explain how he would describe the great intellectual thinker Jesus. He would first say something about the sermon on the mount and the golden rule and how that revolutionized thought, and then he would say that Jesus said he came to separate families, went to a temple and kicked out money lenders and violently whipped them, and suggested people not wash their hands before eating even though germs can cause disease. Then the author would end the story by casting more doubt on Jesus' intellectual works because of his personnel behavior since when his mother and brothers ask him for help he shouted "who is my mother, who are my brothers" (Matthew 12:48). (The author really seemed to like taking things out of context and I had a feeling that he was more interested in telling his point of view if it supported his dislike for the person with the implication that the art itself is just as bad).

I did not finish the book. I finish almost all of my books, but enough was enough. I thought he would change his formula. But he did not. If I weren't so lazy I would have gotten my credit back on this anti-intellectual, anti-humanist bore of a book.

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years - Diarmaid MacCulloch Christianity is complex. After having had read this book two years earlier, I had to reread this book in order to understand why I didn't understand it the first time I read it. The first time I had read this book I was trying to make sense of the Trinity and how it developed and caused differentiation between sects of the Christian faith. I realize now that was a mistake. Whether it be one person, one nature, and one will; or two people, one nature, and one will; or ....... doesn't make sense and never will and trying to understand that is a wasted effort and anyone who doesn't believe in my narrow interpretation is deserving of death (j/k, but historically that is what happened).

Once I got past trying to make sense of the religion qua religion, I got to concentrate on the history qua history and found the story worth understanding. The author excelled at telling the story from the reformation onward, and there is no easy way to tell the early church story in an easy to digest format without leaving out major parts in a one volume work such as this one.

The book does not really dwell on the theological thought and always tries to focus on the history. Therefore, sometimes the relevance of some of the characters are not fully understandable from this book alone. The significance of Pelagius in relation to Augustine and the importance of 'free will' and our reliance on Grace may be lost on the reader of the history alone and how this will lead to St. Thomas Aquinas' rational argument for a 'necessary' universe until reinstated by Martin Luther with his absolute certainty of a contingent universe (similar to William of Ockhem, who would say that God is all powerful so nothing is necessary to an all powerful being). The author will mention Pelagius, for example, but all the relationships and the importance of what he means gets lost with the history story telling. That's okay, because after all this is a history book most of all.

The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years

The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years - Mark A. Altman, Edward Gross The authors use an oddly captivating way to tell a story. They use snippets from each of the players who had something to do with making of the the show or the first six movies and let them tell their story in less than one minute or less vignettes. It means that as with everyone when they tell their own story they will always be a hero within their own narrative and sometimes the truth of what really happens gets obscured because the authors aren't editing the story, but, are rather, presenting the story in each player's own version of what reality was to them.

As for me, I grew up loving the original Star Trek, and the book acted as a form of psycho-analytical sessions and helped me learn a lot about myself and why Star Trek meant as much to me as it did. One of the vignettes by a writer mentioned how he was taking a course on Joseph Campbell and it made him realize how important the creation of myths are for the proper functioning of individuals in civilization, and, for some, Star Trek helped us understand the world through the mythical world that it was creating.

Clearly, for fans of the original series, this book will not only giver insights about the making of the show, but also insights into oneself.

Fear and Trembling

Fear and Trembling - Søren Kierkegaard, Alastair Hannay Kierkegaard is the single best writer I have ever come across. This audio version provides a particularly good presentation of the author's complex explanation for the world we live in and gives insights into why Kierkegaard is such a fascinating person worth reading even today. I don't believe in his conclusions, but I can appreciate a well written book and learn from it.

There are multiple dimensions to the story. The author is supposedly telling the story of Abraham's sacrificing of Isaac to Jehovah and the multiple perspectives that are needed for understanding what is really going on. The author will say, "from the ethical point of view it is murder, but from the theological point of view it is an act of faith", and if you can't see the contradiction (the paradox) than you haven't thought sufficiently about the story, and he can "never understand but only admire" the Abraham story.

He says our authentic selves come from our passions, and he definitely would agree with this quote from Martin Luther "it is in vain to fashion a logic of faith". Our faith is not approachable through reason. According to the author, the highest we can attain is to be 'Knights of Faith" who cross over through the acceptance of "infinite resignation". We must doubt before we can become certain. All of our world we live in is built with myths that we have created, and at the creation of all myths there are contradictions (even with our current best understanding of physics with the double slit experiment and the Heisenberg uncertainty principal there will be a violation of the "mutually exclusive' principal of logic, the one Hegel describes as "likes do not exist").

There is a confounding of the world through our being finite (i.e. being is time and time is finite). The author says it is up to the individual Knight to complete their own world (the choice is up to you!). We are constantly surrounded by the absurd. By absurd Kierkegaard means both the contradiction from the paradoxes that surround us (e.g. our faith comes from our doubt) and the absurd existence we have while we are alive on earth because of "a sword that is always hanging above us" (that's a quote from this book, so he does have a very similar structure to Heidegger's "guilt' as presented in "Being and Time").

This book is a remarkably written book (I can't believe how good of a writer he is) and there are many different complex things (themes) that the author is trying to bring across. The biggest is the chasm between reason and faith. That our true selves come from our passions. The noise (idle chatter) that is everywhere distracts us from our potential. Love is our gateway to God. The particular (individuals) need to strive to rise above the universal and become the absolute in order to transcend the ethical and make a leap of faith. Few can become a Knight of Faith, but all can participate in the tasks of living to bring meaning through our desires.

The author is a very wise author. Theologians have done well in embracing this book. Those who want to understand our meaning for existence can gather insights from this book by realizing that our desire for living provides our starting point and the true understanding requires seeing our existence for the paradoxes that we live in.

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation - Drew Westen The book lays out the universal way we see and develop our beliefs concerning the world in the realm of politics. The first third of the book was masterful when the author stuck to the science (mostly neurosciences) that sway us in the realm of politics. He makes his points and does a good job at bringing home the importance of neurosciences in the realm of marketing and politics. We often are not aware of the networks that are activated or are unaware of our emotional states that we use unconsciously in our decision making processes. The author frames his story ('framing' is a concept he relies on in his story telling) around Darwin, Skinner and Freud. We are born as humans in a certain way (Darwin), our environment shapes our behavior (Skinner), and there is an unconscious component to being human (Freud). Feelings are how we process most of our information (unfortunately for me, I am a mathematician and I process most of my world differently).

The author should have stopped the book after the first third. He would have had a brilliant book. He teaches the reader of the value of narratives and of the networks (or using William Van Orman Quine's word 'web' when he's identifying one of his 'values' of science) we use in understanding what we believe is reality.

I have the advantage of hindsight. He's writing around 2007 and a lot of things have happened that really color my attitude against the author's approach. For example, his compromised approach on Gay Marriage being re-branded as 'civil unions' is not what happened (thankfully). That would have been the wrong approach. As Hegel said regarding philosophy, "any shoe clerk thinks he understands philosophy", and just as readily I can say 'everybody thinks they are an expert at politics'.

The election of a president who makes absurd statements such as "Climate change is a Chinese Hoax", or "we should not only kill the terrorist but the terrorist's family", or "waterboarding is not torture and we should do even more" shows that even someone who makes psychotic sounding statements (each one of those three statements strike me as coming from a psychotic with either no empathy or a pathological understanding of reality) can sway Americans who want to be swayed.

It sucks being a Democrat and I'm holding out for Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown in 2020 who don't need to read a book like this one because they already know how to speak from the heart and should be able to beat a person who speaks like a psychotic.

The Science of Mind

The Science of Mind - Ernest Holmes There is a well thought out philosophical foundation that the author lays out in this book. The author is going to argue for "The One" of Parmenides (I don't think he cites Parmenides by name but speaks in his terms). Most modern Christian thought puts God outside of the universe (an atemporal, transcendental being of some kind), and makes Man (all people, but I'll use "Man" because that's the way they talked in 1926) completely separate from his creator.

The One is infinite and everything that exists is made of this mind substance and is just a rearrangement of this substance according to Holmes. The Rev. George Berkeley developed a coherent (and probably never properly refuted belief system) that everything that exist is in the mind of God. (If a tree fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it would it make a sound. Yes, of course, it would according to Berkeley, God would hear it). Holmes is taking Berkeley but putting a reverse twist on it, we are the mind of God and God is our mind. He'd would probably agree with the statement that "the Man who thinks is God". That's sort of an Aristotelian sentiment too. Because, in the Aristotelian worldview there is no creation ex nihilo, there is only creation from something, an arrangement of stuff. Since Holmes is starting with the infinite substance being from God he reaches a similar conclusion to the Pagan thought of Aristotle.

Holmes very subtlety reworks Christianity with some of the old Pagan beliefs put back in. Holmes, no longer makes Man an infinite distance from God and our Gratitude can be actualized (under traditional Christianity we can never pay God back fully for the Cross and can only try to be perfect in this life time, but Holmes allows us to be perfect). For Holmes, God is approachable, and might be outside of time, but still part of our universe. Karl Popper realized that Parmenides agrees with Einstein's "block universe" from Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Time is taken out of the universe when it is looked at from the whole cosmos. Holmes is no dummy. He knows what he his doing and how he connects man to God through the medium of the ether (or in today's terminology I would say the "Higgs Field", which permeates the whole universe and gives all particles which have mass their mass).

Holmes does give a very non-standard interpretation on Christianity. Not that there is anything wrong with that (who wants to study the same old boring stuff?). His thinking does seem to overlap a lot with Quaker thought (probably by far my most favorite of all religions). He also has a whole lot of Mary Baker Eddy in his system, but with what I would call a 'lite' version. Because, he'll say go ahead and think the illness away but go to a doctor if need be.

He thinks there is a medium (an ether) where our thoughts can travel freely about. Our thoughts can effect (and affect) the world. He really likes Jesus, but puts a different spin on Jesus' words than traditional Christianity. Such as when Jesus said "I and the father are one" really means that all of us have the spark of God within us and God has it in us and we are all like the speck in the center of a page completely surrounded by the infinite mind (everything is mind). Duality (mind body dichotomy) leads to errors in thought. The author understands that and discusses some of those problems when he talks about absolutism and relativism. He knows that cause and effect get jumbled together and he replaces that way of thinking with Karma.

The author thinks mystics have always been real (great sages of ages past from all cultures who understand the wisdom acquired from the instinctual use of the mind), and the author thinks psychics of all kinds are real and can tap into the subjective consciousness, the part of the mind that contains the soul and contains our memories and can be accessed by using deduction, the necessary Laws that flow from the universe's (God's) existence. Spirit is that which becomes self aware and is not soul, the soil that allows the Spirit to be actualized.

There's definitely a large self-help component to this book. People who have been through bad experiences and need a helping hand will definitely be able to embrace this book with its positive mental attitude approach (but they first would have to wade through some of the compact language and pseudoscience contained in the book). I suspect that's why people give this book such high ratings. I liked his attitude on good habits and why they matter so keenly in making us who we become, "first the man takes a drink, then the drink takes the drink, and then the drink takes the man". The prayers (or meditations) in the end of the book probably would work for people who are at their wits end and feel they can't take it anymore. To get to the meat of the book, one does have to wade through a lot of psychobabble ('constipation is about recognizing ones freedom", I would say that it's about fiber, but immediately following that he says something intelligent about people with low self worth and how to realize that it is not real. So one has got to take the good with the bad with this book).

This book provides a different spin on Christianity. In my opinion, a more refreshing look, and he is not bad with his philosophy, but there is a lot of babble from the time period he writes which he accepts. I would be fairly certain there are people this book could help, but it is not a science book whatsoever and does have a whole lot of psychobabble with it.

The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance

The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance - Anthony Gottlieb One can learn Philosophy best of all by going to the primary sources themselves and studying them, but by doing it that way the student losses the context and the relationship between the different schools of thought and how a school of thought relates to the others of its time period and how it is relevant today. The author, a journalist, does that connecting for the reader by analyzing what each school of thought says and how it connects giving the reader the modern perspective the school requires.

I can give a for instance what the author does with the school of thought with the Skeptics. First he puts them in the context after the Socratics and why they relate as they do, then he shows the contrast they had with the Epicureans and Stoics, and then how they relate to the Logical Positivists of the relatively modern Vienna Circle by the fact that the Skeptics see the world at most by the empirical facts based upon the absolute foundation and aren't necessarily needing the theory (theoria, the binding glue that holds the world together by a narrative or description) to understand the world (Hume, a Skeptic and empiricist would say you never can see the effect, just the cause, and the vase staying upon the table is all that you can really see and the 'gravity' is not materially real and is just a 'construct', a narrative, within the mind).

I think the author some what excels at explaining each school of thought and putting the context and relevance in its proper place. I think Bertrand Russel and Will Durant each have written a very similar book as this one and did as good or better job. I'm not sure if there was anything really new within this book that wasn't in the other two books, but he is a good writer and the book is an interesting read.

(The author really likes the short play "The Clouds" by Aristophanes and must have mentioned it 10 times with the pre-Socratics and the Socratics. I would recommend listening to the free version available at LibriVox before listening to this story since it is entertaining, laugh out loud funny, free, and is such a big part of the narrative to the first part of this book).

Great World Religions: Buddhism (Great Courses, #6105)

Great World Religions: Buddhism (Great Courses, #6105) - Malcolm David Eckel This Great Course Lecture series covers the religion by considering the historical context of the faith. (I'm not even sure if "faith" is the correct word to use in this context since as a whole Buddhist don't seem to believe in pretending to know things they don't know). I'm not sure if there is a source for what I want regarding learning about the tenets of Buddhism. As the lecturer said one of the early beliefs for Buddhism is all things are impermanent and that includes Buddhism itself. Well, I'll still be on the look out for a book on the subject to read in order to understand a little bit more about Buddhism.

Being and Time (Contemporary Continental Philosophy)

Being and Time (Contemporary Continental Philosophy) - Martin Heidegger, Joan Stambaugh This is the single most important book for me for which I have ever read. The first time I read this book about a year ago it was a struggle and I only got the pieces of the story and didn't get the whole. Upon my second reading and after having dipped my toes into many other philosophy books, I now realized that Heidiegger is an incredibly good writer and he knows how to tell his story coherently. I am not a philosopher. Heidegger is not necessarily abtruse after a first reading.

Dasein, the being (thing) that takes a stand on its own being is unlike any other being in the universe. That kind of being always has in its background a variation of the the three big questions along the lines about our design (where did I come from), purpose (what am I supposed to do) and reason (where does my purpose lie). All three questions presuppose the existence of a self as a human being (Dasein). Hence the question of the most interesting being of all, our own being.

Heidegger starts the book with Hegel (consciousness is the 'indeterminate immediate') and ends the book with Hegel (time as now, but Heidegger is clearly not happy with that either). Hegel's 'Phenonomology of Mind (Spirit)' is my second favorite book and I read it (and his Logic) after I had read 'Being and Time' the first time. Hegel uses the abstract to explain the abstract and uses a dialetic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) to bring it to reality (at least his version of reality).

Heidegger does something different. He'll start with things but end with time as if he wanted to do that all along, but he ends the book murkily because he is not comfortable with time. Einstein takes time out of the universe (as Parmenides does) through his 'block universe'. Einstein's original sin (his words) was entwining the absolute speed of light with a physical clock (Bergson knows this and does get cited in this book and Einstein 'theory of relativity' gets cited in a footnote but mostly to explicitly ignore it). Heidegger wants to put becoming back into the world and does his best at trying.

I want to get to the reason why I love this book so much. Dasein is thrown into the world and we lose our authentic selves because the "they", the idle chatter (gossip, Facebook), the entanglement, and the atunement (mood of the world) takes us away from our ownmost, nonrelational (never relating to death), and inseparable self. The self that allows us to understand most appropriately.

Dasein is always in guilt from the anxiety and fear from the potential being ahead of death that we all have. The guilt can be thought of as the debt we always owe ourselves because we know that we will die (Camus' 'the absurd'). An analogy I came up with that would not have been possible in 1927 is that the debt we have is similar to the near violation of the conservation of matter that happens when a virtual particle is created in space. The particle is created and near simultaneously (but not quite at the exact time) an anti-particle is created and it is destroyed unless this happens on the horizon of a black hole. The particle that is originally created only exists in the emptiness of space as long as it knows that a debt must be paid leading to its own annihilation. Otherwise, the particle could not exist without violating a conservation law.

It is our authentic existence that makes Dasein care (our conscience calls ourselves). The worldviews we have are a 'facon de parler' (convenient fiction). The book "Sapiens" gets this point. Heidegger states "that science has its origins in authentic existence", but "I will not show that in this book". He'll speak of history as a science to show that how we understand history is analogous to how we experience ourselves. Dilthey's 'generations' which is footnoted and I looked up to confirm that it meant the cohorts that we're put in with make us partly who we become, often less authentic.

I usually detest (maybe loathe is a better word) self help books ("The Purpose Driven Life" is probably the single worst book I've ever read). I've never have seen a better self help book than this book. Our purpose for life lies within understanding our own understand of being in the world and understanding the variation to the three big questions. This book has that and also provides insights and justifications into why I think the way I do. I just love his insult at people who say "I don't have the time", they, according to him (and me) are inauthentic irresolute' because the person who understands will have 'anticipatory resoluteness' and always make time appropriately.

Appropriately is how we must lead our ownmost being. Our ethical, moral, and ontological (in a way, philosophical) views come from our understanding, discourse, attunement and entanglement with being in the world and is up to us to grab onto our authentic selves. As Heidegger says, 'speaking a lot about something does not in the least guarantee that understanding is thus furthered". So therefore, I'll stop writing about why I love this book so much.

The Age of Voltaire

The Age of Voltaire - Will Durant, Ariel Durant The authors look at the bricks that go into making up the building of civilization (and more so than with the other volumes in the series they mean the 'cultured man' (almost always a man in this telling)). But, sometimes to understand the whole building it's best not to dwell too much on each of the bricks separately as the authors do within this volume.

There is a lack of context for most of the stories told about the people featured in this volume. Very little on the moving pieces that make up Western Europe as a whole. But, with the Durant's one always gets a beautiful turn of phase and deep thoughts thrown in from time to time, "a mob never has reason, but only has feelings". Voltaire, is always interesting: 'the Catholics believe they are eating the body, the Protestants think they are eating both bread and the body, and the Calvinist think they are eating only bread", "is it one person, one nature, and one will, or two persons, one nature, and one will......".

But as with every book in the series there is a weird anachronistic racism or misogynism that lurks around. They should have known better by 1965: 'who can trust a woman on the opinion of another woman". I guess, they think that was a funny line, but why did you put that woman's opinion in the story if you were going to negate her opinion by negating the opinion of all women regarding other women. There's other misogynism in the story, but it wouldn't be the Durants if they didn't have those kind of anachronisms floating within their story.

I don't really need one hour on what they claim was the first English 'novel' "Pamela", and its follow up "Clarissa" each with their multiple volumes by Richardson (as I was thinking during the long summaries about each novel, "Pamela tells nothing, and Clarissa tells it all"), but I really did not need to know what they contained in such excruciating detail. A lot of this Volume shares too much. I didn't think that about the other three volumes I've read in this series.

Sometimes, it's better to ignore the bricks and talk about the building. Also, there is more to Western Europe than just England and France (and just a little bit of Germany, but that's mostly because Voltaire was there. Good gosh, there was a German enlightenment and part of it was taking place during that time). The world is a moving web with interactions beyond just two nodes especially since those nodes exist in the real world. Regretfully, audible doesn't have Paul Hazards "Crisis of the European Mind, 1680-1715". It's a better book, and I would recommend that instead.

Great Minds of the Medieval World

Great Minds of the Medieval World - Dorsey Armstrong The lecturer is more of an expert in literature than philosophy so that makes for a better presentation when it comes to the thought of the great thinkers since she can explain the difficult concepts so that even I could understand them.

I really appreciate the fact that she included women, Muslims, and Jews equally in her presentation. As for me, I never can get enough of Maimonides, Averroes, or Avicena (and my wife watched the segment on Hildegard of Bingen, and loved it). I'm always impressed by great thinkers and I'm going to design a t-shirt and put Avicena on the front, and a man dangling isolated on the back and one more image to indicate the sum of all Dasein in the universe as the totality of all consciousness (each individual sums to the Universe, God, very Leibnizian). I'm going to have a special pleasure in wearing that shirt that honors our great Muslim thinkers (just because I might live in a country who's leader wants to ban all Muslims doesn't mean I have to not honor thinkers for their extraordinary thinking!!!!). I had no idea that Averroes pre-stole so much from Hegel. I was reading Hegel's Logic when I heard that lecture and realized the obvious overlap in their thinking. Neat!

Just what I needed another topic where I had little familiarity with and now I won't be satisfied until I learn much more in this incredible interesting area of thought. I love thought (more than things) and the thought from this period is almost always entwined with religious mumbo jumbo, but that's okay because in the end it's not what they believe with no evidence (faith), but how they reach their conclusions that motivate me.

The Gentle Giants of Ganymede (The Giants' Trilogy, Book #2)

The Gentle Giants of Ganymede (The Giants' Trilogy, Book #2) - James P. Hogan This book takes the series in a different direction from what I expected. As always, with Hogan one gets more ideas than characters. (The author reminds me of Arthur C. Clark in that respect). Here the ideas involve around more in depth understanding on the nature of evolution, time dilution, and planet formation. One could read this story without having had read book one and would have no problem following the story.

Hogan's one of my favorite science fiction authors and with this second book in the series he doesn't disappoint. Ideas are always more interesting than people.

Two by Two

Two by Two - Nicholas Sparks The author is a very good writer. He has a reason for putting details in the story which at the time can seem odd. He'll use them latter in the story in order to illustrate his two big themes he's trying to demonstrate with his story.

The first major theme he illustrates is on the nature of wisdom. The main character understands what wisdom is but doesn't possess it (by his own reckoning), but all the secondary characters have it and share it with the protagonist. He knows that it (wisdom) comes from using our reason and rational thought from our experiences and emotional intuition applied appropriately. Or using Plato's formulation, taking our 'courage' and applying it 'moderately' in a 'just' manner. Nevertheless, the author mostly wrote the book to illustrate the concept of wisdom and slightly favors the first definition of wisdom.

The second theme is how in life we must play certain roles because of the world we are thrown into (being-in-the-world) and the 'they' that surrounds us and make us take a stand on our own understanding based on our taking care in the world. (The protagonist in the end does say something very close to that statement).

Literature is an effective method for teaching us how to be 'wise' and make us aware of the roles we often are forced to play through out our life and can teach us complicated philosophical concepts in the guise of fun.

Currently reading

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, and What It Means for Your Health, the Law, and Human Nature
Lisa Feldman Barrett
Finnegans Wake
James Joyce
Now: The Physics of Time
Richard A. Muller
Selected Writings
Ralph McInerny, Thomas Aquinas
The Great Courses, The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity
Kenneth W. Harl