It's easy to mock the author. Rock music leads to promiscuous sex, sex is bad when it has no consequences, blacks stick together, "no fault insurance, no fault divorce, and no fault sex" leads to lessening of our values, romantic love is dead, and so on, but that's not the reason he wrote the book and I won't mock him for those silly statements.
He does state that "tradition and myths even if they are not real" help us determine our real nature and develop our soul. Our individual values and valuing others opinions lessen our souls and anything that makes us see our world in relativistic terms instead of absolute values leads to the closing of the American mind for the student. There's nothing wrong with developing a thesis like this, but the author is such a poor writer it's hard to follow his line of thought and why it could be true. I, for one, wrestle with absolute verse relative truth and what does it mean.
"Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds". The author must have a very large mind and never tires in showing it by quoting philosophers but never putting them in a context such that the listener can follow the author's points. Here's how the author approaches one of his typical points, "materialism leads to reductionism which gives you determinism". He leaves it at that. He never tells you why. I only can get the impression that he must be a dualist and doesn't like science but I get no reason why that's relevant. He says dignity originally only refereed to God, and science won't give it to us and creativity lies outside of the realm of science. I have no idea what he means, but I get the feeling that he doesn't like science.
He's got some muddled theory that is hard to decipher that the beginning of the end of the university happened because of the enlightenment, and it's really hard to figure out what he means since he is such a poor writer who loves to name drop and never let the reader know what he is really trying to say. It's something to do with valuing others diversity is very bad. Empathy, seeing from others point of view, is the downfall of everything. Fine, go ahead and write a coherent book that supports that viewpoint. The author doesn't.
He's most proud of reintroducing prejudice into his students (his words, not mine). Prejudice is what the fool uses instead of reason. He really seems to not to like science. The enlightenment is okay but went too far. I stopped listening after about three fourths of the book at the point he quoted Swift to support his view that the enlightenment had gone too far. I finally figured out that he meant those things he was trying to say. It is really hard to comprehend what he is saying. He seems to think democracy is very bad and aristocracy is the ideal we should strive for. But, I'm not sure since he is such a poor writer and it's hard to figure out what he is saying.
There is one good thing about this book it's that he clearly shows how not to approach critical reasoning. He challenges his student to name a great book, a hero, and asks does evil exist. I would have answered, "the best book ever on critical reasoning is "Origin of Species". Darwin is my hero (or sometimes I would say Abraham Lincoln, isn't it amazing my two heroes were born on the exact same day Feb 12,1809), and evil are people like you who want to tear us apart instead of bringing us together".
If I can save just one person from listening to this book, it was worth me suffering through it. (Oh, yeah, there are background conversations going on during the recording of the story. I found it quaint, but some could find it obnoxious. Another reason not to listen to this book!).
One can either listen to a long boring Great Course Lecture series on Buddhism and Eastern Thought or one can listen to this fairly entertaining book and come away with the same depth of understanding on how the introspective path can lead towards enlightenment.
The author clearly wants to share a reasonable interruption of Eastern Thought, and does it quite cleverly by looking at the life of one fictional person, Sidhartha, and how he learns enlightenment through his many phases of his life.
In the end (for me) there is no Eastern Solution for enlightenment but I find the doubt from introspection to be much more worthwhile than the certainty that comes from the revealed religions of the West. I keep meaning to finish that Great Course Lecture I have, but just have never found the time. Perhaps this book will urge me towards that.
When one has certainty, there is no more room for further knowledge or understanding. Science and Reason never prove, at the most they can just show things to be less false than other things. There is a long history of people who haven't been certain and their story makes for a much more interesting revealing of human history than the ones who pretend to have no doubt.
There are two recurring characters in this marvelous book about doubters throughout history, the Stoic, Cicero and his "On the Nature of the Gods", and the Epicurean, Lucretius, and his "On the Nature of Things". Both get major play in this book, firstly when they are introduced and secondly they keep popping up through the rest of the story because their influence with latter sages has been immense.
Survey of philosophy books with their chronological presentation can often be dull since they lack a narrative to tie the story together. This book gives that necessary narrative and gives the listener a thread to understand the connections while telling a good story that includes snippets of world history, religion and summaries of what great doubters thought throughout the ages.
The author gives enough of the major points and sometimes long quotations from the primary sources to make the book or person under consideration come alive and make the listener feel as if he understands the person who wrote it. For example, I now realize why I enjoy the book of Ecclesiastics so much more than any of the other books in the Bible (it's mostly a Epicurean type polemic on the meaning of life). Her considered amount of time she spends quoting Marcus Aurelius is well worth it for the listener. I've never found anyone who I tend to agree more with and would strongly recommend his "Meditations" which is available at audible, but it might not be necessary to read it if you listen to this book instead.
The other thing to like about this book: she does not ignore the East at all. She gives them equal weight to the West throughout the text. Eastern Religions are fully explored since there is a much richer tradition of not being certain, "the more you doubt, the more you understand" would be a typical Eastern religion answer to the refutation of the certainty found in revealed religions.
Overall, this book gives a great survey of doubt throughout the ages, with many synopsizes of great thinkers, and all within an overriding narrative tying all the pieces together. I would recommend this book for anyone who does not like to "pretend to know things that they do not know", and wants to understand the firm foundation that entails.
The last ten years of China is told by mostly telling the stories through second person accounts of people the author has interviewed. He tells the story with three different perspectives at play, China's phenomena growth, the corruption and intimidation the government uses, and the third perspective of what the author refers to as faith, by that he means a belief in tradition and a distrust in the system working fairly for the individual.
At first, I thought the author was giving too many second person accounts, but then I started to realize he really did have a central overriding narrative tying all the stories together in a cohesive whole. The concept of freethinking never seems to enter in his stories. Respect for authority and tradition usually seems to permeate all the stories.
The book does seem very up to date and it seems that China (as represented by its Politburo) is trying to transition from an autocracy to an aristocracy. They are doing everything in their power to shut down free speech on the internet (e.g. banning the search on the word "The Truth"), sometimes their corrupt official defense is "they were sisters not twins", and a young child can grow up saying "I want to become a corrupt official".
The second volume of "Political Order and Political Decay" made me realize how different China is from the rest of the world and how little I knew about what was going on today in China. I would recommend reading Fukuyama's book before reading this one.
The book does a lot in bringing me up to speed on where China is today. I'm anxious to see what steps China takes in the future and because of this book I'll be able to put future articles in to their proper context.
This is the perfect reference guide for the transcendental non-material Artificial Intelligent machines of the future who want an apple pie since as Carl Sagan said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". All the steps necessary for making an apple pie are included in this lecture.
This lecture is a really profitable way of looking at history. He uses certain themes to tie all of history together. Most of our way of thinking about our place in the universe has started with thinking that the way things are today is the way things have always been. Even Einstein accepted the static universe at one time. the originator of the continental drift was laughed at up till the 1960s, evolution today is denied by a large significant number of people, and so on.
All of history can be tied together by many themes, there's a Recursive nature to processes, once an algorithm has been developed it can act on itself and give complexity and create things such as stars, solar systems and mufti-cellular life. From complexity we can get Emergent properties, characteristics that are part of the whole but could not be predicted from the parts. Think of the neurons in our brain. They give us consciousness. So, one can say the sum of the parts is greater than the whole since consciousness transcends individual neurons. The other theme is Entropy, useful energy only arises when there are differences within a system. When everything is the same, no exploitation is possible. This is true in the universe as the whole and true in the development of civilization or in capitalism. The Networking of complex systems make for better galaxies and better civilization. Our true strength as the most complex entities in the universe is our ability to Network and our advancements are based on developing ever better ways of communicating from the invention of symbolic communication (talking), through farming, living in cities and the development of the internet for sharing pictures of our cats.
The lecture does a marvelous job at tying all the pieces of making an apple pie (or more properly, developing a great service like Audible) into a coherent whole. The lecture listens more like a book than a series of independent lectures since the lecturer never forgets his central narratives.
Most of the audible books and Great Courses I listen to have covered the same topics as this lecture but did so in much more depth. So, therefore, most of this lecture seemed to be a review for me. I didn't mind that, because I need to hear the same thing presented in three different ways before I can fully understand it, and with that warning that this course could be mostly review for most people I can still highly recommend this course since he has such a good way of tying all the pieces together.
The mystery is given to the listener in the first few minutes of the story. A crazy sounding old man approaches the barkeep and tells him he killed his mother and his father is falsely imprisoned. The charm for the story lies elsewhere. The barkeep uses one book as his guide book, "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" and embraces the Tao of that book giving him a Zen like detachment from the rest of the world. The barkeep also keeps the code of the bartender and knows how to separate himself from patrons of the bar.
There's a lot to like with this story: the dialog between characters was full of witty repartee, the code that any barkeep (or for that matter, any person) needs to keep ones distance from others, the process of discovery one learns about oneself while focusing outside of oneself , finding the actual murderer of the barkeeps mother, and the problem with detachment all add to a very fun story to listen to in spite of the serious nature of the crimes under investigation.
I enjoyed the narrator. He gave voices to most of the characters, exaggerated voices and emotions, and really let the theater of my mind go to town. The author and the narrator made for a good diversion and helped me detach further from the world much in the same way that the barkeep was in the beginning of the story.
This book is mostly a series of anecdotes based on first person accounts from persons who consider themselves secular and why they embrace that world view. There's nothing inherently wrong with using anecdotes for telling a consistent story and this book does a good job while doing it. I found all the characters profiled interesting and worth learning from.
There are two ways I try to understand my place in the world and the world view that I have. One is by looking at fact based non-fiction books and the other is by reading fiction. To me, the anecdotal ultimately reads like fiction because the plural of anecdote is not data, and it can only provide understanding through empathy but not knowledge.
The characters talked about in this book all seem to refute the generalizations theist often assert such as "I've never met a non angry atheist" (Rick Warren actual quote), "without god anything is possible" (Bill O'Reilly and Dostoevsky), "you must be angry at god", or "it's impossible to be an atheist" and so on.
For those who learn best by way of fiction or anecdotes this book will be a good and entertaining listen, as for me, give me data, which leads to information, that becomes knowledge and ultimately leads to understanding and wisdom.
p.s. I really think the author is wrong in equating secular beliefs with no belief in an after life. He did it in multiple places but I belief that one doesn't necessarily follow from the other.
There is a certain beauty to this book. The author completely convinces the listener that there is no more important field of study to understand the world and how we got where we are then Political Science. The author is that good at laying the foundations for his points. Moreover, the author is telling an incredible complicated story with many different moving parts but he excels at telling you what he's going to tell you, tells you, and then tells you what he just told you, and then just in case you didn't understand his points he'll explain them once again by comparing and contrasting with some diametrically opposed counter examples.
This volume can be read independently from the first volume. The listener should just pick the area he is most interested in. This volume looks at the more direct relationships to how our current political entities evolved to their current configurations.
He explained China to me in such a way that I have to reconsider how I perceive them. For the last 30 years, their form of authoritarian rule might have been much better than a democracy since they have such a small middle class relative to the other classes. The concerns expressed at Tiananmen Square have fallen on the wayside in today's China. Overall, he gave a fascinating discussion concerning China.
I know that Political Science isn't the most important way to understand who we are, but it definitely helps in our understanding by thinking about our institutions, rule of law, and state structures. The one thing that the author did that really irritated me was in parts of the book he would make the false equivalence claim such as "both the Tea Party and progressive Democrats are to blame for ...", any sentence that starts that way is flawed. He argues there is a mushy middle between the two extreme positions and neither one is correct. I'll let the listener decide for himself, as for me I disagree. He also made a statement that our current congress wanted to shut down the government rather than pay for past debts owed by the federal government and putting us into a fiscal catastrophe. I just don't see it that way. It was only one political party that wanted to renege on past government debt.
Overall, the book is very likeable, makes one appreciate the role for Political Scientist and gives one valid way for describing how we got where we are today.
The author tells the story in three acts: the discovery of the tablets, the unsung heroine, Alice Kober, striving to crack the code, and the actual code cracker Michael Ventris.
There's so much of human nature tied up in this story. You have the discover of the tablets, Arthur Evans, not wanting to share the tables as a whole and wants to keep them as esoterica for his own attempts at solving them. The story of the obsession and logical approach that Alice employs is inspiring and is tinged always with the fact that we the listener knows she will be dying soon.
This story completely held my interest and my mind did not wander while listening, because I was riveted by the details and the process. As the author kept explaining the task at hand I saw the main story as a metaphor for how we learn in life. There's two kinds of approaches to learning (cracking the code of nature), one is deductive (reason) and the other inductive (empirical). To crack the code it first took faith in a deductive approach and certain assumptions needed to be made. But reason alone was not going to crack the code. That's why so many crackpots kept showing up in this story. Coherent stories explaining nature can be told, but coherence alone is not a sufficient condition to explain nature, but coherence is a necessary condition to explain. The crack-pots and amateurs used coherence but not a consistent solution corresponding to reality. The code cracking needed knowledge beyond the tablets themselves for the ultimate decipherment.
The topic is exciting, well explained and the main character and the process they used were inspiring.
Everything I thought I knew about The Great War was wrong. This book has set me straight. The author writes a book with attitude and has the goal of destroying the myths about the starting of the war and correcting the lies about the war and explaining why it was important in its day and is still relevant for understanding today.
I always thought that "both sides were to blame", and that the sacrifices the triple entente (France, Britain, and Russia) made did not justify the cause. I was wrong. The author lays out the case on how the Germans are to blame with their blank check, their invading neutral Belgium and the Austrians with their wanting to punish all of Serbia for the actions of one teenager, Princip for the assassination for an Archduke that most of his fellow countrymen didn't even care for. The author states that "it's really not that complicated, July 23, 1914 Austria declared war on Serbia, the next day Russian responded", and so on. The book is much more nuanced than that one sentence indicates, but he makes clear Germany wanted war and they made it happen. So, that they could gain complete Hegemony of Europe and impose their will.
Also, the author points out that Germany didn't really play by the rules of the game and by orders of magnitude were more servere and, for example, were more likely to kill civilians who were taken hostage and commit multiple other atrocities and did the acts by orders from their hierarchical chain of command in contrast to the Allies who would have do such things only by rogue actions. Another strong argument the author makes is that German Hegemony of Europe would have had dire consequences going forward the rest of the world.
The author did quote the magazine "The Economist" twice. Once was how Serbia wasn't worth Britain's trouble and another how an early negotiated peace should be attempted. It's nice to see that "The Economist" is just as wrong today as they were 100 years ago.
There was another similar thing the author kept bringing home. The Germans after the war kept building up a denier mythology about the war: "if only they had more men", or "if that general had fought harder" Germany would have won the war. That kind of denier mentality is most certainly not true.
The book gave me an interesting trivia question, "what do Ronald Coleman, Herbert Marshall, Claude Rains, and Basil Rathbone all have in common?". Answer: besides being four of my most favorite actors they were all in the same regiment in Belgium during the first year of the war.
Overall, the book is necessary reading for understanding about the war and why it matters today and at the least might destroy a falsehood or two one might have about it.
I would recommend this audiobook more than any other audiobook that I've listened to for someone who is thinking about signing up for audible for the first time and using their free credit, because this performance highlights more than any other why I love audible. The narrator makes the story come alive by his choice for voices and inflections and at times when I reflect upon the book, I'm not sure if I was watching a movie of the book or had been listening to the book since the narrator is as good as the writer (good job! David Pittu) at setting the imagination on fire.
The first half of the book is driven by the character who never speaks, "The Goldfinch". The listener is at all times aware of the character who does not speak and is in on the secret that all listeners of the book are aware of. This alone keeps the listener hooked to the story.
At the heart of the story is the story of a friendship between two very flawed characters from the age of 13 onward. Each are corrupt characters but need each other to see the truths that surround them.
I can really appreciate the author for another reason. She's dealing with universal truths that the smart listener can pick up on, but for the non-smart listener like me, she explains the points that should have been learned from the book by stating them explicitly in the last parts of the book. I would even say the author is a Hegelian and thinks understanding comes about from the knowing the whole (meaningless digression: when her character talks about "The Goldfinch" and what it means to understand art, she is also allowing her character to explain why literature is another gateway for universal truth, the whole must be understood to understand the pieces (very Hegel like). I prefer non-fiction and its Aristotelian linear fact based approach for understanding the pieces that lead to the whole, but I know Newton is a counter example when he takes the works of Galileo and Copernicus and made an Ideal out of their facts. That's what this author does and I can appreciate the lessons learned in this book; end of meaningless digression).
This book transcends mere fiction by becoming literature, because the author had some truths about being human to make and luckily for me she explains them so that all listeners can understand them. She even has her main character tell the listener "That our secrets determine who we are" and what is meant by that and why art (and literature) is necessary for seeing those kinds of truths.
I would highly recommend this book to anybody who is thinking about signing up for audible with a free credit. This book has depth and would not always be apparent to a reader of the book but is present in the audiobook since the narrator provides subtlety to the characters and the narrative that a reader will often miss. An audible book like this shows why audiobooks can be more rewarding than actually reading.
Report Inappropriate Content