Much of the information of this book is readily available via other sources. People who seriously study historical trends will probably not be shocked by Pinker's conclusions. That being said he has done a great job in gathering the information together in a single volume and presented it in original and dramatic style.
Our view of the world is based on the information we are given. If we are told, over and over again, that we live in a violent and terrible world, then we tend to believe it at face value. But to try and objectively determine how violent our world is, as shown in this book, is a big problem, but not an impossible one.
The decline of violence is one of the long historical trends in the history of man. But since humans live such pitifully short lives they are condemned not to see it or fully appreciate it.
Before I read this book I read "On The Nature Of Things" first. I hate reading books about a book before reading the actual subject-book first. That way I can have better appreciation of what the subject the author is talking about. This book 'The Swerve" is more about the era of rediscovery in the early 15th century, than about Lucretius. If you are intent to know about Epicureanism or Lucretius this could be one book, but the study is a broad one and you will need to find other authors that specifically focus on that material. To be sure the rediscovery of books like the work of Lucretius, did not help the theocracy of that time. The author does a good job humanising the long dead book hunters of the late middle ages. That is the best aspect of this book. Its the story of book hunters and the beginning of the end of Christian theocracy in Europe, not the story of Lucretius.
We live in an age of affirmation, not to be confused with information. Its easy for us to spend time only consuming news or data that affirms what we already believe. Good science does not suffer that. Good science uncovers truth and it does not care if it steps on the toes of any dogma, religion, or philosophy. This book is about such science.
I listen to audio books while at work and usually this is a good thing. However Fey's book got me some strange looks. I would burst out laughing in an other wise quite room.
I am sure her publicist said, "write a book" and so she did. Her style, wit, and the way she tells that story, is simply superb.
My daughter had to write a paper on this. I got the audio book so I could reaquaint myself with the book too, For such a slight volume it packs a brass knuckeld punch to human self deception. It destroys the fiction that hard times bring out the best in people instead of the worst, that god can save you from the hands of mere human cruelty, and that a sons love for a father is unassailable. Yet in the end there is a type of redemption for the living. If for no other reason that to be the one to tell the story.
One of the most private "public" people in US history gets a voice, and what a voice. So often we have to listen to the past through the filter of the opinion of someone else. It is incredibly revealing and refreshing to hear a perspective of the Kennedy White House from one to the two people most intimately connected with it, and not somebody who was not even born when the events took place. She pulls no punches either. There are no sacred cows of 20th century American or world politics that Jackie is afraid to discuss and giver her or her late husbands opinion on. I think in the spring of 1964 Jacqueline Kennedy felt she did not need to blunt her words about anyone for any reason. Thanks to her daughter and family for letting us listen in.
I found the book, as most writings by Sacks, to be uplifting, profoundly humane, and deeply revealing of the utter strangeness of the human mind. Whenever I read Sacks I am always shocked at how little we know about how our minds work. How amazing the human brain is, even in cases of dysfunction. The stories of how people transcend, and thrive, with the various impairments of the visual system, show the resilience and tenacity of the human species and its ability to adapt.
I remember reading bits of this when I was younger. The book was so dense that I found the idea of reading the whole thing too daunting. However I kept coming back to it for historical research and began to view it as nice roadmap to that tragic era. I just finished listening to the totality of it and I am still impressed. The work has a point of view. That the nazi regime was murderous, criminal, and a low point for humanity. The works of the nazi themselves go a long way to bolstering Shirer's point of view. However he keeps his temper in check while recounting the events that led up to WWII and the catastrophic end of the 3rd Reich. As time goes by this work will only get more important since its author was there, in Berlin, during the rise of that regime. This not an opinion piece. In many ways the story is told through the captured Nazi documents that are oft quoted and printed in their entirety. The most damning condemnations of the 3rd Reich are in the actual words of its adherents.
As a person who, like the author, grew up with the bible and then began to want to know more, I found the book splendid. Ehrman does not have a religious axe to grind. He neither admonishes his Christian friends , or trys to refute those who are skeptical. In the best tradition of scholarship he simply reveals how we have come to know what we know about the New Testament, and how and why it was put together over the centuries. As Christians we should welcome this insight into the beginnings of our faith. For those who are skeptical of Christianity this work provides an excellent primer on how the New Testament was assembled and why it changed over time.
Aquinas has always been a favorite of mine. And Kreeft puts forth lots of examples of Aquinas knack for getting at, what in his opinion was, truth about the cosmos and our place in it. Kreeft very much as a Christian point of view so the listener needs to keep that overt bias in mind. If you are looking for an objective treatment of Aquinas this is NOT your book. Aquinas needs to be placed in the context of a continuum of human thought and quest for truth. I can cut through the professors bias and still get at the fascinating intellect that made Aquinas one of the great minds of any age.
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