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Gary

Las Cruces, NM, United States
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  • Capital: Volume 1

  • A Critique of Political Economy
  • By: Karl Marx, Samuel Moore - translation, Edward Aveling - translation
  • Narrated by: Derek Le Page
  • Length: 43 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 6

It can be said of very few books that the world was changed as a result of its publication - but this is certainly the case of Capital: A Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1818-1883). Volume 1 appeared (in German) in 1867, and the two subsequent volumes appeared at later dates after the author's death - completed from extensive notes left by Marx himself.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Classic Economics Text - A Good Listen

  • By Earth Lover on 04-01-18

Exploitation never goes out of fashion

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-06-18

The conqueror will occupy your lands and then sell your resources back to you on credit and tell you all the time it’s a good deal for you. Marx said that multiple times in this book and that’s a metaphor he used to describe the fate of the working person (labor) when at the mercy of capital.

Exploitation and alienation are features not bugs in the absence of a government for the people. The plight of the working class in Europe for the most part was pitiful and hopeless during the time of this book and Marx does a yeoman job of documenting it. Just as burning cats might have been au currant in 1667 Paris and forcing children as young as 8 years old or forcing overtime upon workers or providing them below subsistence wages with dangerous work conditions was the norm in 1860 England, nobody sane accepts those norms today. The world has changed today but this book makes a case that we are only as good as the government that we have when they act in the interest for the people and not the oligarchs.

The oligarchs and the powerful will always alienate and exploit to squeeze the other who is not them up to the limit that they can get away with. The status quo is the default given as ought, the naturalistic fallacy which assumes ‘is’ means ‘ought’. The status quo and the given during Marx’s time was that 16 hour day was in the best interest of the working person, and the factories and workhouses said they were doing the working class a favor, and Marx was forced to refute that and a whole host of other givens as ought. Today, those kinds of norms seem anachronistic and superfluous, but that’s only because society has changed. (Ultimately, nothing ever really changes, even somebody I’ve barely ever heard of before today, Kayne West, recently said that ‘slavery for the slaves was a choice’ in America since it lasted for 400 years. The ignorant will always be ignorant because they don’t know they don’t know and aren’t interested in learning).

You ever notice how even the reality based journalism makes a statement such as ‘there is a shortage of fast food workers’ (the NYT did that on 5/4/2018 with reference to the 3.9% unemployment numbers that came out)? That statement really irritates me. What they really are saying is at the wages the fast food companies are willing to pay there aren’t enough workers who want to be exploited at those low wages. Marx will show even in his time period that kind of wrongheaded formulation was prevalent.

The masters of suspicion: Freud, Nietzsche and Marx all had their take on truth. Freud thought truth existed but we are in denial about it, Nietzsche thought the greatest truth was that there was no knowable truth, and Marx thought truth was discoverable through class. Marx will try to develop his foundations through class and its exploitation and alienation with theory of money, currency, labor and capital, and through his story telling.

And what a story Marx tells. He is incredibly gifted in weaving philosophy and religion into his narrative. I can say that most of what I read now days about Hegel has gone through a lens of Marx which is unfortunate because Hegel clearly could have another more relevant interpretation than what is commonly thought. Marx expects his readers to be cognizant of philosophy and will make statements such as ‘that would lead to the sophistry of Protagoras or the relativism of the Eleatics’.

There is a reason why the ‘Great Books of the Western World’ included this book in the series. Not only is Marx an incredibly good writer (while not necessarily being a great economist), he has something to say that is relevant for our time period and definitely should be read today. This Ukemi production is a treasure and I would highly recommend it. (And no I’m not affiliated with Ukemi in any way even though I keep reviewing and raving about their products. They just seem to have the books I’ve been reading because I just love the old classics that they have recently made available).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1, 1929–1964

  • The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America
  • By: Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and others
  • Narrated by: Oliver Wyman, L. J. Ganser, Richard Ferrone
  • Length: 28 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 128
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 115
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 118

This book contains 26 of the greatest science fiction stories ever written. They represent the considered verdict of the Science Fiction Writers of America, those who have shaped the genre and who know, more intimately than anyone else, what the criteria for excellence in the field should be. The authors chosen for the Science Fiction Hall Fame are the men and women who have shaped the body and heart of modern science fiction; their brilliantly imaginative creations continue to inspire and astound new generations of writers and fans.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A great primer for SF history

  • By nathan on 01-28-18

Better Than Old Time Radio

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-28-18

These stories were extraordinary for three reasons. 1) They were like listening to old time radio shows from the past only better since the narrative was spoken, 2) Each story gave an incredible peek into the time period they were written in. Pay attention to the time the story was written in order to get the full impact of the story. 3) The stories all have a meaning within themselves. The truths they reach are autonomous, they exist for their own being, and they help one understand one’s own existence all the more because they help in partially resolving the ‘paradox of the ego’ (a J.S. Mills expression).

My wife and I would listen to these together as we were in bed tucked in for the night. They made for a perfect end for our days. I like Robert Heinlein and have listened to gobs of his stories over the years, but I did not realize how much of a dick he was in 1940 and how much he was opposed to the working person out of ‘first principles’ as was illustrated by his story featured in this book. It made me reassess his other works through a different lens than I had previously.

To enhance the story and its meaning we would do a Wiki on ‘Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume I’ and look up the story background and plot summary for each short story featured. That added immensely to our listening pleasure.

More fun than old time radio, stories with meaning that transcend the ordinary, and a historical window that was more edifying than time travel and a perfect bed time companion, one cannot ask for more than that with ones entertainment!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • No Sacred Cows

  • Investigating Myths, Cults, and the Supernatural
  • By: David G. McAfee
  • Narrated by: Rich Miller
  • Length: 14 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

While belief in religious supernatural claims is waning throughout the West, evidence suggests belief in nonreligious supernatural claims is on the rise. What explains this contradiction? How can a society with a falling belief in God have a rising belief in ghosts, psychic powers, ancient astronauts, and other supernatural or pseudo-scientific phenomena? Taking the same anthropological approach he employed in his notable studies of religion, atheist author and activist David G. McAfee turns his attention to nonreligious faith-based claims.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • boring and simplistic

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-23-18

There're narrow minded people, I already knew that

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-14-18

Rational skeptics need to realize that the deniers and fringe believers in the supernatural, myths and the paranormal don’t care about meaningful discourse. The eight points of argumentation that Daniel Dennett advocates or the modified 10 points of Michael Shermer each itemized in this book are useless. As Nietzsche said "What the populace once learned to believe without reasons, who could— refute it to them by means of reasons?"

Our side needs to realize that the world is not fair. Our books have to be better than previous books that debunked these nutty beliefs and they have to teach us something we don’t already know. Our side wants to know the truth, and we care about reality. They don’t. There will always be crappy books like ‘The Boy Who Went to Heaven’, featured in this book. There’s a market for those nutty books and for those who want to believe without substantiation or reasons.

Life is not fair. Our side knows ‘climate change is real’ and is ‘not a Chinese Hoax’, vaccines work and don’t cause autism, when a neo-Nazi rams a car into a group of anti-Nazi protestors that it’s not true that both sides are equally to blame and it’s wrong for a leader to shout ‘lock her up’ before there’s a trial or to say an alleged terrorist deserves the death penalty the day of his capture. Tolerance is not a suicide pact. Our side does not have to show deference to those who want to undermine our relationship to reality based on only nut cases gut feelings void of logic, empirical facts, reason, rational thought or a non-nutty narrative tying their theory together. Fringe believers will always have a large market for their nutty beliefs because learning about reality is hard and for the nutty beliefs featured in this book one can always put a new even nuttier spin on them. ‘Fake news’ is what they call reality based journalism that doesn’t fit their nutty world view, and ‘alternative facts’ are for those who want to remain in the dark, and a necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy to thrive is the repudiation of the anti-science beliefs featured in this book.

I can’t really recommend this book. I’ve read ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ for years and there is almost nothing new in this book that hasn’t appeared in that magazine or I haven’t already read the Wikipedia entry debunking the myth. I realize that the five star reviews I’ve read on Amazon on this book are reasonable and all of the 1 or 2 star reviews didn’t like this book for different reasons from me. As for me, I think our side knows this stuff already (and there are better books on this topic then this book), and we already know Wikipedia exists, and the people who are living within the myth don’t know they are in a myth and will not even attempt to read this book and they have no interest in reasonable discourse. I’m not saying they aren’t reachable, their positions are so weak and they will ultimately yield to science and reason but they only do that to move the Overton window – the reshaping of the frame of the argument. Also, I find when dealing with paranormal fringe people the most effective argument is having them look things up on Wiki, or citing ‘Scientific American’ or ‘Science News’ and demonstrating to the deniers of reality’s lack of foundation and purposeful misunderstanding on the real nature of science.

  • The Enneads Volume 2 (4-6)

  • By: Plotinus
  • Narrated by: Peter Wickham, full cast
  • Length: 21 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4

Plotinus, born in Lycopolis, Egypt, when it was part of the Roman Empire, was a major figure in the philosophical school later called Neoplatonism. Neoplatonists viewed reality as deriving from a single force or figure expressed as 'the One'. Two further concepts from Plotinus, 'the Intellect' and 'the Soul', are also principal features of his philosophy. These proposals led to the work of Plotinus forming a bridge between Plato and the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well as Gnosticism.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Knowing books like this one is Good

  • By Gary on 04-09-18

Knowing books like this one is Good

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-18

Volume II is even better than Volume I and surprisingly one does not need to have read the first Volume in order to fully appreciate the second volume. There is no doubt that this is a complex and hard to follow book, but it’s well worth the effort, and the narrator does such a good job narrating at times I thought I was in Rome in 250 C.E. and was listening to Plotinus himself giving me a lecture.

People often say that all of philosophy is a commentary on Plato. I would have to make a modification to that statement after having read the Enneads. There is a reason why Peter Brown in ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ (available at audible) said that Augustine takes Cicero’s civic duty and combines that with Plotinus’ metaphysics and the teachings of St. Paul and makes a religion. Plotinus does subsumes Plato and Aristotle but he definitely takes their thoughts through his own filter and firms them up in such a way that this book stands firmly on its own.

Yes, this is an incredibly complex book to follow, but it’s obvious that this book dominated medieval thought well past Thomas Aquinas (1250ish C.E.), and if one has read Aquinas one sees the debt he owes to Plotinus (and of course Aristotle). In the 800 page book, ‘The Selected Writings of Thomas Aquinas’, Aquinas will cite Plotinus in his arguments repeatedly and when he wasn’t directly quoting him one could see the same structure within his other arguments. Plotinus’ Paganism was structurally sound enough to allow Augustine to dominate the medieval age by reworking Plotinus and was fluid enough when coupled with Aristotle to allow Aquinas to make faith subordinate to reason thus allowing science (knowledge, where truth equals being) to ultimately take a foothold.

As to structure, Plotinus will appeal to the ‘laws of thought’: identity, exclusion, and contradiction. The last of the three can be hard to follow since Plotinus would assume the contra to show the absurdity and one could lose the original point the author was trying to make, but once I got into what the author was really trying to say everything started to click. I’ve read Spinoza’s Ethics and Hegel’s Phenomenology multiple times and when I would get confused (which was often) I would put Plotinus into those authors system because there is a definite overlap between all three thinkers. That’s why I would say that all of Philosophy is a commentary on Plato and Plotinus not just Plato.

Identity as a law of thought depends on the nature of the substance and the essence for the object. This relates to Aristotle’s four (be)causes, in particular ‘form’ and ‘matter’. The middle ages will turn the concepts into ‘whatness’ and ‘thatness’ (the Latin was ‘quiddity’ and ‘haecceity’ and nobody remembers the latter today, that’s why I had to look it up before I wrote it!). Does justice come before the thought of the word within the One or is it only a definition for convenience sake? (It’s somewhat like the Euthyphro dilemma and Plotinus will offer his answer for it. Unfortunately, he’ll do it by fiat and it is with ‘fiat’ how Bertrand Russell will explain the Euthyphro dilemma).

The moment Plotinus said that what Parmenides really meant with his One was that knowing is being and being is truth and truth is the Good this book clicked for me. It took about 10 hours before he said that, but after that I was able understand what was going on. This book is antithetical to one of my most favorite books ‘On the Nature of Things’, by Titus Lucretius. That book dealt with understanding the world by being composed of atoms, this book deals with the Good, the source of all, the One, where ‘the intellectual principal’ springs from giving ‘the reason principal’ leading to the creation of the soul and being. What is meant by the Good? The Rational, the Moral and the Beautiful make up the Good and spring from the source of the One, he’ll say.

Our soul is a copy from the One by way of the 'intellectual principal' and as with all copies it is not as good as the original. All souls are of the One and are one and the same soul and as all geometrical truths are a reworking of the definitions, axioms and theorems each soul is part of the same soul, he’ll say. There is definitely an Eastern Buddhist/Hindu vibe within Plotinus’ version of Paganism and a modern reader will connect Schopenhauer’s Volume I of ‘Will and Representation’ to Plotinus without too much effort.

This is a complex book, but not impenetrable. Its influence is obvious. This book stands on its own and gives a peek into Paganism and is well worth the effort that is required in reading it. Most of what we do while experiencing being human we do ‘for the sake of which’ of something outside of itself, but Plotinus will convincingly argue that of which we do for its own sake is of the highest good or as Hannah Arendt will say, sometimes we just want to play chess for the sake of playing chess itself. In case it’s not obvious from what I said above, my highest Good, after life’s mundane chores have been taken care of, is learning about the real world through studying Philosophy, History and Science for their own sake. A book like this one belongs on anyone’s list who shares a similar goal to mine, but this book needs to be read in its proper context to be fully appreciated and probably should not be dismissed unceremoniously.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior

  • By: Mark Leary, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Mark Leary
  • Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,803
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,570
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,549

Every day of your life is spent surrounded by mysteries that involve what appear to be rather ordinary human behaviors. What makes you happy? Where did your personality come from? Why do you have trouble controlling certain behaviors? Why do you behave differently as an adult than you did as an adolescent?Since the start of recorded history, and probably even before, people have been interested in answering questions about why we behave the way we do.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Nowhere near the depth of typical Great Courses

  • By BryanW on 04-05-14

Substantial take on being human

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-27-18

Life, genetics and behavior explain human nature. Our behavior is shaped by the physical and the social interactions and our thoughts and feelings make us human beings. This course covers a large part of the human experience and will save a listener from wading through countless vapid TED talks. In general, I detest TED talks due to their vapidity since they usually contain thoughts without content and do nothing but waste my time. As flattery is nothing but language without content, TED talks are almost always science without substance. This lecture covers the same kind of material, but the lecturer provides science, context, substance and has nothing to sell but learning for its own sake.

A broad swath of material is covered. For example, he will say except for obvious physical characteristics the really only big behavioral differences between men and women are men tend to be more aggressive and women tend to be more agreeable. Overall it is wrong headed to think that men are from Venus and women are from Mars. There were some points that I did disagree with from the lectures. I’ve always rejected the significance of the Ganzfeld telepathy results ever since I’ve first heard about them, but that very well could be a fault with me because of my narrow ‘no true Scotsman fallacy’ that I have. That is, I tend to reject all telepathy experiments prima facie because I have such a closed mind on the supernatural and supersensible and any experiment that demonstrates telepathy must not be a true scientific experiment (hence the Scotsman fallacy that I clearly have). I’m going to try to make an effort to be opened minded and consider the evidence more fairly in the future. (BTW, wiki tells me the Ganzfeld experiments haven’t been replicated. I’m still skeptical of them in spite of what the lecturer says about them).

Overall a highly informative and entertaining set of lectures and very well could save many wasted hours wading through self serving superficial TED talks

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Strange Order of Things

  • Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures
  • By: Antonio Damasio
  • Narrated by: Steve West, Antonio Damasio
  • Length: 9 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 62
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 58
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55

The Strange Order of Things is a pathbreaking investigation into homeostasis, the condition that regulates human physiology within the range that makes possible not only the survival but also the flourishing of life. Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other primitive life-forms.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Homeostasis and Metabolism give self awareness

  • By Gary on 03-22-18

Homeostasis and Metabolism give self awareness

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-22-18

This book provides an incredibly good way to think about order, origins of life and life. Anytime one can look at a problem coherently from a different perspective one can develop a deeper insight and understand the nature of reality just a little bit better than they did before. For example, I love ‘information theory’ and how it can be used to explain the universe as a paradigm for fundamental understanding of the quantum nature of the universe even to the degree that one of the most famous physicist in recent times, John Archibald Wheeler, would say that ‘it from bit’ explains our universe, that ‘existence comes from information’ (this is not germane to my point, but someday when you have time look up Rule 110 on wiki you’ll be able to understand how a universal computing machine that is Turing complete can come from an incredibly simple algorithm thus leading to a complex universe as ours appears to be) , and that Claude Shannon would show that the second law of thermodynamics (Entropy) can be restated inversely in terms of information theory. (Shannon actually seemed to be a hero of the author of this book).

This book deals with biology more than physics but the author has an alternative way of thinking about biological life arising from chemical processes leading to humans rather than appealing to the standard paradigmatic archetype most of us are already familiar with. He’s going to show how order arises from chaos through homeostasis and metabolism (stealing useful energy from outside of oneself) explains the origin of life and intelligent life.

Spinoza will say and the author will paraphrase him as such ‘everything (both mental and physical) strives (Latin: conatus) to preserve in its being’. In order to do that, the thing in question must steal useful energy (or order) from somewhere outside of itself and it must preserve its nature or it will lose its nature. This is the paradigm the author describes, the homeostasis, the striving (the clinging, the endeavor, the will (that’s what Schopenhauer speaks about, by all means read his Volume I of ‘Will and Representation’, the ‘will to power’ (Nietzsche takes Spinoza’s conatus and Schopenhauer’s’ ‘will’ to come up with this same idea that the author gives except they can’t use those words because they haven’t been codified in their time period)) and the stealing of useful energy from outside of itself thus leading to an increase of entropy in the system as a whole but a decrease in entropy in the thing (the entity).

I’m easily irritated with willfully ignorant people. One of my pet peeves is someone who says that since we weren’t there we can’t possibly know what happened therefore ‘god did it’ (Rush Limbaugh did exactly that the day after Stephen Hawking died and dismissed the ‘big bang’ in his ravings). This book gives a beautiful retort to such stupidity in abiogenesis. Before there were bacteria there were chemical processes. The processes that stayed around and evolved are the ones that reached a steady state with a modicum of homeostasis and metabolic systems at play (and it probably happened in undersea vents. One of the few places on Earth where the energy doesn’t come from the sun. It comes from the radiation left over from the accretion of the earth during its formation).

The author in the first two thirds of the book never just states things. He builds his argument across time and across space. The body develops before the central nervous system in its evolutionary development. Our emotive, temperament and mood happened before our feelings. Our feelings come before our reason both evolutionary and developmentally. A really smart biologist can prove evolution by analyzing the taxonomy of the current living organisms of the now. The fossil record is not necessary for them to prove evolution and its development over time, but the biologist also has the fossil record to make their story even more complete. A neuroscientist, as the author is, also has brain development and processes to add to the equation. This author uses every fact at his disposal in his telling for the development of the self awareness that humans possess.

Logic only preserves truth. It cannot create truth. The feelings we have from our emotive, temperament and mood give us the narrative and the intuition that we need in giving us our self awareness (consciousness) and the story that we end up telling ourselves. Our subjective selves come from our feelings not from our logic based rational selves. (I think all of this is in his book in one way another). He believes our mental states come from our experiences. He even ended one chapter by saying something along the lines that ‘Proust explains it in ‘Swann’s Way’’). It’s too bad he ended that chapter like that because I think Proust had it better than this book does, and also I think ‘How Emotions are Made’ by Lisa Barrett follows Proust more closely and they both wisely stay away from absolute mental states.

I thought the last third of this book never should have been written. He was really out of his depth. He speaks about AI, trans-humanism, camp fires, religion, Adorno, Pinker, Freud and his death wish as expressed in ‘Civilizations and its Discontents’ and many other topics. Matter of fact, I’m currently reading ‘Feminine Law’ and the name and idea dropping between the that book and the last third of this book surprised me in their overlap, but for ‘Feminine Law’ she’s a specialist in the field of psychoanalysis and this author does not seem to be. I can say two nice things about the end of the book, he’s trying to connect his thesis with reality, and secondly he actually predicts the ‘Cambridge Analytics’ and Facebook scandal with incredible prescience.

In spite of the train wreck of the last third of the book, the first two thirds make this book a special find and I would definitely recommend it.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reason

  • By: James Hall, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: James Hall
  • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 69
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 59
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 57

Everyone has to think in order to function in the world, but what is the best way to reason effectively in your pursuit of reliable beliefs and useful knowledge? What is the best way to prove a case, create a rule, solve a problem, justify an idea, invent a hypothesis, or evaluate an argument? In short, what is the best way to think? Professor Hall helps you cut through deception and faulty reasoning in these 24 humorous, clear, and interesting lectures, offering a friendly but intellectually rigorous approach to the problem of thinking.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wow!

  • By Douglas on 08-18-13

Cultivate your soul and learn, learn, learn!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-18-18

Logic preserves truth. Logic cannot create truth nor confirm truth through its own capacity. Its existence shows nothing more than a healthy respect we have for the ‘laws of thought’ when we are dealing with dichotomies, a system where a statement must be true or false, a system where something either ‘is’ or ‘is not’. Logic is the method in which we give a narrative and meaning to matters of fact about the real world, and our experiences about the real world. Logic is how the well prepared mind processes the world around us. The truth (‘a comportment to reality’) is not demonstrated by logic it is only preserved. Our feelings determine our experiences and our experiences need our intuitions in order to provide meaning. For logic to comport to reality we must connect the abstract with the concrete through our intuition, reason, rational, empirical and the narrative we construct.

In a well functioning democracy nothing is more important than for its citizenry to understand the building blocks that go into creating knowledge and the justified true beliefs that compose the foundations of science and culture (i.e. ‘the cultivation of the soul’, the original Cicero meaning for the word ‘culture’).

Every time I hear someone say ‘alternative facts’ are real, or all news that they don’t like is ‘fake news’, or ‘Climate change is a Chinese Hoax’, or ‘autism is caused by vaccines’, or 'that no body was there to observe the big bang therefore it never happened [yes, indeed, Mr. Rush Limbaugh said that inanity the day after Stephen Hawkins passed away]. I understand why they are doing that. They want to undermine our democracy. They want us to question our science and manipulate our culture so they can bring back hate of the others who are not like us. They want us to rely on them for our facts which they admit to making up and they will provide the conclusion without providing the logical steps. They want to make our country no better than a third rate authoritarian fascist state as Russia is today.

Science never proves. It can only reject a null hypothesis and replace it with the alternative until a better alternative comes to replace that. The ignorant and stupid are certain in their beliefs. The intelligent are never certain. The strength of science is that it knows it will constantly remake itself when something better comes along. Science's weakness is that at its foundational core it is complex and hard and simple bromides are easier to embrace and repeat.

The simple mind who wants to manipulate will make the world binary and non-subtle in order to force a construct from the limited choices. ‘If you don’t build a wall, you will have rapists and serial killers come through’ after all ‘a Mexican U.S. Judge [who was actually born in East Chicago, Indiana and is actually an American citizen] can’t be trusted to judge’. Perhaps, that’s a false dichotomy. Perhaps, there are other ways to think about the problem. Our understanding can only be constructed from the entities that make up our world view (ontology) and when we allow somebody to purposely limit our perspectives we can blame ourselves as well as the manipulator.

Learning the components of logic, thinking and understanding is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a democracy to strive. I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about the universe we live in and make part of their meaning of life an inquiry into the inquiry of thought, understanding and logic. Do it as if your democracy depends on it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD

  • By: Peter Brown
  • Narrated by: Fleet Cooper
  • Length: 31 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 192
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 166
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 161

Jesus taught his followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet by the fall of Rome, the church was becoming rich beyond measure. Through the Eye of a Needle is a sweeping intellectual and social history of the vexing problem of wealth in Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire, written by the world's foremost scholar of late antiquity.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A learned, well-balanced postmodern history

  • By Jacobus on 11-21-12

Learn to unlearn false beliefs

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-15-18

With this book you will learn something you did not already know and more importantly discover things you believed to be true but probably weren’t true. Whether the nature of the Roman town structure, the elite, the distribution of wealth within the republic, the rise of the Christians after Constantine, or why ‘most Idealist thinkers [Enlightenment and Romantic] were Pelagians’ (that’s a quote from ‘Culture and the Death of God’, by Terry Eagleton) most readers will learn things they didn’t know and even better will unlearn things they thought to be true but weren’t.

This is a smart book with a narrative tying a complex story together coherently. How we understand history and interpret it is always changing. As history is being written it is using the beliefs at the time which were depended on the prior beliefs and filtered by the expectations of what’s currently happening. A great historian such as Peter Brown knows this and has a way of telling the story such that he will almost certainly destroy the false beliefs you had about this incredibly interesting period of time, the Roman Empire from 350 -550 AD and provide a new narrative to understand that world (after all, who among us doesn't love Roman History from this time period? I know I do, and I know this book stripped away many of my false beliefs about the period that I used to have but no longer do because of this book).

The author realizes how we thought about our world determines how we presently think about our world and also will frame how we see the world in the future as well as our now. The particular can determine the general and the specific or in the terms the author is speaking about, the Roman citizen will love his city and the citizen will be part of the Empire. Similarly, the Church will redefine itself through its members and grow beyond the local Bishop and become a universal ('catholic') church even though universal at first meant anyone was allowed to join it not that it was everywhere as the word ‘Catholic’ now connotes.

Augustine of Hippo is at the center of this story. Before him the thought even among Christians and some Pagans would have been ‘If there were no rich there would be no poor’ (because the rich only exist off the sweat of the poor) after Augustine and because of him it becomes ‘eliminate pride then the rich would be justified’. Augustine, according to the author, takes Cicero’s civic duty and combines that with Plotinius’ metaphysics and the teachings of St. Paul and makes a religion. Pelagius will say, prayers make a difference, we aren’t born in sin, we have free will, and that the rich need to share their wealth with the poor. Augustine and his later allies will say differently. This book will delve into those kinds of things and more. It will take St. Aquinas 850 years later to reverse the Augustinian trajectory and then Martin Luther (and Calvin) to reverse course again by valuing faith over works and letting us all know that we are born in sin because of Adam's pride and defiance.

The writer is not always a fluent writer, but he has a narrative that really works and it would be a rare person who could read this book and not learn something new and worth knowing about and more importantly unlearn something they thought they knew but were wrong about.

  • Philosophy of Religion

  • By: James Hall, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: James Hall
  • Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 76
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 70
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 68

These 36 intellectually challenging yet remarkably clear lectures take you on an intellectual journey to explore the questions of divine existence, not from the standpoint of theology, but as an issue of epistemology, the classic branch of philosophy that concerns itself with knowledge theory: how we can know things and how we can know we know them.If you enjoy wrapping your mind around questions for which every potential answer triggers a new set of questions and issues, you will find this course particularly enjoyable, regardless of whether you define yourself as a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An inquiry about the inquiry of religion

  • By Gary on 03-03-18

An inquiry about the inquiry of religion

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-03-18

I always get particularly irritated by people who belittle philosophy. It’s as if they really don’t want to get at the truth or the understanding. I’ve seen scientist such as Lawrence Krauss ask what good are philosophers? And politicians such as Marco Rubio finding it is incredible that a philosopher can make more money than a welder, as if salary is the standard for worth. But, if you really want to understand a subject let a philosopher explain it to you. (And it seems to me, that both Krauss with his sexual accusations against him and Rubio with his inability to think his way out of NRA funding, both of those thinkers need the help of a philosopher!).

I’ll tell you why I think philosophers add value. They know that real understanding comes about through the second order (or ‘meta’) understanding. That is the understanding about the understanding, or as Professor Hall will say ‘the inquiry about the inquiry’ and the analysis of the ‘ideas and concepts that go into the making’ of the subject under consideration.

The Professor wants to consider a religion with a God (not all religions have a ‘God’) and he defines it as something ‘deserving of being worshiped’ with some transcendental characteristics. He’ll illustrate the ‘equivocation trap’ that we so often fall into when we use words like ‘transcendental’. First, he’ll illustrate the danger of equivocation by giving a hilarious comic vignette about ‘Lola’ and ‘Brute’ going on a date after Lola has been warned to be ‘good’ and when asked after the date she’ll say ‘yes I was good, and Brute will say I was very good’. Second, he’ll show how ‘transcendent’ takes on multiple meanings such as we can ‘transcend’ ourselves to be like Charles Atlas, or we can subscribe to the National Geographic and transcend our local world, or the final sense of the word to be ‘something that is outside of space and time or beyond normal human experience’ a characteristic we often attribute to a God.

The Professor looks at traditional proofs of proving the existence of God: the Ontological, the Cosmological and the Teleological. The first is ‘a priori’ (without experience and with reason alone), the last two are ‘a posterior’ (from experience). The God the Professor is most interested in is an ‘ethical monotheistic’ God. He’ll show what each proof entails, but also show the counter-arguments to each approach. He’ll conclude for each proof that even if one were to grant the assertion the proof doesn’t necessarily lead to an ‘ethical monotheist’ God. The argument of Theodicy (‘why is there evil’) can actually just as easily apply equally to a non-benevolent being of some kind. Leibniz (who is frequently mentioned in this lecture) is unmercifully mocked by Voltaire in ‘Candide’ for his ‘best of all possible world’ explanation for evil.

You ever wonder why some cretins claim that some city was punished by God such as New Orleans with Katrina because they allowed Gays to exist and enjoy life? I have. If one buys into their world view of the teleological and accept a principal of sufficient reason and project their hate on to the world of others as those cretins do, and ignore the Euthyphro paradox on morality, one can conclude such nonsense. This lecture will show how those hateful connections can be made by hateful cretins but yet make sense when their premises are accepted.

Descartes showed (according to this lecture) that the formal structure used in going from defining a triangle by three points in a plane means that triangles must have three angles totaling 180 degrees is equivalent to St. Anslem’s Ontological proof because the ‘form’ can be shown to be the same therefore the conclusion must be valid for both if either is shown to be true. Obviously, today we realize that space is not always Euclidian and non-Euclidian space exists within Einstein’s General Theory and also near a black hole, and that a conclusion is always dependent on its premises for its validity.

There’s this really healthy amount of philosophy of science within these lectures. Wittgenstein and Kuhn and why they matter for understanding the world, and both are often quoted, and the logical positivist are shown to be not relevant. The constructs we create limit our world view. There was a marvelous example of St. Teresa having thought she had seen Holiness and knew it was blue. Her only concern was if it could have been from the devil instead. The only constructs she was capable of making where from her own Christian World View, never even considering it could have been Ahura Mazda or Ganesh or 10000 other possibilities, because after all she was not willing question her faith based beliefs or to deny her experience of what she thought she had seen. The mind can only construct from the tools that the mind has within it. It never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who I’ve met who have had beliefs derived from an emotional experience and will always put it into a construct based on their family of beliefs based on their faith never quite realizing that there could be equally as valid other explanations from the pantheon of Gods or even possibly based on their own mental desires or whims, or they could be better explained by extra-terrestrial aliens or identical twins playing tricks or a thousand other possible explanations which would most surely be more probable than attributing the phenomenon to a supernatural demon or saint of some kind.

I really enjoyed these lectures. The Professor says he is no longer a believer who can sign on to the dotted line, but still participates in religion and loves providing a fair inquiry about the inquiry of the ideas and concepts that make up religion.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Great Mythologies of the World

  • By: The Great Courses, Grant L. Voth, Julius H. Bailey, and others
  • Narrated by: Grant L. Voth, Julius H. Bailey, Kathryn McClymond, and others
  • Length: 31 hrs and 35 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,319
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,167
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,156

The deep-seated origins and wide-reaching lessons of ancient myths built the foundation for our modern legacies. Explore the mythologies of Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Learn what makes these stories so important, distinctive, and able to withstand the test of time. Discover how, despite geographical implausibilities, many myths from across the oceans share themes, morals, and archetypes.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • mostly awesome

  • By Dan on 03-16-16

Other's myths are just as important as your own

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-25-18

Myths are never myths to those who believe.

Our myths are the themes and the images for which the reflective mind orders the pieces that make up the whole by the encoding of our hopes, fears and aspirations. Not all the myths covered kept my interest.

After having listen to these lectures, I don't believe in universal common archetypes (structuralism) that Joseph Campbell advocated could hold any validity at all. Our myths are particular to the culture and to the group that had them and to make our myths more special than they are is just a way to separate us from them and act to divide us. The best is to learn the myths of all cultures, but don't believe your groups myths make you better than others just because it is yours. Patriotism, the belief that your group, culture, clan, or country is superior just because it is yours will lead to division, racism, sexism or bigotry.