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Gary

Las Cruces, NM, United States
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  • The Book of Why

  • The New Science of Cause and Effect
  • By: Judea Pearl, Dana Mackenzie
  • Narrated by: Mel Foster
  • Length: 15 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 335
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 291
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 289

"Correlation does not imply causation". This mantra has been invoked by scientists for decades and has led to a virtual prohibition on causal talk. But today, that taboo is dead. The causal revolution, sparked by Judea Pearl and his colleagues, has cut through a century of confusion and placed causality - the study of cause and effect - on a firm scientific basis. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great book! Not a great audiobook.

  • By rrwright on 05-30-18

Understand the data, understand the world

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

Reviewed: 01-13-19

There were some real flaws with this book that bothered me to no end. I had no problem following his statistical examples and how to think about data analysis in the way the author suggests we all should. I even enjoyed it when the author connected what he called Smart Artificial Intelligence to his overall causal theory, and I enjoyed the book when he alluded in passing to the importance of solving the P=NP problem and how that would relate to what most people call super AI .

If we can model completely the effect of a variable, we can get beyond the functional representation and understand the cause, that is, the why, the intentional or the intuition lying behind the variable of interest. Or in other words, as the author wants to say correlation can show causation if a perfect model is in place for the variable under consideration. The author is absolutely right, but perfect unique models of the real world don’t exist.

The more we understand about the process, the interactions, the confounding and the mediated variables the better our model will be and every statistician tries to do just that with every dataset they come across. All statisticians want to understand the process, but in reality often they have to let the data lead the way.

Good data analysts (statisticians) know that if they control for mediated variable that collude with resultant variables they risk confounding. While everyone might not understand what those words mean in a strict statistical sense, I would think that everyone who thinks about the world through the lens of modeling and data knows confounding can be lurking. The author is not really telling us anything that most people didn’t already know, at least among people who analyze the world with data.

Science never proves anything. We say things are a fact, but when we say something is a ‘fact’ we really imply ‘scientific fact’. The world of facts is always ‘underdetermined’. That means that the facts we have can always be explained by multiple theories. The author is talking about data, the facts that make up the world. He wants to show that correlation can show causation when we see beyond the data and wants us to consider graphical analysis and use his ‘do calculus’ and causal path analysis as tools for developing a model. (I owe a slight elaboration to why I say ‘science never proves anything’, at least that is the standard paradigm that science uses with its null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis. We reject the null and accept the alternative at the level of six sigma in quantum physics or 2 sigma in psychology. That is what scientists do and yes it does come from R. A. Fisher who the author mentions multiple times mostly in order to criticize).

The author is right to say that a statistician needs to understand the processes and the underlying mechanisms at play within the issue under study, but every statistician already knows that. The more the analyst understands about the process the stronger the statement can be made. ‘Climate change is a (scientific) fact’. We can say that not just because of the data, but because of the well understood climate models that have been fine tuned over time that mirrors our data expectations post-prediction and retro-diction (you know, Einstein’s heart skipped a beat when he saw that the perihelion of Venus fit his General Theory even though that was retro-diction, after the fact).

The statistician will perform sensitivity analysis, model fitting, Bayesian analysis (taking prior information and using that to get a result and weighing those results by expectations), graphing, identifying the mediated variables, perform ceteris Paribas, contra-factual analysis or in general anything that reasonably needs to be done in order to confirm or deny their best alternative hypothesis and all of those techniques are prominently featured in this book.

The author likes Harari’s first book “Sapiens” because it fits the story he is telling. He quotes Harari to the effect that humans are different because we are the only creature who knowingly believe a fiction. The author doesn’t quote Harari’s second book ‘Homo Deus’. In that book Harari will say that big data analysis will understand our causes from the data itself, the ‘whys’ of whom we are, or in other words our intentional state beyond our functional state, or in other words our intuitions beyond the action itself. The author thinks more than data itself is a requirement, Harari, at least in his second book, will say big data itself will be sufficient with the right self adjusting programming.

I don’t dislike this book at all. I liked how the author does talk intelligently about super AI on the peripheral; I like that the author has reasonable ways to think about complex problems. I felt that most analysts would understand the points the author was making, and I felt the author ignored too much of the Philosophy of Science in his presentation, and I think most people already know that data analysis and process analysis always must go hand in hand, but contrary to what the author is saying I think that sometimes one must let the data do the explaining for the analyst, and we must always remember that certainty is always illusive in the real world.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Recovering

  • By: Leslie Jamison
  • Narrated by: Author
  • Length: 16 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 316
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 287
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 287

With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction - both her own and others' - and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Waaaaaaayyyyyy Too Long

  • By Helene Roberts on 05-25-18

Remotely and objectively presented

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

Reviewed: 01-07-19

The author wrote the book as if she was removing herself from the story telling. With few exceptions whenever she wrote ‘I’, I felt that she could have just as easily written ‘she’, or ‘her’, or a random protagonist’s name from a novel. The author always seemed to remove her feelings from the story telling and it seemed like there was a barrier between herself and the reader.

The author removes herself from the story and would often segue away from whom she was by dwelling on other books or authors who knew how to explain their experiences and feelings more subjectively than this author was willing to do. The one thing this author knows more about than I will ever know is her existence as an addict and what it means to her and that’s what the story should have been but wasn’t. I don’t need a self help book; I don’t need wisdom; I wanted understanding as the author felt it; I wanted to understand what it meant for her to be an addict and what recovery means. I wanted her to use her power of writing to make me feel what it meant for her. I didn’t get that. The author tells the facts about her life as if they were prized stamps from a collection, but our experiences are more than stamps and need cohesion within a context through consistency and mostly a removing of the veil that separates us from each other. This author seemed to think shocking us with details from her privileged life as if she were in a novel were enough.

The one time in the story where I felt the author was real was when she was looking for an AA meeting in South Dakota (I believe it was SD), and the church was closed and she was going to leave but there were two bikers and a young mother and she describes the scene. I felt the real author was telling a real story and she was more than just a character in a novel and I felt for her because of the young mother not coping with her human experiences made the author human.

The world loves to foist stories upon me with the false premise where the privileged are de facto more interesting than people like me. The privileged are different from you and me, they have more privileges, and sometimes they even get to write about their privileged life especially if they have made mistakes in life (as we all do), but that alone doesn’t make their story telling worthwhile. I would recommend listening to Billie Holiday or reading ‘The Lost Weekend’ or ‘Infinite Jest’ all of which were featured within this book, rather than reading this book.

  • I Am Dynamite!

  • A Life of Nietzsche
  • By: Sue Prideaux
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Guy Smith
  • Length: 17 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 82
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 80
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80

Nietzsche wrote that all philosophy is autobiographical, and in this vividly compelling, myth-shattering biography, Sue Prideaux brings listeners into the world of this brilliant, eccentric, and deeply troubled man, illuminating the events and people that shaped his life and work. I Am Dynamite! is the essential biography for anyone seeking to understand history's most misunderstood philosopher.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating; tragic

  • By Cineaste21 on 12-30-18

Gives the bait, it's time to take a nibble

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

Reviewed: 01-06-19

I’m glad I broke my rule against biographies and read this book. I needed a context and continuity for properly understanding Nietzsche, and this biography gave it to me. I generally don’t like biographies because as Nietzsche said about thought since Socrates it’s just a collection of facts, or in my words like stamp collecting, and biographies often miss the cohesion by dwelling on the facts or describing a person’s life as if they were stamps in a collection isolated from the real world. This biography provided the necessary cohesion and gives the reader enough of a taste for why Nietzsche's thoughts are relevant today.

This biographer broke from a collection of facts by linking Nietzsche’s thought with his life by dissecting his writing as he was becoming through his life. Nietzsche is a poet who wrote in prose and aphorisms. Nietzsche writes his feelings with ideas such that others can open their eyes rather than remaining blind. That to me is a definition of a poet. I would even give Nietzsche the compliment of not being a philosopher, because Nietzsche can be understood and the definition of a philosopher almost certainly has ‘not being understandable by regular people’ in its definition (okay, I’m just kidding), and this biography goes a long way towards explaining what Nietzsche thought and why it’s just as important to today.

Nietzsche was barely known throughout his sane period of life. Almost from the point he lost his sanity is when his fame started to blossom. Nietzsche was incredibly anti anti-Semite. The biographer gives ample evidence for that. More importantly, and this is where the biography excels, once ‘God is dead’ where do we get our meaning? Nietzsche has a project and within a series of books that sell 100 or so copies per book during his sane lifetime he resolves that question, and not to ruin it for anyone, his answer is thrown back to his readers; it is for you to find your meaning. In Nietzsche’s ‘Ecce Homo’, one of the few autobiographies worth reading, he’ll say ‘I gave them the bait, but they refused to nibble’.

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone. I know I’ll continue my mission of reading more works of Nietzsche, but now I’ll understand the context and the meaning a little bit better than I would have if I had not read this biography. As Nietzsche said, ‘no one strives for happiness, except for an Englishman’; our real striving is for our meaning not the transitory feelings of happiness

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Fall and Rise of China

  • By: Richard Baum, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Richard Baum
  • Length: 24 hrs and 8 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,778
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,603
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,594

For most of its 5,000-year existence, China has been the largest, most populous, wealthiest, and mightiest nation on Earth. And for us as Westerners, it is essential to understand where China has been in order to anticipate its future. These 36 eye-opening lectures deliver a comprehensive political and historical overview of one of the most fascinating and complex countries in world history.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Offers excellent objective perspective!

  • By Yu-Chin on 12-15-13

I blame the Gang of Four for my ingorance on China

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

Reviewed: 01-05-19

It was not my fault; the Gang of Four poisoned my mind as I held up five fingers with the implication being that Mao was at fault too. I think I’ll blame them too for me not having had known anything about China history since 1750 including how creepy the British were with their Boxer Rebellion and foisting opium on to the Chinese masses in order to enrich the coffers of the British, or for have not knowing what Maoism meant and how cults can lead to a ‘cultural revolution’, starvation and mass murder.

You ever notice that no matter where you are in the world ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism’, and when Samuel Johnson said that he surely meant exclusive patriotism the kind of patriotism that morphs into Nationalism. The lecturer points out that the heroes of Tiananmen Square were called unpatriotic by the authoritarian oligarchy who was ruling over China at the time. No matter where or when we are in space or time scoundrels appeal to patriotism in order to justify their privileges and enslavement of the other. The powerful and the privileged love to justify their status and the status quo by demeaning others not like them by calling them unpatriotic, and in the case of Tiananmen Square it’s clear who the real heroes were and who were the scoundrels.

The lecturer made a point of how important it is to have good leadership at the top and what a difference a judicious decision can make. As the lecturer stated, an American ambassador was approached by a Russian ambassador in 1968 and wanted to know what the US would do if they ‘took out’ the Chinese Nuclear armament sites. Wisely President Nixon let it be known in no uncertain terms that would not be tolerated. The lecturer makes the point how different history could have been if somebody else had been in charge; I don’t know maybe if the president in those days had been someone who believed absurd statements such as ‘climate change is a Chinese hoax’ just maybe the world would have been a whole lot worse than it is today.

Instead of blaming the Gang of Four for my own ignorance I could have just listened to this highly informative lecture series on China.

  • The Church History

  • By: Eusebius, Paul L. Maier - translator, Paul L. Maier - commentary by
  • Narrated by: John Lescault
  • Length: 13 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 24

Often called the "Father of Church History", Eusebius was the first to trace the rise of Christianity during its crucial first three centuries from Christ to Constantine. Our principal resource for earliest Chrisitianity, The Church History presents a panorama of apostles, church fathers, emperors, bishops, heroes, heretics, confessors, and martyrs. This audiobook edition includes Paul L. Maier's clear and precise translation, historical commentary on each book in The Church History, and numerous maps, illustrations, and photographs. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good Overview of Early Church History

  • By M. hooper on 08-17-18

Superb footnotes add to brilliant history

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

Reviewed: 01-01-19

The modern day commentary and footnotes enhance the incredibly pleasurable writing of Eusebius.

I always wonder why more modern day believers don’t explore the fundamental roots of their own modern day beliefs from some of the original foundational documents such as this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Early Medieval history book, or an Early Christian history book which did not quote extensively from Eusebius.

I know I now have to read Josephus because of Eusebius. Hoopla has an audio version of his book that I will borrow for free. Though, I would much prefer a version like this book that has explanatory footnotes and commentaries. The translator, Maier, had a fairly good discussion on Josephus’ mentions of Jesus and what scholars believe to be extrapolations or not, and the footnotes and commentary overall did not go wasted on me.

The only fault with this audible version is that I wasn’t always able to distinguish the footnote or commentary from Eusebius’ writings. I wish that the reader had been told to say ‘footnote’ and ‘end of footnote’ in the narration. But, that tells me how good of a writer Eusebius really was because his writing flows like a modern day conversation between friends.

To understand who we are today it sometimes requires understanding where we came from. Why is what we call the bible today the bible, or what does Jesus’ nature mean or what’s this about the Arian controversy, what’s all this about martyrs and why it is so important for the church’s history, and why are the Donatists so cool to understand (I’m going to give you a hint, it has something to do with the reformation and Martin Luther, but of course Eusebius and Augustine don’t know that), and how does the ‘catholic church’ (i.e., ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’ and the early ‘catholic church’ meant all are welcome) become a ‘Catholic Church’ (i.e. ‘universal’ means everywhere). Eusebius explains how the early orthodox Christians world thought about itself and allows one to anticipate the transition to Augustine who mostly defines the medieval Catholic world until Thomas Aquinas comes along in 1250. Eusebius always takes an orthodox (mostly from a Greek perspective) position, but all of these kinds of things lurk within the text and is incredibly well presented and are necessary for understanding where we are toda

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Money and Government

  • The Past and Future of Economics
  • By: Robert Skidelsky
  • Narrated by: John Lescault
  • Length: 16 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2

A critical examination of economics' past and future and how it needs to change, by one of the most eminent political economists of our time. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Everyone can learn from this outstanding book!

  • By Gary on 12-23-18

Everyone can learn from this outstanding book!

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

Reviewed: 12-23-18

Rarely would I sing the praises for a book as I would for this one. The world ignores books of this quality at their own peril. This book does something that I’ve never seen done before. It lays out a narrative in easy to grasp ways for how to think about macro economics, monetary and fiscal policy (money and government), and why it is necessary to understand in order to not be misled intentionally by fallaciously distracting substance free arguments.

The history of economics and its thought is laid out while always making it relevant to what happened in 2008 and what’s going on today. Keynes, Ricardo, Hayek and all the different schools are differentiated from classical to neo-classical, liberal, neo-liberal and post-Keynesian and so on. The real important thing the author states and demonstrates is that in Economics there really never has been a similar shift as there was in cosmology when the paradigm went from Ptolemy to Copernicus because all of the different schools of Economic thought never really start from scratch and never happen in a vacuum and need a proper context in order to understand.

There are expectations and logic built into how we understand our economic systems. He'll give the examples of Friedman (or it could have been another Economist, I actually forget which one) requiring rational expectations with an efficient market hypothesis in order for their Economic paradigm to work, but then he'll show that sometimes we see the world as Bayesian. He'’ll explain Bayesian in the narrative and I suspect not everyone will be able to follow his details but everyone can understand what he was getting at and why it's so important for the story he's telling.

Having read this book I realized an implicit truth the author is getting at. Economics is always searching for an intrinsic truth at its foundation. Say's Law wants it to be supply creates demand, Marx wants all monetary value to come from money as an intrinsic value through amount of work (and exploitation of labor), and the great schools of thought tweak and provide different nuances, but all want to effect change and contribute to overall well being. There is no absolute truth in economics and events and tools come along and make us see the world differently as the world changes and adapts while the Economic schools do the same. In the 70s we 'were all Keynesians now', and before the 2008 great recession we tended towards monetarism of Milton Friedman until Alan Greenspan finally made the statement 'I'm shocked, I can't believe it bankers lied to me'.

The author clearly wrote the book so as the reader can understand the efficacy of fiscal policy over monetary policy. Austerity is not an efficient road to growth, low inflation or high employment, and monetary policy by itself is probably not sufficient (the author definitely tends towards that, but he never goes beyond what the facts say). Confidence fairies don't exist (the author explains what that means if it is not obvious to you). Everything the author writes about is always in the mainstream of professional Economic thought with the possible exception of the last hour of the book and that's only because that's his personnel thoughts on specific recommendations.

The author never insults his reader and assumes they want to understand. If it takes an equation or four to make his point he'll do just that. He'll show how VAR (value at risk) models for determining Tier I capital requirements was an absurd standard (VAR allots capital reserves by taking the minus 3 sigma risk and multiplying it by 3) and how the CRA (credit ratings agency) contributed mightily to the 2008 financial meltdown. The author never gets ahead of the facts and shows the theory in support of the practice. He quoted Ben Bernanke concerning QE (quantitative easing) that 'it worked in practice but not in theory'. The author probably tended to disagree with that but knows the problems with ceteris paribus and counter factual argumentation thus never really going beyond the known facts.

Most political debates are void of substance since the economic foundations are not understood by most pompous windbags who spew their bilge with no understanding. This book fills those holes by honestly looking at the history of economics, its ontological foundations, its psychological, sociological and political underpinnings, and what happened in 2008 and what is going on today.

Without a doubt I would recommend this book as probably the most significant and relevant book that I've read this year. I'm glad I listened to it instead of reading it since it is full of econometric equations and by listening to the book I didn't dwell on solving the equations; I just mostly concentrated on following the narrative, and the story the author is telling is one I would recommend to everyone today in order to be a well informed person. [I don't want to take away from this book, but I also would recommend 'Crashed' by Adam Tooze. It covers the crash of 2008 in more detail then this book. I think the only thing I really disagreed with this book, 'Money and Government', is he tended to blame subprime mortgages more for the crash than Tooze did].

It's a real pity the world seems to be ignoring this book, because it is a real gem and it's one of the few books that I would recommend everyone read (or listen to). There are real economic problems lurking around us right now and the overwhelming majority of people trying to solve them or argue their view points are without substance and this book would help them get the real foundation they need in order to bring them coherence and understanding. I realize that not everyone can follow mathematics in an audible format or even on the printed page, but for those people who can't, I will say the narrative will come through regardless.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Divine Comedy

  • By: Clive James (translator), Dante Alighieri
  • Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 14 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 816
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 757
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 760

Renowned poet and critic Clive James presents the crowning achievement of his career: a monumental translation into English verse of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy is the precursor of modern literature, and this translation - decades in the making - gives us the entire epic as a single, coherent and compulsively listenable lyric poem. Written in the early 14th century and completed in 1321, the year of Dante’s death, The Divine Comedy is perhaps the greatest work of epic poetry ever composed.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant!

  • By Tad Davis on 10-18-13

Best Translation

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

Reviewed: 12-16-18

'The Comedy' no longer mystifies me. I’ve tried other translations, but never could get into what was being said. The Clive James version changes that. This audible version makes the book come alive. 'When they walked away they played a trumpet of the arse'. Now, that is a funny line and this translation makes one laugh when one should be laughing at the fart joke.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Duns Scotus and Medieval Christianity

  • By: Ralph McInerny
  • Narrated by: Lynn Redgrave
  • Length: 2 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 14
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 15

The Roman Empire became Christian in 323 AD; about two centuries later, the rest of Europe began to convert. Medieval culture blurred the line between the sacred and the secular. While political and religious hierarchies vied for influence, liberal arts education claimed to seek sacred truths through secular means. But when Aristotle's works were first translated from Arabic, there began a conflict between reason and faith. Franciscan John Duns Scotus was one philosopher who tried to bridge this gap.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • In depth probe of pertinent topic

  • By Gary on 11-28-18

In depth probe of pertinent topic

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

Reviewed: 11-28-18

Reason and faith talk past each other. During the middle ages humanist, those who believe 'man is the measurer of all things' and in the progress of human nature, mocked Duns Scotus so much that today 'dunce' derived from Scotus' first name means slow witted, and this book will show you that Duns Scotus is definitely not slow witted.

Good books on scholasticism and Duns Scotus are incredibly hard to find. 'Thisness' and 'whatness' (i.e. form and matter, accident and essence) is still as meaningful today even if people find the references obscure. Being and the 'being of beings' is just as meaningful. Aquinas will say being is at most analogical to a Supreme Being. Scotus disagrees. Aquinas reworks Aristotle and makes reason and rational thought leading to studying nature as not only the language of God but in addition as an end in itself while opening up a crack giving science a chance to flourish beyond dogmatic certainty.

Our political beliefs of today ultimately appeal to scholastic foundations from the middle ages but we let our feeling get in the way of our understanding, and we ignore our own first principles and fall into the trap of clever word games while forgetting what we are really debating. The scholastics knew how the 'a priori' (latin: from first principles) tainted their own understanding, and they were wise to try to understand why they understood what they thought they knew. Do we just name things or is there an abstract truth behind the name (nominalism verse platonic realism)? Rod Dreher, a political commentator, in his book 'The Benedict Option' gets the relevance to today, and thinks that William of Occam's nominalism has led to crisis in the West and he definitely prefers Scotus' 'truth is out there' approach (Dreher wants to end most associations with others who don't think exactly as he does against marriage equality, for example, and prefers to invoke a 'Benedict Option', a separation from others, because his absolutism requires that and nominalism opens the door to a relativism which Dreher finds reprehensible. Weirdly, the Washington Post had a story on how Dreher is a serious deep intellectual, but I think one should just read his books and decide for themselves).

There's a question of Being since at least the time of Parmenides ('nothing is not possible', 'why is there something instead of nothing', 'there is only the one'). Is the being of all beings, a Supreme Being immanently knowable? Aquinas thinks not and he thinks by analogy is the closest we can get at the nature of a Supreme Being, the ultimate Good, while Scotus will think differently. An all powerful God is never limited according to Scotus and the laws of nature are His laws and don't bind Him (except in matters of logical contradiction such as a 'square circle') and the Euthyphro dilemma is not a dilemma because God determines what is pious by fiat, free will is more than just grace and Pelagius doesn't know what he is talking about. All of this is in this book and are defended by Scotus, and each of these items still divide us politically today but are hidden within our clever language games so we end up arguing about something else, but all the while it is these kind of first premises that we can't get past.

The scholastics are never boring when they are explained as well as this book puts them into perspective. Hannah Arendt in 'Life of the Mind' mentioned how important Duns Scotus was to Heidegger and she too seemed to hold Scotus in equally high esteem, and I wanted to understand Scotus as well. Dante, a humanist and marks the end period of the scholastics, will put Aquinas in Paradise and believes that hope is the space between science (reason) and revelation (faith). Aquinas will say reason can only take us so far, but he'll say that reason should be used to support faith, while Scotus will say faith comes before reason.

As this book says, the scholastics never argued about 'the number of angels on the head of pin', their questions are still just as relevant today and are at the heart of what we believe today.

Just one warning regarding this book: don't expect an easy read. The author wrote clearly, but really assumed his reader wanted to learn and didn't hold back when he was explaining what the scholastics meant.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions

  • By: Robert C. Solomon, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Robert C. Solomon
  • Length: 12 hrs and 37 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 301
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 268
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 263

Conventional wisdom suggests there is a sharp distinction between emotion and reason. Emotions are seen as inferior, disruptive, primitive, and even bestial forces. These 24 remarkable lectures suggest otherwise-that emotions have intelligence and provide personal strategies that are vitally important to our everyday lives of perceiving, evaluating, appraising, understanding, and acting in the world.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Meditation on emotions - Slow to start but worth the experience

  • By oded noy on 06-17-16

Feel good and be good

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

Reviewed: 11-24-18

The lecturer clearly demonstrates how our emotions are a subset of our feelings and are how we engage with the world. Emotions are not things or facts. Our emotional intelligence allows us to process the world and to deal with the world. The more we understand ourselves the better our 'eudomania', right actions that result in well being, an Aristotelian word the lecturer used from time to time.

Heidegger, Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, Hume, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Plato and Aristotle made frequent appearances in these lectures. Is it as he quoted Wittgenstein, 'A depressed person lives in a depressed world' or do our emotional intelligence and our own self awareness make us sometimes too self reflective?

Hume will say that 'reason is a slave to our passions' and we should enjoy our passions when we can, while the Buddhist think our passions enslave us too, but we should just accept that as it is and not let the world get to us. Each gives primacy to experiences over our reason as the foundation for understanding but give different suggestions for dealing with the world.

I've recently have been reading all of the people I mentioned in the above paragraph. This lecturer was able to tie them all together and bring recent research and his own spin on what our experiences mean and show why they are just as relevant today as they were in their own day.

Aristotle (who is frequently quoted in these lectures) would say that good habit, good practice and good behavior make us good and give us practical wisdom (phronesis). The lecturer gave a good example, if one misbehaves after having drunk too much, Aristotle would not blame the drinking, but he would blame the person for having drunk when they should have known better due to their own lack of character from wont of phronesis due to lack of good habits, good practices and good behaviors.

There are many fine points that are presented in these lectures and I found them somewhat a delight and edifying to listen to. I did not think I was going to like them at first since he talked about 'universal emotions' as if they were definitely real and gave too much credence to evolutionary psychology. He later in the lectures made those more of a nuanced position. He quotes a lot from Antonio Damasio and his theories and I would recommend his book 'Strange Order of Things' (probably one of my favorite books for this year) which was published after these lectures were made.

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  • Wrestling the Angel

  • The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity
  • By: Terryl L. Givens
  • Narrated by: B.J. Harrison
  • Length: 17 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 227
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 200
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199

In this first volume of his magisterial study of the foundations of Mormon thought and practice, Terryl L. Givens offers a sweeping account of Mormon belief from its founding to the present day. Situating the relatively new movement in the context of the Christian tradition, he reveals that Mormonism continues to change and grow.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A comprehensive review of Mormon theology

  • By Ken . on 02-15-15

Ah, so that's what Mormons believe!

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

Reviewed: 11-22-18

I wish I could find the equivalent to this book for all religions. It is an inside look at what an expert thinks their own religion's philosophical and theological ontological foundations consist of.

I'm an outsider looking in and this book told me what they believe and why they believe what they do. The historical context that surrounds their beliefs and the defense going back to Paul, or Augustine or other early church fathers even (considered slightly heretical by some) Pelagius and Origen. The author was sensitive to criticism for the church being accused of 'Pelagiansism' but 'most Romantics were Pelagians' for a reason.

William Blake (I think it's safe to call him a Romantic) was mentioned surprisingly many times within this book. Spinoza was too. I had not realized the connections to them and the Mormon Church. The Universalist and Unitarian seemed to pop up frequently. The author said that 'Universalist believe that God is too good to damn humans and the Unitarians believe humans are too good to be damned'. Overall, the Mormons tend toward that way of thinking too.

There are a whole lot of areas where the Mormons seem to disagree with most other religions and this book does an excellent job of explaining what the Mormon's believe in and why. Mormon's don't have the trinity, all is material (albeit tiny material as Blake would say), preexistence of souls, after death we become God like, marriage in heaven and with family, and just as many other interesting things. Now, I can understand what the Mormons believe in their own terms.

The author said something about gender is binary and that our preexistence can change that but in the afterlife our roles will be well defined. The author also latter said 'that most experts think gender is a social construct'. I have no idea why he would say that. I would say that most experts think people are born gay, or straight, or bi, or transgender, or in other words that God made us who we are in his own image. The author mentioned that the Boy Scouts are the exemplars for structure with in well formed communities. The author couldn't mention that the Mormons have divested themselves from association with the Boy Scouts of America since the Mormons instituted that policy after this book was published because the BSA now allow gays to be troop leaders. Also, the author did not tell me why the Mormons have been actively opposed to equality in marriage and were so vigorously in support of California's Proposition 8 (hate) which was against equality in marriage.

I guess I really don't care how great a religion's ontological foundational beliefs are, if they discriminate against somebody because they are born that way I can reject it prima facie. To me, it would be equivalent to saying if someone was manic depressive, or schizophrenic, or autistic, or had curly hair they just don't deserve equality and don't deserve God's love or the full unconditional support of the Church.

I understand the author was explaining his religion on his own terms and did an excellent job at that. I just felt he owed me a clear explanation on how he can justify inequality based on how God created us in his own image.

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