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Gary

Las Cruces, NM, United States
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  • 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.

  • 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 283
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 252
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 247

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.

  • 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 217
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 190
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 189

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.

  • The Life of the Mind

  • By: Hannah Arendt
  • Narrated by: Laural Merlington
  • Length: 20 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 3

Considered by many to be Hannah Arendt's greatest work, published as she neared the end of her life, The Life of the Mind investigates thought itself, as it exists in contemplative life. In a shift from her previous writings, most of which focus on the world outside the mind, this work was planned as three volumes that would explore the activities of the mind considered by Arendt to be fundamental. What emerged is a rich, challenging analysis of human mental activity, considered in terms of thinking, willing, and judging.    

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Being is more interesting than Nothing

  • By Gary on 11-08-18

Being is more interesting than Nothing

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

Reviewed: 11-08-18

I love an author who assumes the reader really wants to understand. In the end there is no more interesting topic than 'Being'. There's been a 2500 year conversation going on among incredibly smart people concerning Being, and Hannah Arendt summarizes and amplifies that conversation and this book allows people like me to peek in on what really smart people think about the topic.

Parmenides starts the conversation when he rejects 'nothing', makes the all the 'one', and equates Being as thinking. Heraclitus makes Being as becoming (he's the one who says you never cross the same river once). Arendt leans towards Being as thinking and even states that she is not interested in Being as knowledge in the style of Titus Lucretius (he wrote my favorite book, 'On the Nature of Things').

Arendt will say she is not a philosopher. She does not want to interpret the world by thinking about it; she wants to experience the world and shape it. Overall, this book read like a series of Great Courses on Western Philosophy throughout the ages, but with a tight narrative provided by a brilliant explicator.

Most of my favorite authors are mentioned in this book: Kant, Wittgenstein, Plato, Aristotle, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Hegel, Aquinas, Augustine, Spinoza, Plotinus, Lucretius, Thucydides, Herodotus, Bergson (she really likes Bergson and his 'lived time', I haven't actually read Bergson, but I have read 'The Physicist and the Philosopher' available on Audible), Husserl and so on. For each of the authors mentioned Arendt provides the context, the relevance and the connections necessary for her explications. One does not need to have had read those authors in order to follow what she is saying because she always seems to respect the intelligence of her reader and gives them just enough for them to follow the discourse.

Her second volume in this set is on Will. What does 'Will' even mean? She'll tell you. She'll make all the connections. She'll show how Schopenhauer makes Being as Will; after all, his book is titled 'Will and Representation as Idea' for a reason and Nietzsche will tweak it into 'will to power' and relate the last man standing and 'the eternal recurrence of the same' into Being as Will too. She does mention Spinoza in the story but doesn't explicitly state his 'conatus' (striving) as the Will immanent within everything as the 'one' substance of the universe making everything in the universe necessary but I think most readers will get the connection on their own.

She definitely favors the 'faculty of choice' for Will in the manner of Duns Scotus even at the price of contingency. A contingent world is not a necessary world; a necessary world is a world where time and chance determine ones fate through Grace alone. Gratitude and Socratic wonder give us our Will, at least Arendt says Scotus argues that contra Aquinas.

Augustine reworks St. Paul's 'salvation through faith not works' and brings in the Pagan metaphysics of Plotinus and defines the middle ages until St. Thomas Aquinas comes along and gets enshrined within Dante's 'Divine Comedy' while both leverage off of Aristotle who makes contemplation (thinking) of the divine the ultimate good and our ultimate purpose. Duns Scotus will politely disagree.

Arendt pointed out something to me that I had never connected previously by her quoting Jesus saying that we are not to be good since God is good alone, but rather we should think well ('if you so much as look at a woman with lust in your heart you have committed adultery') and behave properly ('do unto others'). All of this stuff is laid out in this book so that anyone can follow the multiple trains of thought as she lays them out.

She captures the essence of Nietzsche and Heidegger in relatively long sections of the book in such a way that any reader of this book who hasn't read them will want to read them. She said that Heidegger did not mention Nietzsche in 'Being and Time' by name. As Arendt says, in B and T Heidegger makes 'care' (German: Sorge) and its reliance on the future as filtered through our understanding of the past through our now the ontological foundation for Being (btw, Arendt explains Nietzsche and his 'Eternal Recurrence of the same' with the same temporal formulation; after Heidegger makes his 'turn' between his volume I and II of 'Nietzsche' as Arendt correctly points out he'll change 'care' to 'will' for the ontological foundation for Being, also his 'turn' involved changing the presumption inherent in the very fact that we are asking about the meaning of Being from Being as meaning since the posing of the question gives Being a foundation within itself ('a hermeneutical circle' of sorts).

At times, I felt that this book was as if I were listening to a great college professor who was giving a series of lectures that would stay with the student for life but all the while knowing I didn't have to take a test, and besides who among us don't love detailed explications of Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' or Hegel's 'Phenomenology of Mind'? I know I do, and if you do too you'll find this book as extraordinary as I did, and I would recommend you listen to 'The Bernstein Tapes' of each book freely available off the net.

The best way to see this book is as a review and explication of a 2500 year old conversation that has been going in the background of most peoples' lives involving some great thinkers and Arendt wants her readers to understanding why it is just as relevant today has it always has been. Our meaning and purpose are determined by what we believe to be true (Being=thinking) and how we believe we should act (Being=will), and this book will put each into understandable terms.


A bracketed aside: [I thought she was wrong when she said that Nietzsche's inversion of Plato was a return to Plato. She says that because she really doesn't like what she labels as nihilism and any part of Nietzsche or Heidegger that flirted with that she was going to be negative towards for obvious reasons (see her book 'The Origins of Totalitarianism' for clarification). I've been concurrently reading 'Heidegger: Thought and Historicity' by Christopher Fynsk and he seemed to think similarly as I did regarding Nietzsche's inversion of Plato. He actually also footnoted this book and cited Arendt to be the first to notice the tonal difference between Vol I and II of Heidegger's 'Nietzsche'. I noticed Arendt generously gave credit to somebody else within this book while the footnote in his book did not].

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Early Middle Ages

  • By: Philip Daileader, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Philip Daileader
  • Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,177
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,055
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,049

The Early Middle Ages-the years from A.D. 650 to 1000-were crucial to Europe's future social and political development. These 24 lectures trace a journey from Scandinavia across northern and central Europe to the farthest reaches of the Byzantine and Islamic empires, providing an exciting new look an era often simply called the "Dark Ages."

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing Look at the Transition to the Middle Ages!

  • By Mike on 07-03-14

Exciting, Exacting and Entertainingly presented

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

Reviewed: 10-31-18

Have you ever heard someone tell you that the Roman Empire collapsed because of lead in their water pipes? I have. I only wish I had listened to this course before hearing the ignorant of history fool tell me that. The Professor tells the listener why that simplistic take on history is foolish (though he does it politely).

The dark ages weren’t as dark as we once believed; the Vikings were a scourge who shaped the West in unexpected ways; Islam, Byzantine, Spain, Anglo-Saxon, Franks and so on shaped our world; and what about that Catholic Church? How did it go from being a ‘universal’ church which meant it would accept anyone as a member to a ‘universal’ Church that was everywhere?

The lecturer slyly educates the listener on the development of the Roman Church by never really quite focusing on the church but ties together pieces such as those non-iconoclastic blasphemers, Justinian and his losing parts of his Empire, and what really happened on Christmas Day 800 CE and why it was so important.

When I grow up I want to be just like Dr. Daileader because he knows how to entertain, excite and educate the listener on the Early Middle Ages and the enthusiasm he has for the subject matter was not wasted on me.

History is complex and relevant for understanding the world, and if the only thing one got out of this course was being able to explain to a naïve fool why ‘lead in the pipes’ was not the reason the Roman Empire fell, this course would be well worth it for that alone. But, not only will you get the satisfaction of justifiably calling them ignorant of real history you will also get to explain with excruciatingly long detailed reasons why they are mistaken.

Dr. Daileader explains where we came from and why it matters better than almost any body. (BTW, a really good book covering the same material is ‘Inheritance of Rome’ by Wickham).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Einstein's Shadow

  • A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable
  • By: Seth Fletcher
  • Narrated by: Sean Pratt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 8

Einstein’s Shadow follows a team of elite scientists on a historic mission to take the first picture of a black hole, putting Einstein’s theory of relativity to its ultimate test and helping to answer our deepest questions about space, time, the origins of the universe, and the nature of reality. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • solid and insightful, but unfulfilling conclusion.

  • By Brian Alegria on 12-09-18

Science revealed beautifully

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

Reviewed: 10-30-18

There is nothing more exciting than when science’s story is told in a manner such that it really happens with all of its warts, foibles, arcana and a ‘removing of the veil’ that had been obscuring our vision thus allowing us to see the universe in different way for the first time. This book does just that at a very easy to digest level and all readers will profit from reading it.

If only I had an antenna as big as the earth, then I could either see a donut on the moon, or the very big glob of nothing that resides in the center of our galaxy and this book documented how an antenna with the effective aperture the size of the earth came to be. Well, I’ve got news for you Neil and Buzz did not leave a donut on the moon, but the enormous ‘black hole’ that lies at the center of our galaxy about 26000 light years away is real and is well worth getting a picture of. I put ‘black hole’ in quotes only because this book points out that a lot of what we think we know about black holes might not be right and a picture is not only worth a thousand words, but in this case could be worth a Nobel prize.

The information paradox surrounding our understanding of black holes has not really been resolved. The two places where our understanding about the universe as a whole and the very small come together are at a black hole and the big bang. We model the universe as a whole with the General Theory and assume the world is continuous, and we model the sub-atomic with the Standard Model and assume the world is discrete and each Theory is good in their domain of applicability up until they meet at a black hole or the big bang. Mathematical constructs are one thing, but a picture can point us to deeper understanding and maybe the information paradox and whether the universe is continuous or discrete or neither or both can be resolved.

When the picture of the black hole does come (and I suspect it will be fairly soon), for those who have read this book they will be all the wiser for having had read this book and will understand just a little bit better what it means to do science and how science is always more complicated than what it seems, and that picture will be all the more beautiful because of the deeper understanding this book would have brought to the reader.

My only fault with this book is probably a positive for most people. While I thought the author brought together all the physics about black holes in an incredibly coherent way, I wish he had dwelt a little bit more with the mathematics and physics that go into making the effective aperture of the EHT antenna the size of the earth. I’ve seen the math years ago, but I can’t remember what is really going on in the photon collection process and how they are aggregated through the interferometer process.

  • Histories

  • By: Herodotus
  • Narrated by: David Timson
  • Length: 27 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 310
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 292
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 290

In this, the first prose history in European civilization, Herodotus describes the growth of the Persian Empire with force, authority, and style. Perhaps most famously, the book tells the heroic tale of the Greeks' resistance to the vast invading force assembled by Xerxes, king of Persia. Here are not only the great battles - Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis - but also penetrating human insight and a powerful sense of epic destiny at work.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very Entertaining

  • By John on 11-06-16

Diversity and tolerance never go out of fashion

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

Reviewed: 10-29-18

All cultures which are not your own seem strange and not as worthy as your own in your own eyes when seen from a distance. Herodotus brings each of the players involved in the Greco-Persian Wars in for a close-up and gives them each context, history and motivation for the unfolding events that had happened and describes them as they unfold.

‘Egyptians men sit when they urinate, while Egyptian women stand’. I’m not sure that Herodotus knows that to be true, but I am fairly certain that he believed it to be true. Herodotus will contextualize each culture for all the players relative to the Greeks as a whole and as individual entities, he’ll talk about their history within their own terms, and he’ll relate them to the War that is about to come. In this case, Egypt is relevant since it had been recently conquered by the Persians and would act as a subjugated ally on the side of the Persians in the Greco-Persian Wars.

At a village near Thrace after the birth of each child they bemoan the misery of the new born life and the suffering that is sure to come and bemoan the unfortunate new baby’s certain to come struggles and disappointments, but at the death of the same individual they cheer and celebrate live's passing into another plane and the end of its suffering. (Schopenhauer would have fit in well in that society). In this case, the village will side with the Greeks in the Greco-Persian Wars.

Oracles are never wrong in this narrative. No matter what was prophesied it would always make perfect sense when interpreted after the fact, ‘the great army will be destroyed’ will unexpectedly be your own army or the ‘mule will foal’ will have said to have happened in some obscure village in order that the world events will unfold according to prophecy. Even today, we always rationalize all of our past actions by a justification of what we thought we knew at the time by the way things are now and weighted by how we project (pretend) the future will be.

Great books transcend time. The lessons imparted are universal and can be used to understand who we are today as much as who we were when they were first written and show us how we are different from whom we think we are. How we think about ourselves is not how we often really are. This book tells us who we should be today by considering the events of a long ago war. That is not a small feat for a 2500 year old book.

Herodotus has a method for his narrative and at times what seems like strange sets of details. There’s a movie I’ve always liked called ‘Lifeboat’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and made in 1944. An allied ship is sunk at sea and the survivors are forced to share a lifeboat with the German U-boat Commander who sunk their ship (played by Walter Slezak). The Commander is better than each of the individual Allied survivors and within the movie one could call him part of the ‘super race’, a part of the ultimate exemplar of Nationalism, but (and yes there is definitely a but!) the Allies working together as one and staying true to their values will overcome the immense struggle as epitomized by the Nazi U-boat commander. Hitchcock did something that revealed the zeitgeist of the allies during the war, he wasn’t afraid to make the enemy ‘a super race’, but he also showed that our strength when united by a common set of values beyond each individual’s habits and customs would lead to a victory over the ‘super race’ . That movie is a metaphor for this book. Herodotus makes Xerxes a formidable foe, but he also makes a united Greece unbeatable. There’s a story within the book where a Spartan mentions to the Persian King that soldier for soldier there is not a big difference between a Persian and a Spartan, but when the Spartans are acting as a group, there is no greater foe in the world.

When the Persian General lost a battle, Xerxes said the General ‘behaved like a woman’ and Herodotus will mention ‘among Persians that is said to be the worst of all insults’ as if a Greek would never think that to be an ultimate insult. Herodotus ends the book with admiring the character and strength of the Persians and quoting Xerxes saying ‘soft countries make for soft people’. Herodotus forces his reading audience to consider the habits and customs of all the nationalities involved and makes one realize that they might be different from one’s own, but that doesn’t necessarily make them inferior (I think the Persians are right to eat desserts before the meal, I only wish I did the same!).

Nationalism needs the naïve belief that the world that I am thrown into and am always falling towards and the entanglements that entwine me as well as the constant distractions of the community, culture and superstitions is the best of all worlds that I am capable of creating. In addition, Nationalism rejects the notion that I can look beyond my own habits and customs and use my own ability to think and find meaning for myself through my own most authentic being. A Nationalist believes their habits and customs are superior because it is theirs thus anyone not a member of their tribe is inferior. Xerxes' statement that ‘a soft country makes for a soft person’ is a clear exposition that the nation makes the man rather than the man makes the nation, and conversely, Herodotus tells his story that when all the different communities, cultures and superstitions come together with tolerance and the valuing of each individuals’ diversity the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. A lesson that is just as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Oathbringer

  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
  • Length: 55 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 28,995
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 27,304
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 27,251

Dalinar Kholin's Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost. The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Strong Storytelling, will upset Kaladin fans

  • By Deana on 11-16-17

From Dull to Drudgery

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

Reviewed: 10-14-18

The fantasy genre should never bore the listener. By the end (or was it the beginning), I lost interest. I would mock the lack of character development, fine plot points and relevant lessons for the listener, but there were none to mock just as there were no teeth between the spaces of Wit’s mouth to notice.

Without a doubt this is a superbly performed audio book, and listens better than most TV shows but even a good performance cannot overcome at times long winded drudgery.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Medieval World

  • By: Dorsey Armstrong, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Dorsey Armstrong
  • Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,015
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,832
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,823

Far from being a time of darkness, the Middle Ages was an essential period in the grand narrative of Western history. But what was it like to actually live in those extraordinary times? Now you can find out.These 36 lectures provide a different perspective on the society and culture of the Middle Ages: one that entrenches you in the daily human experience of living during this underappreciated era.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Prof. Armstrong is an rockstar. Loved her class.

  • By Rocco on 10-04-13

Worthwhile peek into the past

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

Armstrong helps one understand this period of history by understanding how they thought about themselves during the time period. Those who work, those who pray, those who fight and as well as those who lead are covered in these lectures and anyone who listens to these will understand just a little bit more about who we are today

  • The Wisdom of History

  • By: J. Rufus Fears, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: J. Rufus Fears
  • Length: 18 hrs and 18 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 290
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 271
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 267

Do the lessons passed down to us by history, lessons whose origins may lie hundreds, even thousands of years in the past, still have value for us today? Is Santayana's oft-repeated saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," merely a way to offer lip service to history as a teacher-or can we indeed learn from it? And if we can, what is it that we should be learning?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best set of lectures in the great courses

  • By Ian on 11-01-16

Mangles history and forces weird framing

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

Jingoistic approach to history and is best appreciated by those who refuse to be challenged and see history only in terms of a pernicious teleological perspective.

I absolutely loved Rufus Fears’ other courses. His ‘Great Books’ course was my introduction to the ‘The Great Courses’. He lit a fire in me and I’ve probably have done 50 or so Great Course Lectures because of him. Gosh, was I surprised by the way he mangled history and forced it into his weird framing by trying to create ‘laws of history’ with ‘freedom is not universal but power is’ and ‘preemptive wars are good’ and ‘the old testament is part of our modern day basis for freedom’ and ‘great leaders come along and give us the history we deserve’.

First Samuel was not written in 950 B.C.E. (check Wiki), the North did not preemptively invade the South to start the Civil War, the Old Testament is not the basis for today’s freedom (good gosh, slavery is explicitly allowed in it and you can beat a slave as long as they don't die within three days, see Exodus 21:20, it just seems absurd to claim our freedom comes from such a book), Christianity is not an exemplar for freedom (Fears will say, that you have the freedom to choose to be a Christian voluntarily but of course if you don't they will often 'believe' you will go to eternal damnation, doesn't really seem like a free choice to me), and beliefs without foundation are a great thing and leads to positive results: all these things and more are things Fears wrongly tells his listener in order to defend his overall theme of ‘freedom is not universal’ and democracies are not made to be a super power, but the USA is special because we are, at least he’ll say we are, and you know, he'll say you really can't trust the Muslim countries because their religion and their government are one and the same not like the USA's at least that what he says (tell me again why America did not allow gays to marry in 2007 when this lecture was done. Oh, yeah, it had something to do with 'marriage is between a man and a woman' and that's what the Christian bible says, end of debate!).

Also, Fears has what I would call the ‘great man theory of history’ which means that cultures need a great man (or evil man) for destiny to unfold, and he even had a lecture on Napoleon. I would strongly suggest reading ‘War and Peace’ for a refutation of Fear’s perspective, but if you don’t have the time to read the 80 hours of that book, I’ll just tell you that Tolstoy said Napoleon’s barber changed the fate of the world by giving him a cold and causing the Russians to win that war and therefore the real great man was Napoleon's barber.

We understand our now, but when one looks at history retroactively through the lenses of the now one can force an unintended teleology to the past and derive ‘laws of history’ (which don’t exist, at the most history gives us suggestions, never laws as Fears believes), and Fears says he is using Thucydides’ ‘Peloponnesus War’ as a template for his lectures, but he misses the real theme of that book, namely, understanding the particular of history leads to understanding the universal of life and not the themes that Fears says. Read Thucydides and decide for yourself.

In spite of all my negativity expressed above, I still appreciate the great story telling within the lectures, but I’m reminded of the old line ‘in spite of all that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play’. I didn't like the heavy handedness of the lectures overall and I can’t ignore the disaster of his major themes within these lectures, and I really am amazed by how Fears twisted history in order to connect dots that shouldn’t be connected.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful