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review 2018-03-14 06:41
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness - Peter Godfrey-Smith
Other Minds - Peter Godfrey-Smith

I don't know quite how to rate this one, so I went for 4 stars.  This is likely to be more a collection of disparate thoughts rather than a cohesive review of any kind.


Most people are not going to find Other Minds a 'popular' science book.  It's not dry, but it is dense.  The author merges what is currently known in evolutionary science with philosophy, and has written what is largely a thought experiment on the concept of consciousness and it's origins, and not just for the octopus; this covers all life.  Octopuses get more page time than other creatures, but still only make up about ... 40%, maybe 50%?  Not quite what I was expecting, but I was willing to go with it.


I listened to the audiobook, although I have the hardcover as well.  The narrator, Peter Noble, does an excellent job with the narration; his voice is crisp and clear and he reads it as though he has a thorough grasp of the material. 


But ... I don't know if it was me or if the title of the book was too open to interpretation, but I did not realise how deeply philosophical the material was - this made the audiobook very challenging for me; I'm not a fan of other people's thought experiments in general, so I really struggled with a wandering mind as I listened to this book.  I understood the general concepts he covered, but whole sections of the narration would just wash right over me before I'd realise my consciousness checked out.  


Conclusion: I'd have been better off reading the physical edition, I think.  It's a very well written book, but it's heavy material for someone like me, for whom listening requires a conscience effort.  I'll likely re-read my hardcover sometime soon, so I can determine how much I missed, and give my mind a chance to reinforce some of the points I found most interesting.

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review 2018-02-26 01:28
Politics (Library of Essential Reading) - Joseph Carrig,Amit Hagar,Aristotle,Benjamin Jowett

As Plato’s writings have been a cornerstone of Western thought, so have those of his pupil Aristotle through his own lectures and treatise sometimes agreed and disagreed with his teacher while shaping the views of millions over the millennia.  Politics is one of the most important political treatise that has impacted society as it is studied alongside Plato’s own Republic not because they agree, but how they agree through different methods and disagree in conclusions.


Unlike the approach of Plato, Aristotle focused on the examples that the Greek political world knew of to determine the best approach for government of a polis.  Classifying the types of government into six forms, three “ideal” and three “perverted”, Aristotle described them as showing their pros and cons in an effort to establish the “best”.  Then his analysis turned to various functions of government from laws, offices, and how to pass or fill either.  Yet, underlying everything is Aristotle’s insistence that human nature determines everything concerned with governance.


Politics, while thought-provoking and significant in its analysis and conclusions, is unfortunately not without its flaws.  The biggest is Aristotle’s argument of natural rulers and natural slaves that is so opposite to the way many think today.  The next biggest is that fact that the overall work seems like it is not coherently organized or even complete as many aspects that Aristotle says he will cover never appear and he writes about the bringing about his conclusive best government before actually proving what it is, though given his argument that the best government for a polis depends on how its population is constructed.


Aristotle’s Politics is at the same both thought-provoking and maddening especially given the soundness of his analysis and the disorganized state of the overall treatise.  Yet it is one of the most important treatise of political thought of the Western world and is significant in political and historical terms as it has been influential for millennia.

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review 2017-12-30 15:00
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 10 - World Peace Day: Words of Wisdom
The Power of Compassion: A Collection of Lectures by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama - Dalai Lama XIV,Derek Jacobi

The Dalai Lama speaks about the Four Noble Truths, maximizing your inner strength, dealing with anger and death, the power of compassion, the challenges facing humanity today (including globalization, warfare, environmental protection, overpopulation), and the great world religions' core tenets (as oppposed to their elements that primarily responded to the needs of the historic societies in which they emerged).  As we're about to begin another new year, a perfect reminder of what matters (or should matter) to us -- and what doesn't -- and simple small things that each of us can implement in our own lives every day ... and short of His Holiness himself (who didn't originally set down these texts in English), there couldn't be any better person to read his words than Sir Derek Jacobi.



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-28 16:15
Project Frankenstein Comes to an End with this Latest Review
Frankenstein and Philosophy: The Shocking Truth (Popular Culture and Philosophy) - Nicolas Michaud


Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on December 28, 2017.



The book might have been repetitive but it did leave me with some interesting ideas, such as:

Sewing human parts together doesn’t rewrite their DNA, so any monster children will be built on normal human DNA.

The context here was the theory that if Victor was clever enough to make a human being, he surely could have created a woman who couldn’t conceive. So, his reason for not making a companion for the monster wasn’t that sound. To which I thought, what was to stop the monster from forcing Victor to make another female — one who WOULD conceive once the former had given in? Or, franken-children, the next time?

If the monster is that brilliant, he should be able to construct a woman himself and then sail off with her in his home-made submarine.

This part is from a chapter that insists that Victor fears the genius of the monster, which is the actual reason behind his refusal to build a franken-woman. After all, the monster was clever enough to teach himself to talk — one might add, in quite lyrical prose!

Then there was a chapter on Frankenfood (GMOs) and how certain scientific progress can be likened to what Victor did, such as genetic engineering:

biotechnologists often select organisms’ features aiming at enhancing their natural beauty

as well as, electroporation:

cells’ membranes are destabilized by means of electric shocks (an echo of what breathed life into the Monster?)

In the novel, Mary Shelley insinuates an untoward relationship between Justine and the Baron after the death of Ms. Moritz.

Really? How did I miss that? Did anyone else notice this?

It might be that Victor was changing some parts of his story for Walton when he related his tale.

It does feel surprising how we all just take Victor’s word for what happened. Could he have not been lying? And while we are on that subject, what is the deal with Walton going gaga over him? Isn’t the monster supposed to have a silver tongue? Why is what Victor saying affecting Walton on such an intimate level? What did he do to inspire such loyalty?


On the subject of “rogues”, a part of the philosophical book by Jacques Derrida on how we love alienating others from the general population. Anyone who doesn’t fit is labeled a rogue:

a monster which is foreign, strange and misunderstood are trying to point out that which is other to them represents a threat.

This fits beautifully with the way people have reacted to an influx of Syrian refugees into their countries. Furthermore:

using a twisted logic that says more about him or her than it does about the Other.

This brings me to something that I have been meaning to look into. Transgenders have been looked down upon and denied a voice, rights etc. for centuries. When did society start blaming them for being other? How did being born this way become their fault? I think I might have come across a book about transgender history on Instagram. Worth a revisit, right?

who think they are in the right because they are in the majority have a power and strnegth in numbers and in traditions and habits, giving themselves a sense of authority to judge someone outside of their group.

What do I need to say to that that hasn’t already been said? Maybe this:



it causes a normative, indeed performative, evaluation, a disdainful or threatening insult, an appellation that initiates an inquiry and prepares a prosecution before the law.

We all know what an “inquiry” can do!

a judgment that goes beyond calling someone “wrong”; it shows hatred and ill-intent.

a system of judgment where the monster can never be “good.”

(calling ourselves humans) through language, thus in the very way that is denied to those who are being labeled(otherwise).

creating an enemy for themselves, and in turn become an enemy to someone who already feels threatened.

Brings to mind the many times Islamophobia has resulted in people getting hurt!

In the same way, a foreigner who looks like a native citizen presents a threat that a readily identifiable foreigner does not. 

Easy to single out the other when they have beards — or not. I’d also like to mention the Bangladeshi revolution here and the atrocities committed by both sides! Then there is also the Holocaust that is never far from our imagination.


The quotes that stayed with me:




And some funny parts, including:

regularly enchanted by nature, to the point that Clerval goes into aesthetic rapture at least twice a day, when the sun rises and sets.



And the new terms I came across:



Here are some transhumanistic advances for you to enjoy.



This brought me to an important question:



As I end Project Frankenstein, I come to the conclusion that the monster isn’t just a villain. He can be used as an analogy for a myriad of topics. That can only be true because:



Other Useful Links

Project Frankenstein

Status of Project Frankenstein

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text 2017-12-27 15:59
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 12 - Saturnalia

Tasks for Saturnalia: Wear a mask, take a picture and post it. Leave a small gift for someone you know anonymously - a small bit of chocolate or apple, a funny poem or joke. Tell us about it in a post. –OR– Tell us: If you could time-travel back to ancient Rome, where would you want to go and whom (both fictional and / or nonfictional persons) would you like to meet?


BrokenTune has already mentioned two people I really rather would have liked to meet as well, Cicero and Ovid.  In addition to the reasons she mentions, I probably also would have liked to pick Cicero's brain on some of his trial strategies (in addition to being Rome's most famous orator, he was also a first class lawyer, who scored some of the most celebrated victories in all of legal history) -- and I'd have liked to ask Ovid how he ever came up with the madcap idea for his Metamorphoses.


In addition to these two, I'd have liked to:

* chat history, historical sources and research, and veracity and authentication, with Livy, Vergil, and Suetonius;

* find out what Plutarch would have thought about the fact that some of his writings provided the source material for the plays of a famous English playwright named William Shakespeare a millennium and a half after he himself had put quill to parchment (or to scroll, or whatever), and how, proud Greek that he was, he really felt about living under Roman rule;

 * ask Seneca about the experience of advising a lunatic like Nero (other than: scary as hell, that is), how many times he was close to committing suicide out of sheer desperation before Nero actually made him do so, what kept him going nevertheless -- and how in the world he managed to write plays, and pretty impressive ones at that, in addition to what would seem to have been a full time political day job (also, whether he really was the author of the Apocolocyntosis divi Claudii, and how he came up with that one in the first place);

and find out from Marcus Aurelius how he implemented his philosophical maxims in his day to day duties as an emperor, particular in making unpleasant (or even harsh) decisions in warfare and in the administration of justice.

As for fictional characters from that time, though not actually living in Rome, whom I'd like to meet -- well, you know, there came a time in 50 A.D. when Gaul was entirely occupied by the Romans. Umm, entirely?  Well, no, not entirely ... One small village of indomitable Gauls still held out against the invaders. And life was not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrisoned the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium ...



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