#BookReview: Being You by Anil Seth

Intriguing Look At Evolving Science. Thirty years ago, if you asked someone to show you the scientific basis for consciousness – human or otherwise – they’d have laughed in your face because the concept was that much of a joke. Now, Seth is among the researchers actually pursuing the inquiry – and they’ve made some solid strides. In this text, Seth lays out what we now know via evidentiary science and can also posit via a range of philosophical approaches. He readily explains how both prongs of research feed off each other, and his explanations are sufficiently technically complicated to speak with some degree of precision… without being so technically complicated that you basically need to be working in his lab to understand a word of what he is saying. (Though don’t get me wrong, even as someone with a BS in Computer Science and who reads similar books on consciousness, cognition, and perception a few times a year… this one was still technical enough that I readily admit I don’t fully understand it, even now.) Absolutely a fascinating topic and a well written explanation of it from someone actively engaged in furthering the field, and it is very much recommended.

This review of Being You by Anil Seth was originally written on August 31, 2021.

#BookReview: Humane by Samuel Moyn

Dense Yet Enlightening. This is a book about the history of the philosophical and legal thoughts and justifications for transitioning from the brutal and bloody wars of the 19th century (when the history it covers begins) through to the “more humane” but now seemingly endless wars as currently waged, particularly by the United States of America. As in, this treatise begins with examinations of Tolstoy and Von Clauswitz during the Napoleonic Wars and ends with the Biden Presidency’s early days of the continuation of the drone wars of its two predecessors. Along the way, we find the imperfections and even outright hypocrisies of a world – and, in the 21st century in particular, in particular a singular nation on the ascendancy, the United States – as it struggles with how best to wage and, hopefully, end war. Moyn shows the transition from a mindset of peace to a mindset of more palatable (re: “less” horrific / “more” humane) perma-war. But as to the description’s final point that this book argues that this might not be a good thing at all… yes, that point is raised, and even, at times, central. But the text here seems to get more in depth on the history of documenting the change rather than focusing in on the philosophical and even legal arguments as to why that particular change is an overall bad thing. Ultimately this is one of those esoteric tomes that those with a particular interest in wars and how and why they are waged might read, if they are “wonks” in this area, but probably won’t have the mass appeal that it arguably warrants. The central premise is a conversation that *needs* to be had in America and the world, but this book is more designed for the think tank/ academic crowd than the mass appeal that could spark such conversations. Still, it is truly well documented and written with a high degree of detail, and for this it is very much recommended.

This review of Humane by Samuel Moyn was originally written on May 5, 2021.

#BookReview: The Order Of Time by Carlo Rovelli

Physics, Metaphysics, and Poetry. I read the Audible version of this while driving to my hometown in another State (a solid book for such a mid-distance, 6 ish hr drive) and thus had the unique pleasure of having Alan Turing himself (as played in The Imitation Game and read here by Benedict Cumberbatch) lecture me on theoretical physics, metaphysics, philosophy, and poetry. If you’re looking for a more concrete look at the exact theoretical physics at hand… this isn’t the book you’re going to want to pick up. If you’re looking for more of an easy-read, high-level, pop science level look at whether or not time exists… this is a very good book from that perspective. And indeed, ultimately the text is all about perspective. At the most distinct levels, time simply does not exist, according to Rovelli. And yet obviously we humans experience time. So how can these two prior statements be resolved? Read this book for Rovelli’s solid examination into the question and attempt at resolving this seeming paradox. Very much recommended. Particularly the Audible. 🙂

This review of The Order Of Time by Carlo Rovelli was originally written on November 8, 2020.

#BlogTour: A Better Man by Michael Ian Black

I got invited to work with another blog tour, this time working with a celebrity I’ve seen on my screens enough to be aware of the name and to have a generally good impression of. So for this tour, we’re looking at a book written by comedian Michael Ian Black talking about… well, most everything under the sun in what is truly a letter of love to his son on the event of his son leaving for college. This really is one of those kinds of books that so many fathers wish they could write to their own sons, and even more wish they had the ability to tell their sons their own thoughts on these topics and many similar ones. And that is the truest, brightest fact about this book: Black’s love for his son shines through in ways I’ve very rarely encountered in any other book. Which alone is more than enough reason to recommend picking up this book. Yes, I did in fact have a couple of quibbles with it as I discuss below in the Goodreads review. But even more than those, seriously, read this book just to see what so many sons wish their fathers could have told them and what so many fathers wish they could tell their sons. Truly a superb job, and you should absolutely go buy this book for yourself.

And the Goodreads review…

More Solid Than Jello, Less Solid Than Steak: Advice From Father To Son On The Event Of The Son Leaving For College. And with that long-ass title out of the way… 😀 Seriously, this is a near-perfect letter of advice about life, love, and other mysteries from father to son as the son heads off to college and happens to have a celebrity dad. His statements about mass shootings are 100% demonstrably incorrect in a couple of places (and I in particular once analyzed such data at a level *few*, *if any*, others have), and his statements about Ayn Rand and White Guilt are philosophically incorrect (but in line with expectations given his own liberal philosophy), but otherwise what Black writes here rings true. And nearly as importantly, the love for his son rings through even louder than any moral or philosophical point he makes here. This is a type of letter than nearly any man wishes his dad would have left him, and Black truly does an excellent job of showing his own thinking and philosophies about the various issues discussed. In the end, I personally would love a celebrity from the right – as well as one of the very few celebrity anarchists such as possibly Woody Harrelson – to write similar public letters for their own kids, as between the three one would likely get an even stronger overall look at the topic at hand. But for exactly what it is, this truly is a phenomenal work with a quibble here or there, and very much recommended.

#BookReview: A Small Farm Future by Chris Smaje

Wildly … Imaginative… Reasoning, Close Yet Still Incorrect Conclusion. Most any math teacher (even former ones like myself) have stories of situations where when told to “show their work”, a student somehow has so-incorrect-as-to-nearly-be-incomprehensible reasoning, but somehow still manages to wind up at an answer that is close but still not quite correct. Maybe a decimal point in the wrong position, but the right actual digits in the right sequence, for example. Another example relevant here would be a space mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa that somehow launches when Jupiter is at its furthest point from Earth and launches away from Jupiter (or any reasonable path to the planet) to boot… and yet still manages to wind up on Callisto – another of the Galilean Moons of Jupiter with similar properties, though not the originally intended target and not as rich in desired attributes for the science aboard the mission.

This is effectively what Smaje has done here. More conservative readers may not make it even halfway into the first chapter, which is little more than a *very* thinly veiled anti-capitalist diatribe. Even more liberal/ progressive readers will have some tough pills to swallow with Smaje’s ardent defense of at least some forms of private property as the chief means of achieving his goals. And at the end, Smaje does in fact manage to do at least some version of what he sets out to do – make some level of a case for A Small Farm Future. The case Smaje makes here is indeed intriguing, despite being so deeply flawed, and absolutely worthy of further examination and discussion. It seems that he is simply too blinded by his own political and philosophical backgrounds to truly make the case as it arguably should have been made. Recommended.

This review of A Small Farm Future by Chris Smaje was originally written on August 26, 2020.

#BookReview: The Myth of Experience by Emre Soyer and Robin Hogarth

Argumentum Ad Verecundiam. This book had an excellent premise, but just a mediocre implementation. Soyer and Hogarth excel when showing how one’s own experience can blind oneself in numerous areas and arenas, and suggest ways to overcome this blindness. But then fall to their own blindess in accepting and even appealing to the “authority” of “experts” in various topics – seeming to completely disregard that these very “experts” have the exact same problems with being hampered by their own experiences that Soyer and Hogarth are attempting to show us how to overcome in this book. Ultimately, they make a lot of good points, which is why the book gets as many stars as it does. That you have to wade through so much muck to get to all of them is why it *only* gets as many stars as it does. Still, absolutely something everyone should read, and thus recommended.

This review of The Myth Of Experience by Emre Soyer and Robin Hogarth was originally written on July 1, 2020.

#BookReview: Fucking Law by Victoria Brooks

Fucking Ethics and Fucking Judgments. First, I will tell you that if the word “fucking” disturbs you, this book isn’t for you (but you may have suspected that from the title). If the various “raunchy” and “vulgar” words for human genitalia disturb you, this book isn’t for you.

But if you’re still reading this review, then I assume you’re at least ok with these words. In which case, allow me to tell you how sublime and thought provoking this book is. Part memoir and part academic philosophical treatise, this book truly takes a hard and intriguing look at the philosophical ethics of human sexuality.

This isn’t a light read. It isn’t a beach read (unless maybe you’re at a nudist/ swinger beach?). It is likely a read that will make you horny without actually being erotica. It is a read that will make you think. And maybe, just maybe, it is a read that will open you to the author’s own brand of sexual ethics, even though it is one she does not explicitly recommend – quite the opposite – herself.

This review of Fucking Law by Victoria Brooks was originally published on May 22, 2019.

#BookReview: We Are The Danger by Sean Edwards

Presented a lot of arguments, but little evidence to back them up. I could very likely write a more detailed presentation of similar arguments with the facts to back them up myself – I’ve largely *been* doing that on social media for years. Still, a good read if you’ve never considered the topic. But in this day and age, who hasn’t?

This review of We Are The Danger by Sean Edwards was originally published on January 6, 2018.

#BookReview: On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

This was the book where I learned a very critical piece of my reading personality:

I much prefer my philosophy tomes in novel form to essay.

This was such a difficult read only because I could not “watch the movie in my head” as I do with even most nonfiction. On the whole, it was an intriguing look into his philosophy of Utilitarianism, specifically as it relates to liberty. More people would do well to read this and understand its arguments, particularly when discussing political issues even 15o years later.

This review of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill was originally published on January 3, 2018.