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Thread: Book Reviews - Non Fiction

  1. #41
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    Well, for one thing, Nietzsche was a German who wrote in German, so hardly appropriate for a thread sewn under the heading "English Literature".

    I am a minor expert on Nietzsche. Yes, the mind tires quickly when reading Nietzsche. This is because his witings are dense. He would spend hours and sometimes days writing and re-writing an idea, debating it with himself from all angles until he had condensed it like a well simmered sauce. His use of language is extremely clever. His little sauces set off neuronal storms in the mind.

    The translation of Nietzsche into English was a major undertaking with many poor translations in the past. The first really acceptable translations being those of Kaufman. Kaufman discussed this issue in The Portable Nietzsche.

    I also like the translations of Ian Johnston.

    First time readers of Nietzsche should know that Fritz reversed his opinions slightly several times over his 15 years of prolific writing.

    If one does not commit to reading 5 or 6 of his works spanning this period and instead reads only one or two, then one will definately get the wrong idea about his perspectives.

    He may in fact have had few beliefs and his period of writing more or less just an excersize in exploring the limits and the confusions embedded in language and how the linguistically constructed consciousness then also contains those limits and confusions, and this then is the basis of chaotic humanity, which only reflects the chaos of the universe.

    One of the best explanations of Nietzsche's thought processes was given by Lou Salome, the only person who interviewed him extensively while he was alive and lucid.

    It is also important to read Nietzsche's biography. The Curt Janz book is good. During the time of his prolific writing, Nietzsche had taken leave from his professorship due to migraine headaches, and for 15 to 20 years wandered Europe , writing, never settling down, and gradually alienating family and most friends with his drama-queen-like interpersonal behavior, though in public he behaved reservedly.

    The migraines progressed, his vision worsened and he took very poor care of his body and was rather sickly overall.

    He did not share really good times with people - though polite he was not warm. He may not have understood the concept of "fun".
    He was awkward in his relations with women, never married, and if he ever had sex it was likely only with a prostitute.

    The real person was quite different than the person one imagines by way of his writing.

    Nietzsche sometimes got things wrong. For instance, it was popular amoung the fringe philosphers of his day, and other Westerns from previous times, to contend that humans have no free will at all, and all thought and action proceeds in a manner similar to the way the weather changes. Consciouness and sense of at least some free will are illusions.

    He held this concept simply to be at odds with the Catholic Church.

    Thus when he discussed Cornaro, the Italian who lived to be 100 years old after changing his diet from that of an obese person to that of a monk, Neitzsche claimed that Cornaro had committed the error of mistaking effect for cause. According to Nietzsche, Cornaro's slight need for food, especially carbs and fats, was the reason he could eat like a monk, and his longevity was pre-determined. Cornaro mistakenly attributed his long life and good health to his diet.

    In other words, Nietzsche needed to deny that one could change one's destiny to some degree. Nietzsche may not have know that Cornaro was originally obese before changing his diet.

    Then, Nietzsche went on to defend his own poor diet, claiming his brain needs so much more fuel than Cornaro's. Nietzsche is known to have overly favored breads and pastries, and likely suffered from sugar rushes and depressions.

    Modern dietary science has of course confirmed the value of a healthy Spartan diet for all people, and since around 1970 (in the West) millions and millions of obese people have corrected their diets. Many of these people still report living with food cravings, yet they manage to resist, they manage to have at least some free will. It is not the case that they simply don't need or no longer crave the food.

    This is typical of little flaws in Nietzsche's reasonings that betray biases of his own weaknesses. Nietzsche questioned all of humanity's thinking, but rarely his own.

    It may even be that he had a need to rationalize his sorry existence and project his perspective onto all of humanity.

    Also, from time to time Nietzsche mentions Kant. Nietzsche would voice objections to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and other writings, but never attemtped a serious refutation, resorting instead to little snide remarks.

    Lou Salome claimed that Nietzsche criticized most harshly and regularly that which he valued highest. Thus, the occasional but repetitive theme of critisizing Kant may actually indicate that Nietzsche supported Kant's ideas.

    It is also generally agreed that Nietzsche favored the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and that may explain his constant attacks on Christianity. (But few would claim that the Catholic and Protestant churches were not corrupt at that time)

    Nietzsche's praise for Manu and the Brahmins, on the other hand, may indicate he actually despised them as con men.

    Finally, thanks to the Western presence in India and Salaam Bombay! Indians are beginning to shake off the caste system concept.

    The problem with the works of Nietzsche is that he became demented at age 45 and lived the last 10 years of his life more or less a vegetable. No one was able to inteview him at length or debate him, aside for Lou Salome who recorded his ideas and gave her psychological evaluations of them and him, but she did not debate him.

    Despite that there are many incredible and valuable psychological observations and analysis of hypocrisy in Nietzsche, anyone who would live their lives by his ideas, and many have tried, ends up without many good, warm, genuine friends. Ayn Rand, for instance. Also Ivan Boesky (American corporate raider of the 1980's). Not to mention Adolph Hitler and the Nazi upper echelon, and of course Joseph Stalin.

    language is limited

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  3. #42
    Senior Member Seasoned Hubber Ghlli's Avatar
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    A child called IT

    its soo sad

    it makes u feel lucky to have parents like what you have i nearly cried

    SLAP THAT MOTHER she deserves hell or worse :evi:

    howw sadd

    heres a little about the child in that story...he's still alive soo sad, its a short paragraph about him...u MUST MUST READ IT

    I'm not going to read the other series until i'm older
    gona mourn for another 4 years

  4. #43
    Senior Member Devoted Hubber c4ramesh's Avatar
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    I first came to know about Richard Dawkins through the TV documentary titled “The Root of All Evil?” - written and presented by himself. The documentary is about how the world would be a better place to live in without religion. The documentary was to the point and was reflective of my thoughts. When “The God Delusion” was released, I had a lot of expectations, even though I haven’t read “The selfish Gene” said to be one of his all time masterpieces. “The God Delusion” did live up to the expectations.

    Richard Dawkins enthralls us with science, and logic presented in an elegant manner which keeps you turning from one page to another.

    He correctly points out that God doesn’t in fact explain our existence. On the contrary God who is brought on to explain our existence would in turn need an explanation:

    Creationist ‘logic’ is always the same. Some natural phenomenon is too statistically improbable, too complex, too beautiful, too aweinspiring to have come into existence by chance. Design is the only alternative to chance that the authors can imagine. Therefore a designer must have done it. …..Indeed, design is not a real alternative at all because it raises an even bigger problem than it solves: who designed the designer? Chance and design both fail as solutions to the problem of statistical improbability, because one of them is the problem, and the other one regresses to it.

    God, in fact creates a problem of infinite regress, of which God can’t be given a unique exception. Even if such a luxury is given, it doesn’t quite seem to solve the problem as to why such a cause which is uncaused really needs to be God with the attributes of “omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, creativity of design, to say nothing of such human attributes as listening to prayers, forgiving sins and reading”?

    In fact the attributes themselves seem to be self-contradicting, If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent!

    Though Dawkins agrees that God can’t be disproved [but can reduce his likelihood to a near statistical zero], finds the exercise as mere shifting of burden of proof on the part of a theist. To ask a disproof of an illusion or delusion or whatever, and ones failure to do so doesn’t innately prove the same. Bertrand Russell’s parable of the celestial teapot is an apt analogue which serves to get the point across to theists.

    Dawkins also takes a swipe at NOMA and in fact does it very well. The existence of God should be a testable statement which either results in a true or false answer.

    His theory of how religion which is supposedly trash could have survived the process of natural selection whose job is to throw out waste! & the “meme” theory of ferociously replicating “selfish-genes” in the social pool is really interesting.

    His critique of the proof for God is sufficient and this leads us to the common theistic argument that without God there would be no morality, this too is also well handled.

    He successfully shows that we don’t derive our morality from religious books and our source of morality is something else. Now what is this something else? Unfortunately we hear very little about this from Dawkins. He suggests that it is not his job to find out and it is enough for him to show that our morality doesn’t hinge on the existence of God, job done!

    Dawkins is at his elegant best when he talks of science, his examples of the “moth in the candle flame”, and the subsection titled “The mother of all burkas” are riveting stuff. I still want more…

    In “The mother of all burkas”, Dawkins explicates to us as how small our world view is and we need to uncover such a lot of knowledge hidden from obviousness. I felt a veiled plea as to not quench the quest for this knowledge and not to fill gaps with God.

    Penn & Teller had this to say on the book “The God Delusion is smart, compassionate, and true … If this book doesn’t change the world, we’re all screwed.” But I don’t think even for a moment the book will change the world for a simple fact, the message of “The God Delusion” isn’t forced on people as rule or even for the purpose of testing its validity, as religion is. May be we are all screwed for the moment. But “The God delusion” is one of the important milestones en route to make us free of this delusion.

    Verdict: A must read!

    Table of Contents:

    Preface 1

    Deserved respect 11
    Undeserved respect 20

    Polytheism 32
    Monotheism 37
    Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of America 38
    The poverty of agnosticism 46
    NOMA 54
    The Great Prayer Experiment 61
    The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists 66
    Little green men 69

    Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proofs’ 77
    The ontological argument and other a priori arguments 80
    The argument from beauty 86
    The argument from personal ‘experience’ 87
    The argument from scripture 92
    The argument from admired religious scientists 97
    Pascal’s Wager 103
    Bayesian arguments 105

    The Ultimate Boeing 747 113
    Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser 114
    Irreducible complexity 119
    The worship of gaps 125
    The anthropic principle: planetary version 134
    The anthropic principle: cosmological version 141
    An interlude at Cambridge 151

    The Darwinian imperative 163
    Direct advantages of religion 166
    Group selection 169
    Religion as a by-product of something else 172
    Psychologically primed for religion 179
    Tread softly, because you tread on my memes 191
    Cargo cults 202

    Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin? 214
    A case study in the roots of morality 222
    If there is no God, why be good? 226

    The Old Testament 237
    Is the New Testament any better? 250
    Love thy neighbour 254
    The moral Zeitgeist 262
    What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t they atheists? 272

    Fundamentalism and the subversion of science 282
    The dark side of absolutism 286
    Faith and homosexuality 289
    Faith and the sanctity of human life 291
    The Great Beethoven Fallacy 298
    How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism 301

    Physical and mental abuse 315
    In defence of children 325
    An educational scandal 331
    Consciousness-raising again 337
    Religious education as a part of literary culture 340

    10 A MUCH NEEDED GAP? 345
    Binker 347
    Consolation 352
    Inspiration 360
    The mother of all burkas 362

    A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping
    from religion 375
    Books cited or recommended 380
    Notes 388
    Index 400

  5. #44
    Moderator Platinum Hubber P_R's Avatar
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    Peter Principle - Laurence J Peter

    In a hierarchy each person rises to his level of incompetence

    A heady mix of frivolity and insight. You take it to be totally either at your own peril. As one of the blurbquotes said, outparkinsoned Northcote Parkinson. Written in the 70s I thing, so the anecdotes are dated, but you can relate to it quite well.

    Plum, I think you will like this one.
    மூவா? முதல்வா! இனியெம்மைச் சோரேலே

  6. #45
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    basically iyAm nArthiNdian
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    Nine Lives by William Darlymple. Oru instinctla indha book vaangittEn. innum padikkalai. Any previous victims?

  7. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by P_R
    Peter Principle - Laurence J Peter

    In a hierarchy each person rises to his level of incompetence

    A heady mix of frivolity and insight. You take it to be totally either at your own peril. As one of the blurbquotes said, outparkinsoned Northcote Parkinson. Written in the 70s I thing, so the anecdotes are dated, but you can relate to it quite well.

    Plum, I think you will like this one.
    Heard about it. I have just heard the bolded part, and built my own theories around it. I am an original, you know

  8. #47
    Moderator Platinum Hubber P_R's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plum
    Quote Originally Posted by P_R
    Peter Principle - Laurence J Peter

    In a hierarchy each person rises to his level of incompetence

    A heady mix of frivolity and insight. You take it to be totally either at your own peril. As one of the blurbquotes said, outparkinsoned Northcote Parkinson. Written in the 70s I thing, so the anecdotes are dated, but you can relate to it quite well.

    Plum, I think you will like this one.
    Heard about it. I have just heard the bolded part, and built my own theories around it. I am an original, you know
    Apart from the content there are several expressions which were lovely: cream rises till it sours

    Mimicking management strategy books in inventing words for each scenarios. When talking about promotions which people get not because they deserve but to get them out of the way, a kind of 'being kicked upstairs' he uses the expression "percussive sublimation"
    மூவா? முதல்வா! இனியெம்மைச் சோரேலே

  9. #48
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    percussive sublimation

  10. #49
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    Behind the beautiful forevers by Katherine Boo

    First things first. Boo - I take a bow. Brilliantly written book and it reads like a fiction. Amazed by author's unsentimental narration of such an emotional and heart wrenching story. Her observation, understanding and narration of Indian way of life blew me away. It is packed with information/sub-texts that it will take at least couple of re-reads to appreciate it fully.

    Overwhelmed by the indefatigable spirit and never give up attitude of the people living in Annawadi slum. For the people living in undercity, survival of fittest is the ONLY way of life. Day-in and day-out.

    After reading the book, one can either feel terribly bad about injustice meted out so many people out there and hate India for being so corrupt, or look beyond all these and appreciate the spirit of people living in such inhuman conditions and still trying to be good. I saw the latter.

    Whole book can be quoted, but will share couple of things to keep the review short...(Spoiler alert)

    "It is easy from a safe distance, to overlook the fact that in undercities governed by corruption, where exhausted people vie on scant terrain for very little, it is blisteringly hard to be good. The astonishment is that some people are good and that many people try to be."

    I am astonished and humbled at the same time to see you boys like Abdul trying to be virtuous while living in sub-human condition. Words fail to express my feeling towards him. Sunil's spirit, Manju's commitment is something to die for.

    "The forces of justice finally comes to Annawadi. That the beneficiaries were horses was a source of bemusement to Sunil and the road boys.

    They weren't thinking about the univestigated death of Sanjay and Kalu. Annawadi boys broadly accepted the basic truths: that in a modernizing, increasingly prosperous city, their life were embarrassments best confined to small spaces, and their deaths would not matter at all. The boys were simply puzzled by the fuss, since they considered Robert's horses the luckiest and most lovingly tended creatures in the slum."

    Page after page, after reading about injustice done to so many people, it was indeed ironic to note that horses of Annawadi were the first to get justice. Couple of paras succinctly reflects the harsh reality of the Annawadis. I am sure it will apply to slums of Washington DC or Rio de Janiro.


    "For sometime I (Abdul) tried to keep the ice inside me from melting, was how he put it. But now I'm just becoming dirty water, like everyone else. I tell Allah I love him immensely, immensely. But I tell him I cannot be better, because of how the world is."

    Abdul - don't become dirty water. People like you are the ultimate hope for mankind.May Allah reciprocate the love and shower HIS benevolence on you."

  11. #50
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    Best non-fiction books of the decade

    How the decade stacked up in books on politics, economy, society, sport

    -The Hindu: December 28, 2019

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