Thursday, July 31, 2008
I have been reading Reinventing the Sacred. I was going to review, but soon realized I am simply not qualified to pass judgment on the biology. But I do get the impression that if one can separate God 1.0 - I Am Who Am, the Logos, the Tao - from the often primitive, sometimes simple-minded, occasionally perverse explications of God 1.0 (there are of course perfectly sound and imaginative explications as well), there really isn;t that large a gap between version 1.0 and version 2.0.
" ... how brain structures and functions correlate with mental phenomena ..." There lies the problem and the correlation is by no means as clear as it is often made out to be.
I am not myself swim-obsessed.
... if one hopes to find a facsimile of book review sections online, probably not. But it would take an exceptionally rigid and incurious mind to settle merely on a clone. If one wishes to discover forms of literary commentary that serve the same function as a book review section, it is extremely difficult not to find online exemplars in alternative forms.
This is precisely the point. The assumption that books are best covered by the kinds of reviews that appear in print media is false. Print reviews are generally too short these days. And as Ed notes, when more space is provided, it is often used injudiciously. The more ways a new book can be discussed and the greater the angles of approach the better. The nature of the internet is changing the nature of reviewing. Moreover, newspapers are increasingly reflective of the intellectual parochialism of those who run them.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Waugh, who had written Orwell an admiring note, visited him as Orwell lay dying. It was an act of disinterested kindness on the part of a man known more for his rudeness than for his charity.
I suppose it would be a flaw in Waugh's novel if you had to be Catholic to "get" it. But I really don't think that's case. I do think you have to avoid being obtuse. I don't know how old Troy Patterson is, but consider this passage that he quotes:
The languor of Youth—how unique and quintessential it is! How quickly, how irrevocably, lost! .... [L]anguor—the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind sequestered and self-regarding, the sun standing still in the heavens and the earth throbbing to our own pulse—that belongs to Youth alone and dies with it. Perhaps in the mansions of Limbo the heroes enjoy some such compensation for their loss of the Beatific Vision; perhaps the Beatific Vision itself has some remote kinship with this lowly experience; I, at any rate, believed myself very near heaven, during those languid days at Brideshead.
The sad fact is that, around age 39, that is how one actually tends to feel about one's lost youth, especially if it was a rather footloose and carefree one. The melancholy sentimentality, the self-pity are all authentic. Of course, life goes on, one moves on, and one is embarrassed to have felt that way, however briefly. But that is how one did feel, and Waugh has captured it perfectly in all its self-indulgent grandiloquence. I might add that I read the book when I was in college and found it unsettling precisely because I felt sure I would face just such a moment sometime in my own future. As indeed I did.
I have just ordered a copy of the book. I am so tired of reading stuff about it that I think misses its point that I have decided to re-read it after all these years and see what I think and feel now.
I rather think this review gives too much away that would be best for the reader to discover on his own, but ... There is a link on the left to the book's first chapter.
Here's my review: Restrained memoir tells of father's reign.
No surprise that The Inquirer didn't make the list. Hard to innovate when you can't distinguish an idea from a headache.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
But this was not [Antony] Flew's final word. Two years later, There Is a God (written with Roy Abraham Varghese, a longtime interlocutor) was released. This helps clarify Flew's positions and why he holds them. He begins with his intellectual autobiography and does not commence to defend his new views until page 88. But it is worth the wait, because Flew is willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads. He no longer takes the idea of God as a disembodied agent to be problematic, and he presents four reasons why he now embraces theism: the consistent and rational laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of the universe at the Big Bang, and the organized, information-rich nature of life. Flew rejects the multiverse theory he toyed with in the new introduction to God and Philosophy as extravagant and desperate. He rejects atheistic accounts of the Big Bang as less rational than the theistic explanation that God was the creator. Flew argues that naturalism faces an insuperable philosophical problem in trying to coax life from non-life without a designing mind.
Here is the link to the video that is mentioned.
The 90 second rule and then it's gone. It's predictable circuitry, so by paying attention to what circuits you are triggering and what that feels like inside of your body, you can recognize when it has happened. We all know what it feels like when we suddenly move into fear. Something happens in the external world and all of a sudden we experience a physiological response by our body that our mind would define as fear. So in my brain some circuit is saying something isn't safe and I need to go on full alert, those chemicals flush through my body to put my body on full alert, and for that to totally flush out of my body, it takes less than 90 seconds.
So, whether it's my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry - it's really hard to hold a good belly laugh for more than 90 seconds naturally. The 90 second rule is totally empowering. That means for 90 seconds, I can watch this happen, I can feel this happen and I can watch it go away. After that, if I continue to feel that fear or feel that anger, I need to look at the thoughts I'm thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry that is resulting in me having this physiology over and over again.
When you stay stuck in an emotional response,you're choosing it by choosing to continue thinking the same thoughts that retrigger it. We have this incredible ability in our minds to replay but as soon as you replay, you're not here, you're not in the present moment. You're still back in something else and if you continue to replay the exact same line and loop, then you have a predictable result. You can continue to make yourself mad all day and the more you obsess over whatever it is, the more you run that loop, then the more that loop gets energy of it's own to manifest itself with minimal amounts of thought, so it will then start on automatic. And it keeps reminding you, "Oh yeah, I was mad, I have to rethink that thought."
Suppose the adaptive neurophysiology produces true beliefs: fine; it also produces adaptive behavior, and that's what counts for survival and reproduction. Suppose on the other hand that neurophysiology produces false beliefs: again fine: it produces false beliefs but adaptive behavior. It really doesn't matter what kind of beliefs the neurophysiology produces; what matters is that it cause adaptive behavior; and this it clearly does, no matter what sort of beliefs it also produces. Therefore there is no reason to think that if their behavior is adaptive, then it is likely that their cognitive faculties are reliable.
Then there's this: Darwin to the Rescue.
But, as Platinga notes:
... what evolution tells us (supposing it tells us the truth) is that our behavior, (perhaps more exactly the behavior of our ancestors) is adaptive; since the members of our species have survived and reproduced, the behavior of our ancestors was conducive, in their environment, to survival and reproduction.
Then literary Darwinism can only demonstrate this over and over again.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I suppose changing the world isn't same as being sound. And gravity isn't just an idea; it was the discovery of a fact, wasn't it?
But spontaneous anger over something obviously and immediately outrageous is one thing. So is the little outburst when your computer glitches on you. But the phenomenon one encounters in the blogosphere of "righteous" outbursts over all sorts of things from politics to religion to literary criticism is a blight on discourse. If the people who so routinely express themselves in that manner really do get angry that much over so much then they need to get help. If it is just a rhetorical pose, then they need to get some manners. They may also need to take a couple of remedial courses in logic and rhetoric, if only to learn that the latter is not a substitute for the former. There are certainly times when one has cause to be indignant and ought to express that indignation openly and bluntly. But it isn't all the time.
I agree with Bill that anger can be a form displacement, but I think Art is also right in adding that it can be born of frustration and is often a "guy" thing. I'm not sure about the connection with fear, but that may be because I have a fairly high fear threshold and tend to feel scared after being in danger, not while. Cogito's reminder of the connection between anger and depression is quite useful, though again it is something I can't say much about, since I am little inclined to depression. (Nige's remark about reasoning my way out of anger is worth a gloss: I do that sort of thing all the time - must be my Jesuit training. I see no reason for continuing to do something that seems unreasonable to me. The hardest one for me to walk away from was drinking to excess, which I loved. And I resisted reason's blandishments in that regard far longer than was, well, reasonable. It took a grim moment - a waking blackout - to alert me that the law of diminishing returns was starting to go to work.)
Thanks to Nige, Bill, the Incomparable Cogito, Art and Ed for their contributions. What you said prompted me to clarify things a bit - at least I hope I clarified them.
My Jesuit mentor, Father Edward Gannon - the wisest man I've known - once told me that at one point in his life - when he was at Louvain, I believe - he would start the day by reading the Greek tragedies - in Greek, of course.
Se also this earlier post: An indelible book ...
Note: I bumped this up, and plan to again tomorrow - because I think the books mentioned (especially Baker's) deserve the attention.
Gerard Manley Hopkins was born on this date in 1844. Here is
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
The comments on R.S. Thomas toward the end are especially worth reading.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
... A matter of taste.
...Waterstones offer on the Sony Reader.
... A strange geography.
This baby names are appalling. As for the Sony Reader, I tested one. But I have a Kindle. I think the Kindle is better, unless the Reader has much improved its navigational capacity.
... then a piece in today's NYT: Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? (Hat tip, Dave Lull, Lee Lowe, and Judith Fitzgerald.)
... and this, which inject some facts - as opposed to anecdotes - into the debate: It's the screens, not the internet, that are making us stupid. (Hat tip, Lee Lowe.)
I don't for a moment buy the idea that reading electronically in any way diminishes the capacity to read print. I read lots of both and notice know difference (I know, that's anecdotal; but it's also what I've experienced - ooh, I just used a semicolon).
I have been thinking a lot lately about anger. Quite a few people have noticed how common expressions of anger are in the blogosphere. And I have been wondering why some people feel the need so often to express their views splenetically. Politics excites a lot of people to anger, even though their participation in the political process probably consists of just going to a polling place in November and casting one of more than 100 million votes. (Hey, if you're so hot and bothered over it, get involved. Run for office. Work in a campaign. I did once. That was enough.) Then there are the angry exchanges over literary criticism or schools of poetry or types of fiction. What is that all about?
I used to get angry a lot, but I realized something about anger one day that pretty much cured me of it in a snap. What I realized was that I got angry because (a) I was hurt and (b) couldn’t really do anything about it. The anger was an expression of impotence. The one thing I could do about what had hurt me was rant about it. No sooner had I realized that than I asked myself, “Why bother?” It didn’t do any good. And it felt awful. There is nothing pleasant about feeling angry. Of course, there’s nothing pleasant about feeling hurt, either, but if you face up to the discomfort, it fades after a while. Anger just prolongs it, like picking at a scab.
Now, of course, I am talking of actual causes of anger in one’s real life. Why people should feel angry because someone voices an opinion they don’t agree with, or why they would think that expressing their disagreement in a truculent manner would in any way strengthen their position — well, that is beyond me. I can’t imagine feeling hurt over an opinion I disagreed with, so that can’t be a factor. No, I think the rationale — if one may call it such — is to suggest that the opinion being objected to is not merely intellectually incorrect, but morally wrong. By extension, the person holding said opinion is not merely mistaken, but culpably so.
One problem with this is that it is rude. No one has the right to presume that another is acting or speaking in bad faith. That someone else’s view of something makes you mad may tell us a lot about you, but does not by any means constitute an argument.
Desmond Ryan looks at the Holocaust, from the ground up.
David Cohen considers Producing plays while performing a service.
And here's one from the LA Times: Deadly race riot no mere act of rage.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
You'll probably also want to take a look at Around the world with Raymond Chandler.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I actually wondered for a moment if I wanted the bother that could result from linking to this, but was immediately disgusted by my own temerity. Not to post a link because it may annoy some people - even a lot of people? How dare I even consider that.
Update: And no, I don't regret having posted the link. Vent away, folks.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
There can be no active mind without its sensing its existence in the moment called now. The realization of this is the driving force of modern philosophy from Descartes' cogito on. Without suspecting that the cogito, a personal reflective act, cannot be a starting point of knowledge, he took it for such. He failed to realize that it is not possible to know without knowing something. One tries in vain to cogitate without cogitating about something. And that something has to be a thing before one is cogitating though never in separation from a thing.
Creationism is much more specific and much less plausible. Its central claim is that the precise mode of creation has been revealed in the Bible, and follows the pattern set out in the first chapter of Genesis ... thus identifying God’s action with a particular series of events and a particular timetable, rather than as the ultimate mystery underlying all reality ...
I'm pretty indiscriminate. Janet Evanovich wouldn't be my cup of tea, but I also think Ian McEwan is a tad overrated. I continue to think it's best to steer clear of categories and just take it one book at a time. This, however, is a very good observation: "It would be a mistake, however, to consider buffs open-minded; if you’ve ever audited an undergrad film class, you understand that such people are often insufferably critical." This is how coterie literature develops.
The quangocrat at the centre of the testing fiasco is one of Britain’s highest-paid civil servants. Ken Boston, lured from Australia six years ago to sort out an earlier exam debacle, receives £328,000 in salary and perks. The package, greater than that paid to Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, jumped 15% from 2006-7 to 2007-8.
Wonder what he got the raise for?
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
See also "I thought I might take it upon my self" and Ryan's metaphor, are deceptive "bows."
I need copy editors to know that Eva Longoria is not the wife of Tampa Bay Rays baseball phenom Evan Longoria. I need them to know that a Florida cracker is not something you eat, and that it may or may not be offensive to some readers. I need a Rhode Island copy editor to know that you don't dig for clams; you dig for quahogs, a word of Indian origin -- American Indian. I need copy editors who know that Jim Morrison of The Doors went to St. Pete Junior College, that beat writer Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Fla., but is buried in Lowell, Mass. I want them to know that Lakewood High School is different from Lakewood Ranch High School. I want them to know that 54th Avenue North in St. Petersburg is 108 blocks north of 54th Avenue South.
Tony Blair, has been suggesting that religions can help the fight too. ... Blair says that the newly created Tony Blair Faith Foundation will seek to bring together "the six great religions, and incite them to resolve together problems instead of creating them." Fighting malaria should be one, he says: "Attacking the scourge of malaria, which kills one million people a year, would be a great example of working together. Can you imagine the effectiveness of a chain made up of mosques, temples, and churches scattered throughout the farthest reaches of Africa, distributing prophylactic mosquito nets which save so many lives? This would be faith in action."
I saw a show of Hammershøi's work a few years ago, though I can't remember where - the Walters maybe? If I could paint, I would probably specialize in still lifes and interiors.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
That's really too bad. Carole was very good. What kind of a contract do they have at the Courant?
The more I read and hear people trying to shoehorn "crime fiction" into various psychological and sociological analyses, the more irrelevant the genre-definition game seems to be. Good books are good books, and don't need to be discussed in a certain context, which could end up turning into a straightjacket.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I should add that Glenn is a really cool guy, and I'll bet he's a really good teacher.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm about to launch into some sort of what's-it-all-about-Alfie lamentation and announce my retirement from blogging. Well, think again.My impression of this blog and blogging is rather upbeat.
I have never actually met Maxine or Dave Lull or Judith Fitzgerald or Patrick Kurp or Rus Bowden or Frank McCormick or Lee Lowe or Beau Blue - I could go on naming names, but you get the idea, I'm sure. Nevertheless, I regard all of the aforementioned - and so many others not mentioned (I apologize to those) - as friends of mine (Nige, of course, is mon sembable, mon frere) . We may not share geographical proximity, but we do share what, for want for a better term, I shall call spiritual proximity. And I have corresponded with most of those I have mentioned. Maxine and I could have known each other in a previous life - and maybe did - we are so simpatico. Judith Fitzgerald is the poet I should have got to know years ago.
None of this would be so but for blogging. The internet is in fact cutting the red tape when it comes to human encounter. Who knows what the long-term consequence of this will be.
One other thing: Looking over this blog, I got the impression that it was a better and more accurate expression who I actually happen to be than anything else I have done in my life. What ya sees it what ya gets.
I guess that's why I keep doing it (with a lot of help from people like Dave and Rus) and probably will keep doing it. Because I'm glad I got to know all those people. After all, I wouldn't have otherwise.
PPS. I also forgot to mention Paul Davis. But I've actually met Paul. I can only hope to meet Bryan.
Nothing like living in the past.
I don't publish anybody's email - let alone the address - without first getting permission. I also don't go out of my way to insult people, as Myers apparently prides himself on doing. Somehow I expect more civility from someone claiming to be scientist.
Patrick weighs in with this link.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
... since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
See also On Fantasy. I, too, am not much of a fan of fantasy literature or science fiction, for that matter. I have nothing against them, mind you. They just don't grab me to the extent they seem to grab others. I read The Lord of the Rings and liked it well enough, but wasn't bowled over by it. I liked The Hobbit better. And my favorite Tolkien is a story called "Leaf by Niggle." On the other hand, I do like supernatural thrillers.
Consider the language of racial hatred to which Lefkowitz was herself exposed, when her opponents suggested that since she is a Jew, she said what she said because she was a Jew; and thus that this was merely the manifestation of some ancient hatred of the Jews for black people. This is what it is to stereotype; and it harms not only by virtue of the particular stereotypes on offer, but also by virtue of the thought they import – that stereotypes do indeed explain. This does untold harm in race and gender relations; care with how we speak, “political correctness”, is part of how we can avoid that harm. But that care needs to be even-handed, to be taken without regard to the injustices of history by both sides to a debate. It was a failure to do so that caused such trouble and distress at Wellesley in the 1990s. It is to the College’s discredit that it let it happen.
The fact is that, usually, in campus disputes, the side that is more threatening tends to be treated with greater deference, because campus authorities tend to be, shall we say, timorous.
Well, as I've said, I heard much the same thing when I was a kid, and look how well I turned out.
See also Vendler on Yeats and the wasted life…
... I take a look at Miranda Seymour's father: Restrained memoir tells of father's reign.
... David Cohen looks back at the 1960 Olympics: Great moments and grim portents.
... And Rich Di Dio ponders a bad deal: Art forger fooled even Goering.
Also Global view shows a small world after all.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
And here's something about Michel Houellebecq: More possibility.
See also: Britannica Forum: This Is Your Brain; This is Your Brain on the Internet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Waugh wrote "Brideshead" to illustrate the grace of God set against the complexities of human relationships and the hold Catholicism can still exert on those whose faith has lapsed. But Mr. Davies said he envisaged making a tragic film that shows the unfavorable impact of religion on many people's lives — "as much as the period when the book was written, although perhaps in different ways."
In other words, the theme of the film has nothing to do with the theme of Waugh's novel. Screw that.