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Roy E. Perry "amateur philosopher" (Nolensville, Tennessee)
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Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years
Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.62

3.0 out of 5 stars Alas! Sherlock Holmes is still missing!, March 29 2001
On the last page of this novel's Epilogue, an egregious editorial error occurs: "When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however impossible, must be the truth." The correct version is: "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth."
Even when cited correctly, the quotation is philosophically erroneous. When one eliminates the impossible, what remains is the possible, but NOT NECESSARILY the truth. The possible is potentially true, but is not always actualized.
This is the problem with SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE MISSING YEARS. The author tries to convince us that the highly improbable--a bizarre descent into Oriental mysticism, superstition, and the occult--is "the truth." That cold, analytical, scientific genius known as Sherlock Holmes is transmogrified into a figure resembling an alien being from a sci-fi flick.
"The report of my death was an exaggeration," Mark Twain once remarked. Sherlock Holmes could have said the same. In 1891, fans were horrified to learn that Holmes, along with his arch-enemy Prof. James Moriarty, had perished at Switzerland's Reichenbach Falls. The outrage of Holmes' fans, however, caused Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect the world's greatest detective.
In "The Empty House" (see Doyle's collection, THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES), Holmes describes the so-called "missing years": "I travelled for two years in Tibet . . . and amused myself by visiting Lhasa and spending some days with the head Lama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend."
In the present novel, Jamyang Norbu invents a narrator, Hurree Chunder Mookerjee (a "Sancho Panza" to Holmes' "Don Quixote"), s literary stand-in for the absent Dr. John Watson. Hurree tells how Holmes and his party travel from Bombay, India, to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and on to the snow-covered "roof of the world," where they meet the Dalai Lama, and then confront "The Dark One" in the Ice Temple of Shambala in the Trans-Himalayas.
My pen poised to give this novel a "five-star" (highest) rating, but the concluding chapters overstrained my credulity. Although a talented writer, Norbu turns Holmes into a shamanistic Oriental guru trading in superstitious gobbledygook.
In a revealing footnote (see chap. 14), Norbu has Hurree write: "It is remarkable that neither Watson nor the generations of Holmesian scholars should have noticed the clear spiritual bent in Holmes's character."
Norbu's version of Holmes is more than a "spiritual bent"; it is a total immersion in the irrational, the illogical, the mystical, and the occult. And, by the final page, Sherlock Holmes is no longer Sherlock Holmes!
In THE SIGN OF THE FOUR, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has Holmes say: "Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proclamation of Euclid."
Elementary, my dear Norbu!

Clever As a Fox: Animal Intelligence and What it Can Teach Us About Ourselves.
Clever As a Fox: Animal Intelligence and What it Can Teach Us About Ourselves.
by Sonja I. Yoerg
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars AN INTELLIGENT SURVEY OF THE FIELD OF ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE, March 17 2001
"If God were to hold out enclosed in His right hand all Truth, and in His left hand just the active search for Truth, though with that the condition that I should ever err therein, and should say to me: Choose! I should humbly take His left hand and say: Father! Give me this one; absolute Truth belongs to Thee alone."--Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781)
Recently someone remarked, "Only a weak mind seeks ultimate answers." Not so. The error is not in seeking ultimate answers but in the presumptuous boast to have found them. One should say, "Only a naive person claims to possess ultimate answers." I believe that the author of CLEVER AS A FOX would agree.
In her lucid and fascinating exposition of animal intelligence and what it can teach us about ourselves, Sonja Yoerg points out that science is not a closed system, but a discipline that leaves doors open to entertain new paradigms of reality.
"In science as in life," writes the author, "the goal is to find that elusive middle ground somewhere between chaos and dogma, a theory that is a meaningful arrangement of everything we know about how animal minds work. At their best, theories are headquarters for facts. At their worst, they are prisons."
In this spirt, Yoerg surveys the confused (and confusing) field of research relating to animal intelligence. "The literature [on this subject]," she writes, "is a mess of methodological pitfalls (and pratfalls), ingenious designs, reckless interpretation, muddled theory, fascinating possibilities, and philosophical and moral dark alleys."
Are dogs smarter than cats? Why do we consider mammals to be more intelligent than reptiles? Are predators more intelligent than prey? Why do we think that dolphins are so smart? And what IS thinking anyway? What IS intelligence and how do we measure it? How does Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection (the survival of the fittest) unwittingly . . . always unwittingly . . . equip intelligent animals for success? What is the payoff in being smart?
"The only currency that evolution recognizes," writes Yoerg, [is] survival of more kids." In other words, for a species the secret of the success is reproduction--the ability to survive long enough to pass on one's genes to offspring and to future generations.
Yoerg examines in some detail divergent schools such as behaviorism and cognitive science, and comments on the concept of artificial intelligence (computer technology). Her answers are few; her questions are many.
If you are searching for "ultimate answers," this book is not for you. It falls short of arriving at a clearly defined goal of unshakable scientific truth. The path along which the author guides us, however, is an intriguing one. Yoerg points us, as did Lessing, to choose "the left hand of God."
CLEVER IS A FOX is not a "keeper" like Darwin's ORIGIN OR SPECIES or THE DESCENT OF MAN. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing study of animal intelligence, written engagingly by an author who has intelligently surveyed her field.

Boy Still Missing
Boy Still Missing
by John Searles
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars A BRILLIANT DEBUT NOVEL BY A BORN STORY-TELLER, March 14 2001
This review is from: Boy Still Missing (Hardcover)
'If only I could have stopped the most important person in my life from dying . . . alone.' Thus speaks the protagonist of Boy Still Missing, a stunning debut novel by John Searles, the senior books editor at Cosmopolitan magazine. By becoming infatuated with Edie Kramer, his father's seductive mistress, Dominick Pindle, 15, initiates (continues?) a chain of events that ends in tragedy. The time is 1972. On his 16th birthday, Dominick is holed up in a Holedo, Mass., motel. Having stolen thousands of dollars and kidnapped a baby, he finds himself surrounded by police who demand his surrender. Strangely enough, this teenager is not a monster. As Dominick tells his tale, one begins to pull for him and hope against hope that he can find redemption. As I read this novel, two thoughts kept recurring: 'He is more sinned against than sinning' and 'We have met the enemy and he is us!' Who is responsible for the blame and shame that hovers around Dominick like a dark cloud? For centuries, philosophers have debated the problem of determinism vs. free will. Are we inextricably trapped in the inexorable causality of fate? Or are we, by our choices (and by random chance) forging our own character and, hence, our own destiny? Dominick Pindle finds himself in a tangled web woven by his own bad decisions and by the bad decisions of countless others--his contemporaries and his long-deceased ancestors. Critics have compared Boy Still Missing to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Like Holden Caulfield, Dominick Pindle experiences 'rites of passage' from adolescent to adulthood. Searles's coming-of-age tale, however, is superior to Salinger's, and Dominick Pindle has far more 'soul' or 'spirit' than does Holden Caulfield. Beautifully written, Boy Still Missing is replete with striking descriptions, analogies, and metaphors. The dialogue is superb. The best news is that Boy Still Missing is a page-turning, captivating story. Searles will make you angry and make you cheer. He will tease you with hope and taunt you with despair. He will make you laugh and make you cry. He will lift your spirit and break your heart. He will take you on a roller-coaster ride that you will not soon forget.

Dream Of Reason
Dream Of Reason
by Anthony Gottlieb
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gottlieb Clears Up Muddied, & Muddled, Waters, March 12 2001
This review is from: Dream Of Reason (Hardcover)
Anthony Gottlieb is an 'amateur' philosopher in the best sense of the word: a person who engages in an activity, pursuit, study, or science for pleasure rather than for financial benefit, as an avocation rather than as a profession. Gottlieb, author of THE DREAM OF REASON, is the executive editor of THE ECONOMIST. He studied philosophy at Cambridge University and University College, London, and has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. He writes regularly on philosophy for the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Writing with zestful wit and wisdom, the author of this marvelous history of Western philosophy caused me to chuckle and laugh out loud at his humorous insights into the bizarre behavior and believes of many philosophers. I suspected that this book would be different when I read in the Introduction, 'Any subject [philosophy] that is responsible for producing [Martin] Heidegger owes the world an apology.' The book, howver is not amateurish in the sense of being unskilled, inept, or incompetent. Gottlieb has an amazing grasp not only of philosophy and philosophers but also of modern science. He brings clarity to muddled, and muddled, waters. He opens the windows of a musty room and lets in fresh air. THE DREAM OF REASON has three main divisions: (1) The Pre-Socratics; (2) Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; and (3) From Aristotle to the Renaissance (with emphasis on the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Skeptics). Gottlieb makes short shrift of the Middle Ages, giving a thousand years less than 100 pages. He writes provocatively: 'Philosophy in the West remained more or less the slave of Christianity for about a millennium. From the perspective of modern thought, it is tempting to see that lengthy interlude in terms of the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Having pricked its finger on Christian theology, philosophy fell asleep for about a thousand years until awakened by the kiss of Descartes.' Gottlieb promises a second volume: From Rene Descartes ('the father of modern philosophy' to the present time. I eagerly await its publication. THE DREAM OF REASON is Exhibit #1 in evidence that a philosophical work need not be dour, dry, and dull, but instead can be a delightful reading experience. I recommend this book highly.
Also recommended: FREUD: DARKNESS IN THE MIDST OF VISION, by Louis Breger.

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