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Freedom Evolves
Freedom Evolves
by Daniel Dennett
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from CDN$ 1.68

3.0 out of 5 stars Is that all?, March 11 2003
This review is from: Freedom Evolves (Hardcover)
Daniel Dennett is attempting a thankless task, but one that is long overdue. Back in 1984, with the publication of Elbow Room, he sought to liberate free will - that perennial hobgoblin of philosophy - from a surplus of metaphysical baggage that is increasingly difficult to justify based on what we know about how brains work and how minds evolved. On these two topics, however, Elbow Room required the reader to reserve judgment. Since then, Dennett has given the world Consciousness Explained (1991), which, as the title implies, tries to tell us how brains work, and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), which tries to explain how minds evolved, and in the process provides one of the most lucid accounts yet of the philosophical implications of Darwinism. Now, with Freedom Evolves, Dennett attempts to tie it all together.
The problem with this book, as far as I am concerned, is that it feels rushed and disjointed. I was more than happy to read all 500+ pages of DDI because the topic deserved that much space and, honestly, that book is a pleasure to read. The topic of free will, if anything, requires even more space to develop, and I would have gladly sat through six or seven hundred pages if necessary. As it is, my understanding of Dennett's arguments is sketchy - even after letting them sink in a few days and re-reading a few sections - so sketchy, in fact, that I won't attempt anything like a synopsis here, for fear of bungling the job. Beyond that, I was a little annoyed with the amount of recycled material from CE and DDI.
So why is Daniel Dennett's task a thankless one? Because he insists that free will is not an "illusion" as some hardcore materialists claim - nor is it some "extra something" in the sense implied by traditional dualist philosophers. There are a lot of feathers to ruffle in this area. Affirming free will on a strict materialist basis would be quite a feat, if done clearly and convincingly. I believe that case can be made, and that it should be made, and that Dennett is qualified to make it. Unfortunately, in Freedom Evolves he didn't do so as clearly and convincingly as I wish he had. Until Dennett or somebody else does so, the task will remain long overdue.

Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Preachy, But Good, Sept. 11 2002
Atlas Shrugged evokes extreme reactions. Dorothy Parker wrote: "This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force." Nevertheless, it consistently ranks as one of the most widely-read and influential books of the 20th Century. I read it in college, hoping to discover what it was about this doorstop of a book that is capable of evoking such zealotry among fans, and such vehement scorn from critics. Atlas Shrugged is a literary chimera: a "Novel of Ideas." The problem with such books is that anyone with an interesting idea can write one, even if her literary talent is dubious. The characters in Atlas Shrugged, for example, are two-dimensional and the dialog is rather contrived; but the book has an interesting plot hook which allows Rand to ram home her Objectivist philosophy in an unforgettable way.
Rand divides the human race into two spheres: Those who create value - artistic, material, or otherwise, and those who parasitize the creators. She then asks the question: "What would happen to the world if those who create value all simultaneously went on strike?" The answer, of course, is that the gears of civilization would grind to a halt. In developing this theme, Rand subjects her readers to harangue after harangue on the evils of regulatory and redistributive government programs, religion and superstition, bad art, and paper money. Thus, depending on the strength and direction of your prejudices, Atlas Shrugged is either ideological crack cocaine or a literary kick in the crotch. Regardless, the sustained intensity of Rand's tirades - with her characters serving as transparent mouthpieces - leaves little room for ambivalence.
Atlas Shrugged succeeds insofar as it is the definitive statement of the author's personal philosophy - Objectivism - and provides cogent arguments for much of the modern Libertarian agenda. Also, Rand's division of humanity into those who create value on the one hand, and the vampires on the other, while simplistic, is nevertheless instructive. Atlas Shrugged fails insofar as Rand seems completely unable to acknowledge the gray areas and complexities of economic relationships and values. If alternatives were really so obviously black and white as they are in Rand's novel, then I'll be damned if I can figure out why everyone doesn't think as she does. The reason Rand's characters are so boringly right all the time is that they're never confronted with ambiguity. They never have to make a tough value judgment.

by Frank Herbert
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.03
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable Science Fiction, Sept. 11 2002
This review is from: Dune (Mass Market Paperback)
One of the greatest science fiction epics ever written. This book has it all: mind-expanding drugs, human computers, political intrigue, interstellar economics, and big-... worms. The reader should take from this book a sense of grandness of scale. The messianic fervor of the Fremen, the calculated patience of the Bene Gesserit eugenics program, the ecological ambition of Liet Kynes, and the universal-historical vision of the Quisatz Haderach, all ought to awaken us to the necessity and danger of human activity on the universal-historical timescale. That is the scale on which we all operate, whether we know it or not. Some of the themes in this book, which was written in the mid-1960's, foreshadow the adolescent field of chaos theory. In particular, the notion that seemingly insignificant local events can have calamitous effects on future history is analogous to the butterfly effect. Also, Herbert's conception of prophecy as a probability tree branching infinitely through time enjoys some endorsement from quantum physics.

2010: Odyssey Two
2010: Odyssey Two
by Arthur C. Clarke
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Successor, Sept. 11 2002
In what Carl Sagan refers to as "a worthy successor to 2001," Clarke once again takes us to the outer reaches of the solar system for a rendezvous with the mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter. Heywood Floyd (mission director from the first book) emerges as the protagonist, along with a supporting cast of Soviet cosmonauts. We finally learn what caused HAL to go on the blink last time around - a "Hofstadter-Möbius loop." Dave Bowman's fate is revealed, and we catch a glimpse of the intelligence behind the monoliths, which turn out to be, among other things, von Neuman machines. Plot discrepancies between 2001 the movie, and 2001 the book are resolved in favor of the former, and 2010 incorporates the findings of the Voyager missions, which hadn't yet occured when 2001 was written.

Confessions of a Crap Artist
Confessions of a Crap Artist
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Kind of Dick, April 22 2002
Darkly funny, slightly sad, brutally honest, and philosophically deep, Confessions of a Crap Artist merits the distinction of being among Philip K. Dick's best novels, despite its prima facie dissimilarity to PKD's main body of work. Ostensibly a chronicle of the disintegration of a middle class family (a rather banal and hackneyed gimmick in contemporary American fiction), Confessions is at heart an inquiry into the nature of reality. PKD fans will immediately recognize this as the motivating theme of the author's career.
The protagonist is the mildly schizophrenic Jack Isidore (recognize that name from anywhere?), whose obsessions with pulp mags, pseudoscience and new age detritus render him an ineffective, if harmless excrescence on mainstream society, and enlighten the novel's title. After being arrested for shoplifting a can of chocolate covered ants, Jack is "rescued" by his sister Fay and her husband Charley Hume and brought to live with them in their ostentatious Marin County home, where Jack earns his keep by scrubbing the floors, feeding the livestock and babysitting the Humes' two daughters.
Liberated from the household and parental obligations that had theretofore been the weak glue of their relationship, the Humes' marriage promptly falls apart. Fay's overweening selfishness and Charley's pathetic ineffectiveness as a husband come to the fore, resulting in infidelity, public scandal, and death.
Meanwhile, Jack falls in with a local UFO cult peopled by Marin County housewives. (PKD devotees will recognize the cult's leader, Claudia Hambro, as an incarnation of the perennial dark-haired girl). Jack's hallucinations provide escapist counterpoint to the novel's bucolic 1950's setting, and parallel the more meaningful contrast PKD is trying to convey: that of superficial bourgeois respectability straining to conceal dysfunction, conceit and vulgarity. Thus, Confessions is not merely a family chronicle; it is social satire, an indictment of a distinctly American flavor of hypocrisy.
Placed in the broader context of PKD's oeuvre, however, satire takes a backseat to the author's overriding philosophical query: What is reality, and what is the relationship between perception and reality? Jack, whose quirky hallucinations give the novel a fantastic element, nevertheless perceives the Hume family dynamic with great clarity. And when his cult-inspired eschatology fails to materialize, he makes the ultimate confession (that he is a nut), but insists that "the blame [is] spread around fairly." That is to say, he insists that the reader recognize his nominally sane sister, her husband, and her lover Nathan Anteil as equally nutty.
The problem of perception is further illustrated by the novel's shifting narrative style. While it is nominally Jack's confession that we're reading, the point of view actually alternates among the four leading dramatis personae. Interestingly, the first person voice is used for both Jack and Fay, while Charley's and Nathan's perspectives are presented in the third person. This suggests the possibility that PKD intended Jack and Fay to be literary alter-egos.
It's a shame that Confessions is marketed as a science fiction novel, because it could and should serve as a bridge connecting readers of general fiction to an author whose talent was too big for his genre.

Lie: Evolution
Lie: Evolution
by Ken Ham
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Arguments of First Resort, April 16 2002
This review is from: Lie: Evolution (Paperback)
The Lie: Evolution was written by a conservative Christian for conservative Christians. It is neither a tract nor a science book; it is an apologetics manual. Christians seeking a scientific critique of evolution should look elsewhere. Nonetheless, The Lie should be read by anyone interested in the creation/evolution debate (C/E), because Ken Ham is one of the most active evangelists in the field, and The Lie illumines his motivating philosophy and arguments of first resort.
The Lie is a forceful polemic that will invigorate readers who already agree with Ham's views. These qualities, and the dearth of science in The Lie, ought to alert evolutionists to the true nature of the debate, as conceived by conservative Christians. If Ham can pack this much conviction into 185 pages without deigning to evaluate the science, then it ought to be clear that C/E involves more than weighing evidence and vetting theories.
Ham argues that Genesis is foundational to Christianity. Genesis explains that God created the universe in six days, that creation was perfect at its inception, and that imperfection, sin and death entered the world through Adam. This establishes the need for a Savior, whose atoning work will restore perfection. Evolution, in contrast, implies gradual, ongoing "creation," and that from the beginning life has evolved by mutations (imperfection), coupled with natural selection (death). Evolution dispenses with sin, redemption and restoration as metaphysical clutter. Thus, evolution is incompatible with creation and should be rejected by those who believe the Bible is the infallible word of God.
Ham scrupulously rejects the "evidentialist" approach in favor of a "presuppositionalist" approach: The Bible is a priori true; evolution is ipso facto false. If you accept the truth of the Bible, then evidence is irrelevant. "Faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen . . . Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" (Hebrews 11:1, 3). Liberal theologians and Christians who incorporate evolution into their worldview are seen as equivocal in their faith. What Ham overlooks is that creation "scientists," by accumulating and interpreting evidence in favor of creation, are engaged in a superfluous endeavor that might be inimical to faith.
The Lie contains weaknesses that may not be apparent to Ham's target audience. First, Ham should have provided a summary of Neo-Darwinism, as currently accepted by a virtual consensus of scientists practicing in relevant fields. Instead, Ham makes passing references throughout the book to mutations, natural selection, and evolutionary "progress," assuming that his readers are familiar with these mechanisms. In many instances he confounds popular misconceptions or outdated concepts with current consensus, when in fact the public is largely ignorant of Neo-Darwinism, and much that scientists once accepted has been superceded or modified. Americans in general and Christians in particular are woefully undereducated when it comes to evolution. And while this book is not a critique of evolutionary theory per se, any discussion that fails to account for the basics is inadequate.
Second, Ham elicits an extremely narrow definition of "science" that allows him to summarily dismiss evolutionary theory as non-science. His definition is consonant with the popular image of scientists performing repeatable experiments in a controlled lab setting. While this is indeed how some scientists work, Ham's definition disqualifies the well-established fields of astronomy, archaeology, paleontology, geology, epidemiology, climatology, linguistics, forensics, and a host of other historical sciences, including history itself. In short, Ham believes that any statement about the past is no better than a guess. He makes no allowance for methodological or evidentiary considerations that might render one "guess" better than another.
Ham's disdain for historical science is matched by his misrepresentation of scientific method. Implicit throughout The Lie is the creationist mantra that evolution is "just a theory." This dismissive attitude might be apt if evolution was "just a hypothesis," but in fact a theory is much stronger than a hypothesis, and requires more in the way of "disproof." One wonders why conservative Christians do not also protest the theory of gravitation, the germ theory of disease, the heliocentric theory of the solar system and the atomic theory of matter.
As a consequence of the points just made, Ham erroneously identifies evolution as a religion. Because evolution is non-science, and because a theory is no better than a guess, belief in the theory of evolution must be based on faith. But if evolution is a religion, then so are archaeology, epidemiology and forensics! In fact, Neo-Darwinism, like any scientific theory, is tentative and subject to disproof. Evidentiary interpretations and evolutionary hypotheses are modified or discarded every year; that's a hallmark of science, but not of religion. The dogmatism of some scientists is beside the point, as is the fact that many laypersons accept evolution on faith. Moreover, to equate science and religion is to rob both of their meaning. If Ham's purpose is obfuscation, he has succeeded. If his purpose is clarity, then he should respect meaningful distinctions.
Finally and integrally, Ham sees a causal relation between public acceptance of evolutionary theory and the acceleration of cultural decay: abortion, homosexuality, feminism, pornography, drugs, racism, even oppressive business practices! Darwinism, via moral relativism, is now the ultimate justification for an ungodly way of life. As Ham tells it, evolution has been the midwife of misery and suck-nurse of sin for the last 150 years. In some cases he draws valid connections: viz. Spencer's social Darwinism. What Ham fatally fails to explain, however, is that the worth of an idea cannot be measured solely by its misuse. If it could, then Christianity should be rejected because nominally Christian individuals and institutions have instigated wars, genocide, slavery, racism, infanticide, torture, psychological and sexual abuse, theft, fraud, deceit, environmental degradation, tax evasion, and yes, even oppressive business practices in the name of Christ. Christianity's association with these crimes is a matter of historical fact. But to conflate the ideal of Christianity with Christianity's blood-spattered past and ethically compromised present would be fundamentally unfair.

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
by Robert Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.87
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Logic of Human History, Oct. 23 2001
When Watson & Crick discovered the structure of DNA they claimed to have found the secret of life. In Nonzero, Wright nominates a new candidate for that distinction: what he refers to as "nonzero sumness." This ugly duckling of a term captures what Wright believes to be the principle that has driven life on earth from pre-organic molecules floating in the primordial soup through the marvelous complexity of the human brain. Along the way, this same mechanism has churned out the Code of Hamurabi, the United Nations, and the internet. Impressive. What's more, Wright argues that nonzero sumness, properly understood, is a giant neon arrow pointing toward the ultimate destiny of mankind.
The title of this book comes from game theory. If Wright accomplishes nothing else, he at least succeeds in presenting this formerly arcane subject in terms immediately graspable by any bright high school student. In a nutshell, game theory is the systematic study of decision making given a set of rules and opponents whose interests are more or less adverse. In a zero sum game the winner takes all; thus it pays to be competitive. In a nonzero sum game, the players end up better off, on average and over the long run, if they adopt a cooperative strategy.
Wright takes game theory and imbeds it in a Darwinian framework. He proposes a kind of meta-game wherein competing strategies vie for players in the real world. Because nonzero sum games yield a higher average payoff over the long run, they attract more players. They are more fit in Darwinian terms. Go-it-alone, win-at-all-costs strategies might yield a high immediate payoff, but they are disadvantaged in the long run.
Economists and political scientists have been using game theory for decades. When biologists discuss evolutionarily stable strategies they're using game theory. When evolutionary psychologists attempt to explain altruism (as Wright does in his book The Moral Animal), they invoke game theory. In Nonzero, Wright takes the next logical step and uses game theory to explain the whole of human history.
In arguing that cooperative strategies are destined to prevail in the long run, Wright's tone is necessarily optimistic. But Nonzero explores the darker side of human history as well. A key point of the book is that a game that is nonzero sum overall may nevertheless contain zero sum components. Imagine a market for widgets. If Al can produce widgets in his factory at a cost of $30, and Bob can make widgets from scratch at home for $60, then both Al and Bob will benefit if Bob buys widgets from Al at any price, P, where $30<P<$60. Such a transaction is clearly nonzero sum. Nevertheless, while Al and Bob are haggling over prices inside the nonzero sum range, a $1 gain to Al represents a corresponding $1 loss to Bob, and vice versa. This is the zero sum component. Al and Bob might haggle until they are red in the face, and each might go home, cursing the other's ancestry and anatomy, feeling as if he has been cheated. But if they consummate a trade at any price, P, defined above, then each is certainly better off. Wright applies this logic to the social contract, international trade and even war. "If two nearby societies are in contact for any length of time, they will either trade or fight. The first is non-zero sum social integration, and the second ultimately brings it."
Wright's Darwinian conception of game theory, and its application to history, invites speculation about the meaning of "progress." New technologies and new methods of social, political and industrial organization allow people to interact in new ways, and to realize previously unattainable cultural and economic dividends. But as the preceding paragraph shows, "History, even if its basic direction is good, can proceed at massive, wrenching human cost." In other words, newer, better, more nonzero sum strategies might carry unanticipated and unwanted zero sum baggage. Viewed in this light, "progress" translates into increased diversity, complexity and interdependence, but not necessarily improvement.
Now we come to the D-word in the book's subtitle. Wright wisely resists the temptation of detailed prophecy, but he is sure that the future will build on the past with respect to the trend towards greater diversity, complexity and interdependence. Here, in contrast to preceding chapters, Wright's originality fails him. He summarizes this admittedly non-so-new vision of the future in a catalog of seven "not-so-new features": 1) the declining relevance of distance; 2) the economy of ideas; 3) increasingly frictionless transactions; 4) liberation by microchip; 5) narrowcasting; 6) Jihad vs. McWorld; and 7) the twilight of sovereignty. Anyone who has not lived in a cave for the last thirty years will immediately recognize that these trends are already underway. Countless books and magazine articles have documented them, and indeed, Wright wastes little time substantiating them, devoting no more than a few paragraphs to each. Inevitably, Wright sees the culmination of these trends in some form of world government and a technology-based global brain.
While the not-so-new features are considered axiomatic in some circles, one nevertheless wishes that an author of Wright's intellect and perceptiveness had spent more time considering them. After all, as axiomatic as these trends are, they contain latent and patent tensions that beg resolution before the "next step" is taken. Furthermore, Wright's conclusions regarding world government and a global brain are presented rather uncritically. Writing at the cusp of the twenty-first century, Wright couldn't resist peering into the future. But as a work of prophecy, Nonzero is less than satisfactory. As an historical inquiry, however, Wright presents a promising new framework for the study of human interactions, and he does so in a convincing and entertaining way. One wishes he had subtitled his book The Logic of Human History and left it at that. With Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright achieves a qualified success, but a success nonetheless.

Life On The Other Side
Life On The Other Side
by Sylvia Browne
Edition: Hardcover
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1.0 out of 5 stars Happy Meal, Sept. 20 2001
This review is from: Life On The Other Side (Hardcover)
Being open-minded does not mean suspension of the critical faculty. Most metaphysical questions are not worth quibbling about, but when an author comes along and offers a minutely detailed account of the afterlife, it's eminently fair to point out her inconsistencies.
Sylvia Browne claims again and again that she is "skeptical," "addicted to research," and that everything she writes is the result of "exhaustive" study. Fair enough - extraordinary claims require extraordinary support. But apparently Browne does not think her fans are sophisticated enough to appreciate her intellectual labors. The book does not contain a bibliography or a single footnote, and every one of her "case studies" is anecdotal; the rest is revelation and faith. There's nothing wrong with faith, but if you're going to tease your readers with claims of scientific accuracy, or boost your credibility with claims of rationalism and academic integrity, you ought to be able to deliver.
If that were the only problem with this book, it would still get a passing grade as one of many viable contenders for a unified vision of the afterlife. However, Life on the Other Side is fraught with inconsistencies and absurdities that cannot be ignored. To list them all would be pedantic, but a few examples should suffice.
First, Browne claims that there is no death and no war on the other side. She also claims that many of the landmarks on earth - the Taj Mahal, the pyramids, the Great Wall of China - are actually replicas of structures that originally existed on the other side. She does not explain why the Taj Mahal and the pyramids, which are elaborate tombs, were built in a place that knows no death. Speaking of the pyramids, Browne states that one of her hypnosis subjects, in a past life, was a 7th century B.C. Assyrian laborer who worked on the pyramids (using anti-gravitational devises no less!). What? The pyramids were all completed by the end of the third millennium B.C.! As for the Great Wall, this magnificent structure makes perfect sense in the context of an earthly medieval China plagued by barbarians. But why would a world that knows no wars ever undertake such an extensive project of military engineering? Does Browne think her readers are so unsophisticated that they won't notice these discrepancies? If logical explanations exist, why doesn't she tell us? Surely, if a fact as trivial as the exact temperature (a uniform 78 degrees) is worth reporting (and repeating), then these other problems at least deserve a sentence or two.
In describing the landscape of the other side (which is a mirror image of Earth in its pristine state), Browne reverently observes that there is no erosion, no natural disasters, and that the mountains are as lofty as they were when God created them. She waxes poetic when she describes the waves crashing against the rugged cliffs. Oh yeah, and there's no sun, moon, stars or weather - just ambient light. Sounds pretty. But how did those cliffs get rugged without erosion from the waves? How did the waves get there without the gravitational pull of the moon to generate the tides and no weather to whip up the whitecaps? How did those mountains get there without the violence of plate tectonics and volcanism to raise them?
I suppose all of this could be chalked up to "God's will," but that answer seems a little evasive in light of the scientific language Browne uses to explain other phenomena. The other side is apparently another "dimension" and our ability to see into it involves tuning into a "higher vibration." This sounds a little like physics, but in fact it is not. I know some new age fans think this stuff can be explained by quantum mechanics, but I assure you it can't. Even string theory (the current leading candidate for the Theory of Everything), which talks a lot about vibrations and multiple dimensions, has absolutely nothing to say about astral travel, cellular memory or the immortality of the soul. Put down the Deepak Chopra and read In Search of Schroedinger's Cat by John Gribbin and The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene if you're curious.
I've got to stop myself soon, but I can't let this slip by: The catalog of life themes at the end of the book has an entry for "Justice." Apparently, when God is at the center of this life theme, a person will be a positive force for justice in the world like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella, or Clarence Darrow. For heaven's sake! Clarence Darrow? The atheist? Has she ever read him? Mr. Darrow might be surprised to find out that God is at the center of his life theme. Also, towards the beginning of the book, when she lists those authors who influenced her spiritual and philosophical development, Browne names Bertrand Russell. Apparently Sylvia didn't read his stuff too closely either, but I hope all of you will.
And while you're at it, pick up the Bible. Sylvia Browne claims familiarity with "all 26 versions" - why should her followers be any less knowledgeable? When you're done with that, read the Koran, the Talmud, the Laws of Manu and the Buddhist Scriptures. Read the Golden Bough and some Jungian psychology. Put it all into context by studying philosophy, history and anthropology. And don't consider your education complete until you've sampled the secular humanists. If you get this far, you will realize that Sylvia Browne's vision and style are insipid pastiche. Life on the Other Side is to spirituality what a Happy Meal is to a filet mignon.

The Portable Nietzsche
The Portable Nietzsche
by Friedrich Nietzsche
Edition: Paperback
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read This Book - If You Dare!, Sept. 5 2001
This review is from: The Portable Nietzsche (Paperback)
Just about everything worth saying about this volume has been said by the other reviewers. A few points are worth reiterating, however. First of all, Walter Kaufmann is a god. I read some of Nietzsche's writings in German while I was in college and, unlike most English-speaking reviewers, I can honestly say that Kaufmann's translation is superb. Kaufmann's editing is equally brilliant, and I recommend that the beginner follow the editor's advice and read this book cover to cover. Only then can one grasp the development of Nietzsche's thought in the manner Kaufmann intended.
Another reviewer ... found it necessary to fault Kaufmann for overemphasizing "those bits which show Nietz. At his most un-Nazi-ish." It's true that Kaufmann takes this approach, however it's not really a fault considering the circumstances of the book's first appearance. This collection was introduced within a decade of the end of World War II. At that time, Nietzsche's reputation in America was badly in need of rehabilitation, having suffered from the taint of Nazi appropriation. In fact, because of the paucity of good translations and informed commentary prior to Kaufmann, Nietzsche was never really habilitated in the first place in the English speaking world. From this perspective, Wilson's criticism appears to be misplaced.
My second point is directed at Nietzsche neophytes. Just about everyone is familiar with the handful of pithy Nietzsche quotes that have found their way into the popular consciousness: "God is dead," and "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" come to mind. I even saw an anarchist website one time that exhorted viewers to mine Nietzsche's books for "cool quotes"! (N. must be rolling in his grave ï¿ again!). The point to be made here is that, like the Bible, Nietzsche's work can be quoted to support just about any point of view on any topic ï¿ such is the breadth of his thought. But very few of these snippets carry their intended meaning unless they are read in context ï¿ not just the context of an individual work, but the context of Nietzsche's oeuvre. Nietzsche took on the tough issues and came at them from all angles; and yes, sometimes he radically changed his mind. Thus, it's easy to accuse him of contradicting himself until one realizes the method to the madness ï¿ namely, Nietzsche leaves no stone unturned in his quest for truth. This volume is particularly good at making all of this clear.
A final note: Nietzsche will uproot your most cherished prejudices, throw them on a vivisection table and tear into them without anesthesia. Small minds beware!

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