Many readers will agree that we are currently living in “demented times,” and Sigmund adeptly lays out a history that has...

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EXACT THINKING IN DEMENTED TIMES

THE VIENNA CIRCLE AND THE EPIC QUEST FOR THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE

The course of Western philosophy was profoundly altered by the work of a small band of Vienna intellectuals a century ago. Sigmund (Emeritus, Mathematics/Univ. of Vienna; Games of Life: Explorations in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, 2017, etc.) tells their story.

The turn of the 20th century begat a significant rethinking in philosophy, away from a “muddled metaphysics” and toward a logical foundation for all of science and mathematics. David Hilbert posed unsolved problems in math, Einstein published his special relativity theory, and physicists Ernst Mach and Ludwig Boltzmann famously debated whether atoms existed. The author, one of the pioneers of evolutionary game theory, traces these ideas through the members of the Vienna Circle, from informal pre–World War I gatherings through the group’s formal inception in 1924 to its dissolution following Hitler’s annexation of Austria. The group held weekly lectures at the university followed by discussions at the local coffeehouses. Principal members were philosophers Moritz Schlick and Rudolf Carnap, mathematicians Hans Hahn and Karl Menger, and the left-wing social reformer Otto Neurath, but there were many visiting luminaries, including Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and later, Kurt Gödel and Karl Popper. Sigmund does not dwell on the abstruse word and language issues strenuously debated by the circle so much as sketch the colorful lives and loves of the members and their friends against the demented backdrop of interwar Vienna. The high unemployment and hyperinflation of post-1918 Vienna proved fertile ground for extreme ideologies and fanaticism, with the growth of national socialist parties as well as a deepening of a long-existent anti-Semitism. Schlick was assassinated, and once the Third Reich was in place, circle members and their friends fled. Fortunately, many found academic posts in England or America, in this way spreading the seeds of positivism in the West.

Many readers will agree that we are currently living in “demented times,” and Sigmund adeptly lays out a history that has great relevance for today.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09695-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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