Good sense for those who value good sense.

STARRY MESSENGER

COSMIC PERSPECTIVES ON CIVILIZATION

The well-known astrophysicist argues in favor of science.

Tyson, popular TV commentator and director of the Hayden Planetarium, points out that until a few centuries ago, all cultures explained natural phenomena through words from wise men (i.e., “authority”), sacred texts, and myths. Life was short, disease-ridden, and violent, and few claimed that important questions remained unanswered or that progress was possible. After the 17th-century Enlightenment, scientific inquiry began delivering explanations that “are true even when you don’t believe in them,” and there followed significant improvements to our quality of life as a species. Even though science has delivered the goods for centuries, Tyson warns against two alternatives. The first, deeply held personal beliefs, are not susceptible to argument and range from the literal truth of the Bible to the superiority of the Dodgers over the Yankees. Personal beliefs are benign unless they become coercive political beliefs, and the intensity of this coercion continues to increase in today’s political climate, sometimes culminating in violence. Tyson urges readers to base their actions on accurate observation—evidence rather than feeling—and a willingness to discard ideas that don’t work. “To deny objective truths is to be scientifically illiterate,” he writes, “not to be ideologically principled.” Among the best sections of the book is an essay in which the author, taking a page from early racist anthropology, delivers a tongue-in-cheek but strictly fact-based argument that Whites resemble chimpanzees far more closely than Blacks do. Marshalling his evidence, he shows “how easy it is to be racist.” Since it’s been proven (scientifically) that humans are terrible at assessing risks, flummoxed by statistics, impervious to facts that contradict their prejudices, and murderously attached to their tribe, Tyson may be fighting a losing battle. Still, he’s a welcome voice in the escalating fight with the array of forces aligned against science and rational thought.

Good sense for those who value good sense.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-86150-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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