A philosophically original but needlessly strident attack on the irrationality of religious belief.

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THE HUMAN IDENTITY PROBLEM

HOW GOD BECAME THE CENTERPIECE OF A WORLDVIEW

A spirited attempt to supplant a religious conception of self-identity with an evolutionary one.

Searching self-reflection is a specifically human ability, the result of our peculiar endowment of consciousness. Johnson (Had Enough Yet?, 2017, etc.) asserts that consciousness was once interpreted as evidence of an eternal soul and God—the legacy of ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, who devalued empirical enquiry in favor of imaginative intuition. Instead of looking outward to the world for answers, they turned an introspective eye inward, and according to the author, this move contaminated thousands of years of philosophy and delayed the genesis of rigorous science. The nature of consciousness, as experienced by human beings, contributed to the problem as well; it seems timeless, without beginning or end, and so the notion of personal immortality easily arises from it. The author considers all religious metaphysics to be fantastical departures from rational analysis, and the stakes of this confusion are high, he contends: because a religious worldview assigns humans a special cosmic significance, he says, it’s an instrument of mistaken aggrandizement and the origin of savage conflict. Johnson makes a theoretically fascinating argument that consciousness precludes self-knowledge, as it forces people to simultaneously be the subject and object of analysis. The author is a research chemist, and his discussion of modern science is both expert and lucidly accessible. His ambition is exhilarating, as he attempts no less than to settle the long-standing conflict between faith and reason. However, this is a very brief study, and its short length undermines the persuasiveness of his arguments; his concise survey of ancient philosophy, for instance, is remarkably lacking in meticulousness for a book that’s so devoted to its advocacy. Also, the author is prone to hyperbolic ad hominem attacks, as when he refers to creationists as “cultural terrorists.”

A philosophically original but needlessly strident attack on the irrationality of religious belief.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4781-8354-9

Page Count: 76

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2018

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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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