As Honderich would have it, whether you read his book is not a matter of choice. Nonetheless, recommended for those with...

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HOW FREE ARE YOU?

THE DETERMINISM PROBLEM

Honderich (Philosophy/University College, London) ponders an age-old question—are we free agents or pawns of unknown forces?—and winds up embracing determinism.

The author arrives at this conclusion through a series of closely argued deductions and thought experiments (readers unfamiliar with the terms of standard philosophical debate will welcome the excellent glossary at the end). His basic point is that all our actions are effects resulting from earlier causes; there is, then, no room for free will. Evidence for this lies, he believes, in a careful study of human neurology. He rejects epiphenomenalism, the theory that the mind is a byproduct of brain activity; rather, he sees actions as caused by "psychoneural'' events that involve the combined effort of mind and brain. Nonetheless, Honderich argues that there is in fact no "self'' within us that originates actions. His weakest moment comes when confronting the most popular recent challenge to determinism, quantum theory, which insists on the uncertainty of events within the subatomic world; here, his response is that maybe subatomic events don't have much to do with our level of reality, and, in any case, a new physics may come along that is based on determinism. Extrapolating his position into social spheres, he points out that in a determinist world there is no room for moral blame, and therefore punishment for the sake of punishment should be abolished; also, he suggests, those who deny free will may choose to move to the political left, which emphasizes social remedies over individual responsibility.

As Honderich would have it, whether you read his book is not a matter of choice. Nonetheless, recommended for those with well- muscled brains.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-212328-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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