PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewEach of these mini-chapters reads rather like a prose poem—often soaring to lyrical heights, though sometimes weighted down by bits of neuroscientific argot. \'Focused,\' though, is not the mot juste for it: Despite its brevity, it can be meandering and repetitious ... Crucial ideas often lie enshrouded in an elegant mist of metaphor. Still, the quality of the author’s mind, the boldness of his aims and the suspense of his argument propelled me through the book ... What’s not to like? Plenty! First, Damasio has adroitly dodged the \'hard problem\' ... For Damasio to use the terms \'images\' and \'feelings\' to refer to these electrochemical events is to make them sound already conscious—which might be called the fallacy of tendentious nomenclature. Second, for Damasio consciousness requires possessing a sense of self, an ability to entertain \'me-ish\' thoughts. But most mammals seem to have no such sense of self ...
Third, Damasio’s category of \'feeling\' is too capacious ... But if Damasio’s account of consciousness is not an unqualified success, that merely puts him in the company of all the other distinguished scientists and philosophers who have tried to crack this conundrum. And happily, Feeling & Knowing has supplementary virtues that make it well worth reading.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThinking, Fast and Slow...is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching ... Kahneman never grapples philosophically with the nature of rationality. He does, however, supply a fascinating account of what might be taken to be its goal: happiness ... I overconfidently urge everyone to buy and read it.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewSo what is the evidence for this happy thesis? Epstein serves up a feast of it, displaying his own impressively wide range of interests: art, classical music, jazz, science, technology and sports ... Although the book unfolds according to a formula that has become familiar—story, study, lesson; rinse and repeat—the storytelling is so dramatic, the wielding of data so deft and the lessons so strikingly framed that it’s never less than a pleasure to read. Indeed, so smooth and persuasive is Epstein’s marshaling of evidence that I almost failed to notice an ambiguity lurking at the heart of his case ... What worries me is that this emphasis—what social scientists call \'restriction of range\'—might skew Epstein’s moral just a bit. Let’s say, as a crude approximation, that Success = talent + practice + luck. Those who are richly endowed with talent may find it easy to excel in multiple domains, to be Renaissance men and women, to be decathletes of life. (The example of Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind.) The rest of us, however, must lean heavily on the practice part of the equation.
Diogenes Laertius, Trans. by Pamela Mensch
RaveThe New York Review of BooksDiogenes Laertius compiled the sole extant work from antiquity that gives anything like a comprehensive picture of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy ... other sources are lost, which makes what Diogenes Laertius left behind, to quote the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, \'truly priceless\' ... But why a new translation? ... this one by Pamela Mensch, a distinguished translator of ancient Greek, is superior in three respects. First, it is based on a more accurate edition of the Greek text ... Second, Mensch avoids the bowdlerization that the Hicks translation was often guilty of ... Third, the Mensch translation is furnished with a weighty apparatus of footnotes that are delightfully revealing of Greek history and folkways ... Other virtues of this new edition of Lives include the hundreds of philosophy-inspired artworks with which the editor has chosen to adorn the text...and sixteen superb essays by such scholars as Anthony Grafton, Ingrid Rowland, and Glenn W. Most.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksSigmund makes little effort to assess the legacy of logical positivism after the breakup of the [Vienna] circle. Nor does he furnish anything more than a superficial — and, in one respect, seriously inaccurate — survey of its philosophical antecedents. What he does supply is a brisk and engaging account of the volatile mix of characters that came together to form the Vienna Circle... The book also gives a vivid picture of the 'demented times' in which they attempted to carry out their 'exact thinking,' chronicling how Vienna between the wars, diminished by the loss of its status as the capital of a multiethnic empire and riven by ideological tensions, descended from cultural vitality into Nazi barbarism ... All of this makes for a book that, if not philosophically sophisticated, is packed with information and, for the most part, a pleasure to read. But one thing detracts from its appeal: its pages are stuffed with hackneyed phrases. That may not be the author’s fault.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs a master editor and distinguished author, Evans is well qualified to instruct us on how to write well. But can he delight us in the process? After reading this book, I can affirm that the answer is yes. For the most part. Up to a point ... The fun begins to flag, however, when Evans invites us into what he calls his 'sentence clinic.' There we are suffered to see him in editorial action, applying his surgical tools to specimens of bloated, dull, euphemistic, incomprehensible prose ... But these are the quibbles of envy. I wish I had the editorial chops to produce such an authoritative guide myself...In fact, if I were the current occupant of the White House, I would take on this issue by appointing Sir Harold to be our nation’s Good Writing Tsar. Or Czar.
PanThe New York Times Book ReviewKlosterman has a remedy for our condition, at least a partial one. We must 'think about the present as if it were the distant past.' By imaginatively adopting the perspective of futurity, we should strive to look upon our contemporary world as though it were the Victorian era, or the medieval period, or the Bronze Age — suspending the naïve confidence we place in our current version of reality and trying to detect how that version might be deeply and pervasively mistaken ... In his new book he takes on an ambitious spectrum of themes...All admirable. Then why did I find the book so exasperating? For one thing, there’s the prose, which lurches from the slangy to the lumbering to the pompous...Such little lapses of the pen might be forgivable if Klosterman had pursued his book’s premise with more rigor. But his argument tends to be desultory and slapdash. Entire passages defy analysis. Profound questions — what he calls 'the big potatoes'— are treated with intolerable glibness ... But it never left me bored. Reading it is a bit like being at a dinner party where a smart and opinionated guest is squiffily holding forth.