Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Review of The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati, Martin Hellwig

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics, Finance
Intriguing Connections = 1) Learning Economics: Basic to Advanced
2) What Goes Into An Economic Crisis?

Short Description

Quotes

“A major reason for the success of the bank lobbying is that banking has a certain mystique.  There is a pervasive myth that banks and banking are special and different from all other companies and industries in the economy.  Anyone who questions the mystique and claims that are made is at risk of being declared incompetent to participate in the discussion.” – Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig, Page 2


“Debt allows the borrower to multiple assts they can finance with their own money but also magnifies the gains and losses they earn for each dollar of their own money.” – Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig,  Page 19

“Issues related to the dark side of debt are important in explaining why most corporations limit their borrowing.  Banks, however, experience the burden of debt differently from other borrowers.  They see mainly the bright side.  This results in banks’ borrowing significantly more than other corporations.  The dark side of borrowing is not so dark for them because some of the costs are borne by others.  By borrowing heavily, however, banks cast a deep shadow on the economy.”– Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig, Page 33

Quotes with permission from publisher

Elaborate Description

The purpose of this book is to demystify financial language.  Bankers use many misleading terminologies and claims which confuse everyone including politicians and regulators.  Admati and Hellwig explain what finance is, does, and the fallacies created by misuse of language.  Using a parable of The Emperor’s New Clothes, pointing out the misleading claims and language of bankers in order to take appropriate actions.  This book does a wonderful job at elucidating the claims of bankers to understand policy discussions and evaluate the claims.  

Banks contribute to making smooth economic exchanges via payment system infrastructure.  Borrowing is an essential feature of a well and efficient functioning economy.  Banks are more experienced in investigating the ability of others to pay loans than others. When functioning appropriately, borrowing creates opportunities to make large investments which would otherwise not be able to financed.  But borrowing also magnifies the borrower’s risk.  When the economy is booming the investment earns more than the debt servicing, but the risk of investment default magnifies the cost of debt servicing.  By not taking account of the potential loss of investment, banks can easy claim that borrowing is cheaper than equity.  Equity reduces the potential gain and loss from an investment as the shareholders carry the risks.  When banks did not have guaranteed bailouts, they used to have large amounts of equity to attract borrowers.  

A misleading term in banking is capital.  Banks claim capital requirement will limit the ability of the banks to lend money, but capital requirements are not reserve requirement.  Capital requirements refer to equity in the bank.  Equity is a source of funding for lending, not a restriction.  With more equity in the bank, the owners of the bank will have to pay the price should the bank fail.  Banks considers equity expensive because they will have be forced to pay for the their mismanagement of risk rather than their lenders or taxpayers.  Bankers benefit from the fragility of the financial system, but it imposes costs on everyone else.  Unlike the claim of bankers that safety would hurt everyone, making banks safer would create stability without reducing lending or hurting the economy.  

Banks normally function based on maturity transformation.  Making long duration loans of high interest rates while borrowing short duration loans of low interest rates.  Most bank assets are long term which are not readily transformed into payments, which causes liquidity problems.  This problem is normally surmountable, while the problem of not having enough assets to pay loans posses economy wide problems.  

The close to certain guaranteed government bailout of financial industry creates perverse incentives within the industry.  The income generated by risky loans stays with those who made the loans, while the costs of default derived from those loans is borne by taxpayers.  As bankers keep their prior earnings from the defaulted loans, there is an incentive to produce loans no matter their quality as they will not carry the costs of problems.  The bailout guarantee also reduces the interest rate cost of bank borrowing, as their lenders know that they will regain their money should the bank default.  The lowered interest rate acts as a subsidy to the financial industry and prevents policies which would make banks safer.  The guarantee subsidies the creation of a more risky and dangerous financial industry.  

Bank regulation changes how banks behave, to either more risky practices or safer practices.  Even before repeal of Glass-Steagall, banks have been defaulting due to many problems.  Some decades saw very little bank defaults due to the performance of the rather than quality banking practices.  Banks have always been risky, but also tried to better position that risk.  Securitization which was supposed to facilitate safe practices, ended up transferring risk to others while creating more risk.  Risk does not disappear, rather, it is a matter of by whom the risk is borne on default.  

Part of the reason for bailing out banks lies with contagion.  If a bank owes debts to other institutions and goes bankrupt, it may cause the other institutions to go bankrupt as well.  The interconnectedness of the financial system can spark global economic problems. Authorities are concerned about large institutions going bankrupt, but not so much small institutions creating a need to grow big to gain a guarantee from the government.  

This book’s main solution is to have banks have more equity as it would reduce the risk that the banks cannot pay their debts and reduce their risk taking to protect that equity.  The problem with this is who owes the equity.  As the authors point out, corporations tend to fund themselves with equity and debt, while banks tend to only use debt.  Corporate equity shows that the employees, such as the CEO, do not always have the best incentives for the company as any damages would be borne by shareholders and not the CEO.  Meaning, the officers of the bank would not by necessity change their risk behavior if the equity is not owned by the officers of the bank.  Equity is seen as a panacea to all bank woes, but it can create perverse incentives as well.  

This book is an eloquent description of banking structure.  The focus tends to be on potential defaults, but that is because they are usually ignored in favor of more optimistic default-less future.  Admati and Hellwig do a wonderful job at showing ways that debt creates risk and alternatives to debt.  Making opaque the confusions created by bankers.  Exposing many arguments as misleading and fallacious.  Banks provide a fundamental service to all economies, but they also pose risks to those economies.  The incentives given to bankers should not be perversely in favor of creating costs to societies they serve as current policies do.  What is needed is to limit the risks posed without limiting the benefits they provide, which can be done with equity.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why is financial jargon confusing?
•What are some of banks roles within the economy?  How do they facilitate exchange? 
•In finance, what does capital mean? 
•What role does equity play within a balance sheet?  Does the share of equity matter?
•How does debt influence investment decisions?  Why is there debt?
•Were banks ever safe?  How do regulations impact bank safety?
•How do banks manage risk? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780691162386
Pages to read:   236
Publication:     2013
1st Edition:      2013
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

If your considering buying the book, see Princeton University Press link for info

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Review of The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Short Review


Quotes

“Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the like faculty in another.  I judge of your sight by my sight, of your ear by my ear, of your reason by my reason, of your resentment by my resentment, of your love by my love.  I neither have, nor can have, any other way of judging about them” – Adam Smith, Page 16

“Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love.  He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that think which is natural and proper object of hatred.” – Adam Smith, Page 81

“Emulation, the anxious desire that we ourselves should excel, is originally founded in our admiration of the excellence of others.  Neither can we be satisfied with being merely admired for what other people are admired.  We must at least believe ourselves to be admirable for what they are admirable.” – Adam Smith, Page 82


Elaborate Description
This book was written before the more famous writing of The Wealth of Nations, and was meant to play a prerequisite role for the latter book.  Smith expresses the complexity of sentiments, of personalities.  Observations of how people behave are at the heart of the explanations of the complicated nature of sentiments.  As this is a book about how individuals behave, it is also a book about how individuals judge others.  People judge others relative to their own understanding of the situation.  Our experiences shape the way in which we consider the impact of action.  

Situations arise that give everyone occasion for sympathy, to consider what it would be like from another persons’ perspective.  The closer the situation is to the individual the more effect it has on sentiments.  The gravity of situations far away hold attention less than minor issues near.  This and many other double standards apply to our sentiments, with another being that of joy and injury. In conversations, each can agree and disagree with issues and even find entertainment in the conversations, but what bothers everyone is if the injuries suffered go unanswered in claims of indignation.  Joy provides sympathies of joy, but grief does not provide sympathies of grief.  

An impartial spectator stalks our every word and gesture to make sure they are proper for the occasion.  Always considering what others will say or do in response to every word and gesture.  Sometimes people inspire emulation in us not only because they are admirable, but because they are admirable.  Emulation requires the impartial spectator to judge our character and conduct.  To view our character and conduct as others would view them.  To be praiseworthy so that praise provides pleasure. Rewards and punishment require their proportioned responses.  Appropriate proportioned responses are needed for justice to everyone in the situation. Unproportioned responses creates indignation.

The way everyone presents themselves creates a demand for other to see them as such.  To not only be respectable but to be respected.  The reverse applies the same as the avoidance of appearing contemptible and being contemned.  To become not only the thing that is desirable, but to be desirable.  In this gratification of vanity does the invisible hand influence the individual to advance the interest of society.  

The book is difficult to read.  Some parts are crisp and clear while others are very convoluted.  Given the time when the book was written, many words have changed their meanings making it difficult to fully grasp what the author is saying.  The power of this book lies in its observations of human actions, and although they are provided in their complexity, they do miss many critical different ways of acting.  A consistent assumption is that societies feedback will reach each individual which constrains some actions while facilitates other actions.  This assumption is often broken, and only briefly written about in the book under a different category.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What is the impartial spectator?  How does the impartial spectator influence our lives?
•Where does sympathy come from?
•How do individuals judge others?
•Why emulate others?
•Is praise enough?
•How are rules of morality formed? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781420938425
Pages to read:   230
Publication:     2010
1st Edition:      1759
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          4
Overall           3

Review of A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Writing

Elaborate Description

This book is a collection of various parts of Virginia Woolf’s diary which pertain to writing. Not a complete diary, as that would take volumes. There are many lessons that writers and readers can learn such as to apply the appropriate feelings and their weights to the text. Woolf questions the meaning in emotions in books as they are a product of the generation so are seen differently per generation. Writings is always difficult but it gets more difficult the further into the book one gets as the author tries to maintain consistency and the shape of writing. Determination not to give up is necessary for writing. Holding to ideas while beautify them with language. Depending on what is being written, some qualities need to be sacrificed in order to bring about others.

Containing many short book reviews or rather, what she thought of the book’s writing. Very critical and understanding of the content of the book. Even though it is edited to include mostly the parts on writing, many criticisms of others remain as they form appropriate expression of ideas. She expresses anxieties around reviews of her books as well. Anxieties such as not being able to sell many books or opinions of a particularly bad review of her book. Woolf tired not to be bothered by praise or blame but they did interrupt the flow of writing as she wanted to investigate the claims. There were times where she specified how many copies were sold.

As this is a diary, there are many sporadic and unrelated musings. The seemingly random musings cannot really be used against the author as this is a diary. Musings are ubiquitous and do show many of life’s moments. Many meetings with members of the Bloomsbury Group such as John Maynard Keynes. Tea, illness, passage of time, and remorse on who died are all part of the musings. Later in the book there are statements of life during the WWII and its prelude.

What can be said of Virginia Woolf is that she did not appreciate people who were insincere and dishonest as she was very critical of those aspects of politics.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780547546919
Pages to read:   353
Publication:     2003
1st Edition:      1953
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     3
Content           2
Overall           2

Review of The Dragon Seekers: How An Extraordinary Circle Of Fossilists Discovered The Dinosaurs And Paved The Way For Darwin by Christopher McGowan

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science, History
Intriguing Connections = 1) The Evolution of Evolution, 2) Earth's Flora and Fauna

Elaborate Description

This book describes the history of paleontology, geology, and evolution. A lot of the science behind the search for fossils and interpretation of the fossils is explained in great detail. Science takes time to obtain a proper findings, made even harder due to the extraction of fragile fossils and made rare by geological events that crush the dinosaur skeletons. The theory of evolution would not have been possible without the work of Cuvier in the field of anatomy or of Lamarck's theory of transmutation. Many of the fossilists held non-secular beliefs about their work which sometimes slowed down the proper interpretation and understanding of the events in the past.

The author does a very good job at presenting the information. Each key fossilist is discussed in terms of what they have found and their responses to various groups who help an interest in the field. Some Fossilists such as Hawkins, like in many if not all profession, tried to deceive the data by adding or creating parts in large amounts to the fossils discovered. Many fossilists were collectors only part time while completing their practice in medicine or surgery. Other fossilists like great Anning found and sold the fossils to various collectors through sheer perseverance and love for the fossils.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  0738202827
Pages to read:   221
Publication:     2001
1st Edition:      2001
Format:            Hardback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           5
Overall           5

Review of Deep Time:: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia by Gregory Benford

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science

Elaborate Description

Communication with the distant future is not as easy as anyone would like. As history shows, messages of the past can become forgotten or get destroyed or even misinterpreted. This book does an extraordinarily good job at identifying a myriad of things that could go right and wrong when making and sending messages to future generations. The communication difficulties described have a lot do to with providing warnings and storing messages. Warnings have to do with how we deal with waste sites. The warnings could take many different shapes but all have grave consequences should the future generation not interpret them properly. Given enough time, everything can see an end, even the human race. Saving information about human beings in space brings into question how the message will be interpreted as future humans or other beings may not, or will not, share our cultural values which would make it hard to understand what was sent. It is also difficult to identify a technology that can allow future generations to read as older technology becomes obsolete and have difficulty finding ways to read it, or it could be that different beings cannot read or see the way humans can. Something that needs to be stored and kept for future generations is life itself. Collecting genetic samples and with having potential in the future to resurrect extinct species is something that needs to be considered for diversity. The planet itself is a message that the past has sent us, and that current humans are sending to the future. How we alter the present deeply affects the planet we leave behind. Benford did a wonderful job with explain vastly different strategies and potential mishaps of sending messages.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  0380975378
Pages to read:   207
Publication:     1999
1st Edition:      1999
Format:            Hardback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           5
Overall           5

Review of Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet: A Report to the Club of Rome by Ugo Bardi

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science
Intriguing Connections = How To Allocate Resources?

Elaborate Description

The science, history, mythology, and economics are all intertwined in the story of how humans extract resources from the planet. Plants and animals have been extracting resources since life began, but only now do we extract more than the replenishment of the resources. Going from how early philosopher views of the planet being a giant life form, Gaia, providing all the resources and helping regenerated the resources once extracted, to the actual science behind the resource formation.

After gravity collected massive rock, the heavy resources sank to the core. That means that after the formation of the planet, to have the variety of resources in the mantle, the earth must have been hit by a variety of meteors. Many resources created via a cycle in extreme temperatures on the planter, while others are biological remnants.

Given the resources, Bardi goes through the history of how the resources were used. From tools to weapons to empires and money, the nuances and difficulties with extraction and application were provided. It took a lot of experimentation to find the proper application of many resources. With some regions having resources that other regions want, wars broke out.

A key to all the extraction problems is the energy needed to extract and refine them. Going from high grade ore to lower grade ones increases the amount of energy needed to extract the same amount of resources. There is a finite amount of resources on the planet, but many will still be there for ages to come. The extraction of many low-grade regions will cost more energy than the energy the resources would provide.

There are many sources from were resources can be extracted such as mines, sea, fusion, space, and recycling. Mines provide more access to high grade deposits. The sea contains a variety of resources, but separating them would be costly. With fusion, we have something of a magical machine that creates resources we need from other resources. Space rocks have resources, but most of the resources we use come from the interaction between living geological and biological formations, while space rocks are dead geologically and biologically. The resources go into the products we use, after using products, some of the materials can be recycles again, but at cost to both resource function and the amount that can be extracted. The sea, fusion, space, and recycling, can all help the industrial process continue producing high living standards, the problem is that the energy needed to extract resources from those sources, currently is or will always be much greater than the energy we get from them.

Changing production methods to reduce global warming is only part of the problem the planet it is facing. The way humans live will drastically change to the resource contrast on production. With less production, maybe pollution and greenhouses gasses will be less of a problem, but humans will still face drastic changes. The author has a chapter on a variety of ways to measure the depletion of resources, some of which have failed while other more successful. Although many models have been wrong, it does not decrease the importance of the fact that depletion is unavoidable due to the limited supply of resources. The models allow industries and people to prepare to adapt to either substitutes or limiting their use of the deleted resource.

One problem this book has is with economics. The author claims that many governments and corporations want to grow. Rather than focus on growth, we should be focusing on sustaining for we cannot grow forever with the limited resources we have. The problem is that wealth does not require extraction resources. There is no requirement for wealth producing products to be tangible. Intangible services are part of the production process as well. Although we will need to extract resources to maintain the social structure, there will be less pressure to produce tangible products that are resource intensive.

The book is heavy with science and statistics, but the author writes with a prose that is easy to read without degrading the complicity of the issues. Each chapter provides articles that are tangent to the story, but provide a different view of the concept under discussion. These ‘glimpses’ not only help make the topic more understandable, they also go deeper into a particular topic. The author does claim that humans can adapt, but adaption has a variety of limitations. Even through each resource can be used more productively such as using less of the resources per product, that is not enough to prevent major changes in society.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781603585415
Pages to read:   253
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2014
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           5
Overall           5

Review of Maxwell's Demon: Why Warmth Disperses and Time Passes by Hans Christian Von Baeyer

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science

Elaborate Description

While the perpetual motion machine breaks the 1st law of thermodynamics, Maxwell’s Demon breaks the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Even though both ideas have been proven to be wrong, their very idea helped not only define the laws of heat and their representation, but also provoke the conception of marvelous other ideas which prove to be right. This book is more than an exposition of Maxwell’s Demon. This book is about the history and evolution of the what heat is heat while containing many epistemological insights.

The battles of what heat is, took heat out of the context of chemistry and into the context of physics. From heat as a substance to heat as a motion. When heat could not be controlled with certainty, it forced the field of physics to seek probabilities. With the death of many theories came about the life of others such as the significance of heat being information. Maxwell’s Demon incapacity to break the 2nd law of thermodynamics, produced a new life in the field on information.

The book is well written but many transitions lack gumption. The authors lead the reader into the discovery of an insight, but transition is subtle causing the discovery to be underwhelming and easy to not misunderstand. Some parts of the book are difficult to understand as what seems to be simple explanation can make a sudden jump.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  0679433422
Pages to read:   183
Publication:     1998
1st Edition:      1998
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     4
Content           5
Overall           4

Review of A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science

Elaborate Description

In this book about bees you will find many social, biology, craftwork, and economics examples and understandings. Bees may be the centerpiece, what is important in this book is how bees interact with the society and how to interact with bees. Honeybees are not native to North America, they were brought to North America by Europe and spread by swarming. Too many bees in a hive will urge the bees to swarm. Swarming is a procedure whereby bee raise a second queen and then split from the hive. Although swarming is not very predictable, Hubbell tries to prevent swarming by making room in the hive for more bees. Bee swarming used to be regarded as a good thing for the beekeepers had enough bees to swarm. Now, beekeepers try to prevent swarming.

Queen bees emit a pheromone which is received by the its drones (males) and workers (female). Honeybees will attack bees from other hives as they have different pheromone. Queens job is to kill competing queens, mate with drones, and then produce more bees. There are justifications to requeen a hive, and the process is delicate. A hive seems to depend on the queen for guidance, so when the hive is not producing enough honey, it seems safer to requeen. If not enough honey is produced before winter, the bees are likely to die, while requeening can make the hive productive. To prevent the bees from killing the new queen, Hubbell uses a contraption to separate the queen form the other workers while being able to share the pheromones. After some time, the bees will acquire the pheromone and will not be aggressive towards the new queen. Worker bees can actually lay eggs as well when there is no queen bee. When the queen bee is in the hive, she exchanges chemicals with other bees which communicate that the queen bee is present causing the ovaries of worker bees to remain undeveloped.

Bees have four interesting qualities which allow them to behave and survive the way they do which are recollection of place, metabolization, eyesight, and hearing. Bees seem to remember everything precisely in about five square miles. Should their hive be moved slightly, Hubbell states that the hive is lost to the foragers. They need about a week, in a vastly different place, to forget the prior location of the hive. Bees generate heat by metabolizing fiercely. Many calories are packed into even a little drop of honey. Those calories are efficiently converted into heat. Bees go for the highest concentration of sugar and are less sensitive to sweet tastes. Bee’s vision is structured to detect broken surfaces and movement easily at the cost of making it difficult to see stationary objects. Bees perceive colors different such as being able to see ultraviolet but not the long wavelengths of the color spectrum. As Hubbell states, a plain white flower to humans appears as shimmering deep blue to a bee. The pedals on flowers are nectar guides visible to bees, but invisible to humans. Bees are not disturbed by very loud sounds, but are disturbed by vibrations in the ground.

Bees have many dangers such as diseases, mice, insecticides, and having the beehive knocked over. Overmedicating the bees to prevent disease can be too disruptive. During winter, honeybees are more docile and are less aggressive against attackers. Mice like to nest in the warm hives during winter and the bees cannot fight them back. There is a measure against mice, such as reducing the size of the entrance during winter, but that means the bees cannot get rid of their dead which causes ventilation problems. Hubbell chose to accept the problem of mice rather than the problem of ventilation. This allowed her bees to be generally healthier after winter. Agricultural work which uses pesticides kills bad insects as well as good insects. Hubbell and other beekeepers created an organization which asked those who use pesticides, to inform the organization when the pesticides will be used. With even a day’s forewarning, beekeepers can now take steps to prevent massive loss to their hives due to pesticides. There still are losses, but they are more manageable loses.

Many beekeeping practices require intervention in the beehive. These interventions make many disruptions, some radically disruptive to the hive. Hubbell gave up many practices in order to have fewer disruptions to the hive. She watches what the bees do, and then tries to create conditions which help the bees and then leaves the bees alone. Hubbell recognized that with less disruption, the hive produces more honey. Hubbell accepts that ‘bees know more about making honey’ than she does. Beekeeping practices need to vary per every region. Rainfall, when winter comes, when spring comes, soil, and types of flowers vary per region and so have different needs. What works for some regions may not work for other regions. Hubbell learns from the bees themselves what the bee need.

Beekeeping is labor intensive, requiring multiple people to complete certain tasks. As there are people who have a very bad reaction to bee stings, Hubbell prepares her helper for the stings. Hubbell stings the help with honeybees and increasing the number of stings over time. The effect reduces the reaction to the stings, and makes the help stay calm around bees as they will be used to stings. Jittery people attract more stings. For many maintenance and honey extraction tasks, Hubbell needs to calm the bees before doing the task. By sending smoke into the hive, the bees change their priority from aggression against attacker, to potential retreat from their home.

This is a marvelously written book which provides lessons for more than just beekeepers. Bees facilitate better flower growth within the communities which they locate. The product bees are known for most is honey, but not all honey is sweet and edible. Some types of honey are poisonous to humans and have been used as weapon coating in time of war. The honey depends on the flower which the bees obtain the nectar from.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781504042451
Pages to read:   132
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      1988
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           3
Overall           4

Review of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Science

Elaborate Description

Some behavior is predictable. Other behaviors are less than predictable. Dispelling many behavioral characterization myths is central to this book. Sapolsky analysis behavior using various viewpoints from neuron reactions to cultural evolution over the course of few millennia. The various viewpoints facilitate an understanding of the whole behavioral process rather than a particularly fascinating idea from an arbitrary boundary. Factors influence continuously as they are a product of what came before and will influence forthcoming factors.

Context shapes much of behavior. Aggression in a particular context can be seen as admirable, while in another context as shameful. Genes only make sense inside the context of the environment. Genes do not determine as much as normally considered and they do not command biological events. It is not hormones that influence aggression, it is a culture which rewards aggression. Hormones act mostly within the context of the individual’s environment. The brain will respond differently even with the same amount of hormonal activity depending on how it is set up.

There are no brain regions dedicated to particular behaviors or emotions. The frontal cortex is the last to mature and is the most shaped by experience. This makes human a very social species, as if the frontal cortex is meant to provide freedom from genes. Emotion and cognition may seem at times in conflict, but they are rarely in opposition. Normal function requires collaboration with them being synchronized if tasks require both components.

Self-control takes a lot of energy. When the frontal cortex works hard, it thereby uses a lot of energy, performance on forthcoming tasks declines. The brain is continuously making predictions about what is about to happen, and sometimes it obtains sensory information that goes straight to a certain behavior. The amygdala can sometimes see an object before the visual context can confirm it, as in, there are situations when the amygdala acts before processing certain information.

The book does a wonderful job at expressing prevailing myths and misunderstandings of behavior. More importantly, rather than expressing a simple version of behavior, Sapolsky expresses the complexity of identifying the meaning of the behavior. Complexity makes the book very useful to read, but many times, the way in which the author writes about the topics reduces the ability to understand the topic. Too many disjointed examples which at times include sarcasm makes it difficult to understand what the author actually wants to express. Although there are many parts which provide summaries for topics, the summaries are not sufficient in putting what has been learned together.

After identifying the neurons, genes, hormones, and cultural history which facilitate particular types of behavior, the author proceeds to show how people treat in groups and others (Us vs Them), and many other topics such as responses to authority and war. Each topic is expressed in its complexity and the various ways it is understood. Behavior still has a long way to go before it becomes more predictable.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780735222786
Pages to read:   617
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2017
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     4
Content           3
Overall           4

Review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology

Elaborate Description

Some people are different. This book shows the struggle, compensation mechanisms, and daily rituals that help those with psychological differences survive life. The difference is usually a superficial look at a person, or their action. What is seen is not really what makes up the person, for the actions they take which might not be proper for the society that judges them as poor behaviors, have other behaviors that most normal people would really love to have. The brain that has a perceived defect, compensates by being better built in other areas. Some see different worlds, others hear music, there are those who are super fast in a certain type of math patter recognition, and there are those who have an artistic hobby grander than those who train for years to obtain it. To some of these individuals their skills are a curse, and to others its a gift. For those who perceive it as a gift, do not want their mishap to go away. This book shows how different people survive in a society that deems there type of action or behavior as being really odd. That oddness is what gives these individuals the power to change society by allowing society to see itself differently. The people presented, most of them have a hard daily life. Oliver Sacks does a really good job at presenting the right details about each case, allowing for an understanding of different people.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780684853949
Pages to read:   235
Publication:     1998
1st Edition:      1970
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           5
Overall           5

Review of The Psychology Book: From Shamanism to Cutting-Edge Neuroscience, 250 Milestones in the History of Psychology by Wade E. Pickren

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology

Elaborate Description

This book shows various ideas regarding our brain and mind have are shaped. Pickren shows the circumstances that created the psychological concept including its meaning and importance. Many times, there are references to how the past psychological views influenced out current perspectives. The development of the ideas by the various individuals is a focus of this book.

Many explanations held by the past are wrong, but they helped point out problems and alternatives which future generations took. The evolution of ideas, although not central to this book, is marvelously laid out. From trying to separate mind and body, to the physiological response of how the mind can help or harm the body. Pickren points out that other fields impacted psychology, such as economics. The rise of artificial intelligence is also shown.

Most of this book is about the psychological reasoning which were developed in the late 19th to late 20th century. In some cases, the author explains that a particular view was shared by a different culture before but not in the particular manner, which points out a much bigger problem that the book is about mostly western psychology. Each psychological theory is presented with its history and explanation of what it entails, but at times, the theory itself is barely presented. This book is great survey of psychological concepts and resource for how to obtain a better understanding of the concepts.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781454927884
Pages to read:   505
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2014
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           4
Overall           4

Review of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology
Intriguing Connections: Why do people think differently?

Elaborate Description

A paradigm shifting book. Barrett defines the paradigm which held for two thousand years and still holds dominance as the classical paradigm. The paradigm gaining more scientific favor and explains more of what emotions are is the constructed emotions paradigm. The classical paradigm asserts that emotions have essence. Each emotion has an identifiable pattern in body and brain. Evolutionary fixed so that the same patterns appear no matter where the individual is from. Barrett’s expresses that humans are not passive receivers of emotions but actively construct them, thereby introduces the constructed emotions paradigm. Emotions vary in response to the same factors based on past experiences which are defined by culture. Each culture has different explanations for a set response which form what are called emotions. Emotions vary from culture to culture as they are defined by human agreement.

An expression that looks like a particular emotion, can be seem vastly different based on the context. Each emotion depends on the information based on context, culture, internal and other surrounding influences. Emotion is a category of instances with tremendous variety. An emotion is the brain’s creation to explain bodily sensations according to the situation.

As Barrett points out, emotions are a social reality. Emotional concepts are learned from culture, social agreements. The same changes within the body, such as heart rate, can have different meanings in different cultures. Experience are constructed and requires a perceiver. They live in a social reality in the presence of human perceivers. Emotion are a social reality like many human civilization organizations from occupation to government. Emotion as a concept was invented in the seventeenth century.

The brain is a predicting how to respond to myriad of internal and environmental factors. Emotions are constructed meanings which enable the prescription of action to handle sensory input based on prior experience. Past experiences are represented by concepts which enable the extraction of meaning from inputs. Without concepts, inputs would be just noise. As the brain is continually predicting, the world people experience is of their own creation only to be reined in by sensory world. Real world is secondary as believing is seeing. Our senses are not actually reactions to the world, they are largely simulations of the world. Not passive receivers but active constructors of emotions.

The brain does not only make prediction due to external needs. Prediction regulate the body budget for how much energy will be needed to the tasks. There are claims that emotions and logic are separate, Barrett shows that emotions cannot be avoided as they help regulate the body budget. If the prediction about the information is correct, the brain does not need any more energy. More energy is needed to correct the wrong prediction. Prediction errors are normal and are not a problem. Too few prediction errors prevent learning. Too many prediction errors make everything appear as a hallucination.

The classical view has it that there is a brain area dedicated to every psychological function, to each emotion. Every time a brain area was found such as an area which controls fear via people who feel no fear due to that area being impaired, there are a variety of examples of people who have the same area impaired but do feel that emotion. Research is now showing that the brain contains core systems which shape a variety of mental states. Each core system has the ability to function for various brain function.

Society shapes the concepts of everyone emotions, but everyone also shapes how society recognizes the concepts. The way we treat and speak to people shapes the micro wiring of their brain. Each individual is responsible for the predictions their brain makes as the experiences which shape those predictions can be controlled. Misunderstanding how emotions are made and which emotion should apply to a situation can cause drastic health and legal issue. Understanding that the brain makes people see things and make prediction different than others is a lesson which everyone should learn to better interact with social groups.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780544129962
Pages to read:   338
Publication:     2018
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           5
Overall           5

Review of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology

Elaborate Description

Linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, personal intelligences encompasses Howard Gardner’s list of Multiple Intelligences. No list will be conclusive as any list would depend on the type of analysis or goal which differ based on the investigators of intelligence. To qualify as an intelligence, the competence needs to have a set of problem solving skills, have the potential for growth of those skills, be localized in the brain, and be found in multiple cultures.

The intelligences can be characterized as tacit knowledge of implementation rather than prepositional knowledge of procedures. An intelligence is not a raw computational capacity, it can only be applied to the extent the individual can interact with aspects of the environment that give meaning to the intelligence. The more intelligences strengths an individual has, the more possibilities are opened. A common theme of the intelligences seems to be the importance of memory.

Intelligences appear based on domains. Certain types of domains are universal were the species needs to confront to handle the physical and social environment. Cultural domains are limited to certain regions as they are not essential for survival but enable certain social progress to made. Unique domains are limited to few individuals who have the skills enabling them to make progress in the domain, with the potential of making the unique domain accessible to others. Creativity depends on internal competence and values, available sources of study, and judgements within the field.

Each chapter shows the expression of the particular intelligence, childhood development of the intelligence, and the brain area associated with the particular intelligence. Evidence shows that the different intelligences are processed differently and can be impaired by a specific lesion. Localization of the brain for the particular intelligence occurs in different areas for different individuals.

Although the mind can handle different kinds of content, the capabilities within a content is not representative of the capabilities with other contents. As such, the author repudiates IQ tests as the tests are not testing what they claim they are testing. IQ tests are good for predicting school performance as those subjects are on the tests, but the tests miss every other forms of intelligence. IQ tests have a very limited view of what makes up intelligence and consider that there is only a single general intelligence.

The problem with this theory is the localization of the brain. Gardner mentions that all the intelligences have some interactions with the other types which cannot be explained if they are mutually independent as per the localization. Gardner dismissed many forms of intelligence as they cannot be localized, but when a lesion in the brain is found and the person still has the particular intelligence, Gardner defends the intelligence. Gardner states that the brain region can be different per individual which would go against the localization of the brain. As skills and what is admired as an intelligence is subject to change based on the time and culture of the person, if stuck to localization, it would create a host of implications which are inconsistent with localization such as inactivity in the brain or graduality of brain parts. It is more consistent to see that each person has different capabilities with some being outstanding to be called intelligent relative to peers.

Gardner expresses intelligence tests are only helpful for predicting school performance but fail at expressing other types of intelligences. The intelligences Gardner finds most salient are each provided a chapter and are given to extensive review of what it entails. Each shows a sample of people who excel at a particular type of intelligence. The focus appears to be on children as many children who show an inclination to a particular intelligence grow up to utilize it with renown. Due to the localization, it would appear that adults cannot obtain those intelligences as the particular brain region is relatively underdeveloped.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780465024339
Pages to read:   454
Publication:     2011
1st Edition:      1983
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     4
Content           3
Overall           3

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review of The Essential Wisdom of the Presidents edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics

Elaborate Description

Most quotes presented speak with such power. These quotes are supposedly the best out of all the presidents. A confirmation bias exists because there are not that many quotes in the book that represent when some presidents got it wrong. The general outlook of the book seems to be say, based on the quotes not of the author, that if only a country could get a good leader would mean the country will do good which is wrong considering that it is not the people who are dependent on the president but the president who is depended on the people. A few ways that could have made the book more interesting is by providing a general summary of what the presidents believed in terms of specific subjects. The book tends to sticks to a time line, going from early presidents to more recent but that is not always the case. Something interesting about the presidents is that earlier presidents wanted to built up the foundations of a country so that everyone can prosper and the more recent presidents tailor what they say for special interested parties.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781435126169
Pages to read:   162
Publication:     2010
1st Edition:      2010
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           4
Overall           4

Review of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics by Joseph S. Nye

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics
Intriguing Connections: To Cooperate Or To Defect?

Elaborate Description

Military and economic power have tangible assets and are part of hard power. In political parlance, hard power assets are discussed due to their measurability. With hard power, to get what one desires and the needed outcome requires a payments or coercion. Joseph Nye points out that culture, policies, and institutions are not measurable but certainly can help or diminish the ability to get the desired outcomes. These assets are part of soft power, which Nye explains in this book. At its core, soft power is attracting others to accept a viewpoint because they find it attractive. Altering behavior without commanding their acceptance. Other sources of power can have influence and persuasion is not a requirement of soft power, what matters is attraction.

Attractive ideology and culture encourage others to mobilize their own activities for the preferred goals. Using soft power in a legitimate way from the vantage of others encounter less resistance. Hypocritic, indifference, and narrow policies undermine soft power. Inclusiveness matters for others to want to partake in a particular policy or activity. For countries, inclusiveness can be simply as seeking international support for international activities. Bypassing international and committing foreign policies independently can backfire by having allies less willing to comply with requests.

Any power resource requires context to make effective use resources. Some soft power resources can encourage a particular policy but can demoralize in other situations. A policy that supports one group at the expense of another, will elicit attraction from one group and repulsion from the other. Many soft power resources are created via culture such as depicting certain people in entertainment in a particular way. How each message is screened and under what circumstances alter the outcome of any given use of resources.

An extremely eloquent book but lacks systematic explanations. Most of the book is filled with real events, and each example is given a few background details. Those few details have been selected to support the idea of soft power. The problem with the few details, is the potential for other details to drastically change the use of soft power. The lessons from where soft power work and do not can be altered based on how well the reader knows the event under observation.

Soft power becomes ever more important where power is dispersed. Dispersed power requires each decision maker to solicitate long-lasting relationships. Policies which foster cooperation in the future increase soft power assets. Joseph Nye does a magnificent job at explaining what soft power is and why it’s becoming an increasing important reason for why some countries have an easier time getting policy acceptance than other countries.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781586483067
Pages to read:   155
Publication:     2004
1st Edition:      2004
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           4
Overall           4

Review of The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations by Edward Hallett Carr

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics

Elaborate Description

Political verdicts shape how facts are seen. Political ideas are themselves a form of action. Political science describes what is and the potential changes. The focus of this book are the methods which shape the political landscape which are based on a dichotomy of utopian and realistic thought. While there is always a presence of both, the two methods are always shifting in prominence. Utopia thinking focuses on what ought to be at the expense of history and current situations. Reality thinking focuses on how history shapes what will become.

The political process is not like the realists’ vision of mechanical laws of causation. The political process is not like the utopians’ vision of application of theoretical truths from wise people. The political process is understood as a combination of utopia and reality. The division between utopian and realistic vision occurred with the break-up of the mediaeval system whose universal ethical and political system was based on divine authority. The realists used the state to substitute for the church as the arbiter of morality. The utopians denied external ecclesiastic or civil authority in favor of a secular law of nature based on individual human reason.

Utopian thought is devoted to visionary projects which a universal appeal but pays little attention to facts. The means of the vision are not analyzed as attention is mostly on the ends to be achieved. Facts are only examined should the visionary project fail. The assumptions of utopian outlook claim that the spread of knowledge would make it possible for everyone to reason for the benefit of the good. An interesting logical outcome of utopian thought is that war would disappear when people are under a republican form of government because they would not want war unlike the princes who waged war for their own interest. In this view, there is no divergence of interest in individuals or nations which thereby create the conditions of international peace.

Within the logic of realistic thought, theories are created to explain events rather than the reverse. For the realist, effective authority produces morality. Those who have a dominant voice in the community identify the communities’ interest as their own. To attack the interest of the dominant voice creates the illusion of attacking the interest of the whole community. Maintenance of the status quo is proclaimed to maintain the well-being of the community.

This book has a very powerful epistemological theme but fails to properly elaborate on the politics. Whether because of the sporadic examples or lack of context, most of the specific political claims are difficult to grasp in terms of the situation and response. The epistemology is based on Hegelian philosophy with the basic style of dichotomizing the ideas. Although there is an acknowledgment that politics is a combination of realistic and utopian thought, the author explains only the divergences and not the convergences. As in the examples are expressed as being more utopian or realistic which thereby limits effective policy making. Very little concentrated space is given what effective policy making should be within the dichotomy presented. Rather than showing a path of convergence into effective policy making, the author makes it easier to express which types of policies are realistic or utopian.

To be considered a science, any subject needs to acknowledge fallibility and understand the difference between an analysis of what is and aspiration about what should be. The realist accepts causal sequence of events which limits the options for changing reality. The utopian rejects causal sequence of events which reduces the understanding of the process in which change can occur and the change that is sought. There is a recognition that politics, morality, and economics cannot be separated as they determine who wields power.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  0061311227
Pages to read:   243
Publication:     2001
1st Edition:      1939
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     3
Content           4
Overall           3

Review of Coeur de Lion by Ariana Reines

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Poetry

Elaborate Description

A poetry book about the quest of one woman to find herself after a dreadful heart break. Reines used to book to find where she belongs, who she is, and what the prior relationship meant. Expressed in views about an eclectic mixture of events, art, and literature. This is a book about finding oneself and having the heart of a lion. This is a poem directed at a former lover.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781934200483
Pages to read:   95
Publication:     2011
1st Edition:      2008
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          1
Overall           2

Review of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness by Russ Roberts

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Elaborate Description

This books is a marvelous revision of Adam Smith's first book 'Theory of Moral Sentiments'. Roberts translates antediluvian examples which have different meaning into modern day language and examples in keeping with the original meaning. This book shows the meaning in the feedback that we get from everyone in society. The lessons that any reader can learn from this book are timeless. It seems that just attaining something has less importance than actually deserving of something. A small flaw is when Roberts makes an example that takes a lot of time to get to the purpose of it.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781591847953
Pages to read:   239
Publication:     2015
1st Edition:      2014
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Review of Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Elaborate Description

A bunch of highly intellectual essays put together into a remarkable story. Magnificent. As the story proceeds, observations led Phaedrus to questions which led the way to huge analysis of the topic in detail. Some analysis at first seem incomplete or confusing, but are then reinforced by other analysis which tie many other analysis together. The insights in this book are impossible not to appreciate. The transition from story to discussion topic to other topics back to story are so well done that they seem not to happen but that the reader understands. The flow of the analysis is extraordinarily well written. Some topics under analysis are economic order, anthropology, culture, evolution and the thing that ties everything together is value.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780553299618
Pages to read:   466
Publication:     1992
1st Edition:      1991
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Review of We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change by Myles Horton, Paulo Freire

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Elaborate Description

This book is talking book, in which Horton and Freire conversation was transcribed and edited. The central theme is the impact of education and the educator. The educator is considered an authority figure, but need to be prevented from becoming authoritative. Providing freedom with limits, otherwise the they loss the respect of students or become repressive.

How idea spread is also discussed, as the speakers try to elucidate how to spread ideas without intervening too much. Intervening too much is seem as taking away the freedom of speech of others. Telling other what to do takes away their ability to learn to do the task they need.

Both speakers have created communities around voting rights. Each discussed how they helped people obtain literacy skills which was the qualifier for voting. It seems that the major reason for the success of the community education programs that they created was due to the them first listened to what the community needed and what did not work, then created an educational program that helped the community. Taking the communities discomforts with certain types of speakers and places, both speakers help their nations become more democratic by giving the ability for more people to vote.

The book is not for everyone. The conversation was more based on Horton’s experience with Highlander, a program that educated people on how to be an activist. It would actually be wrong to call this book a conversation. Both speakers just shared their views on a particular issue and rarely did they go back and forth within a certain issue. No real disagreement or questioning their own or each other’s views. Just supporting each other and expressing the way they see the others view. There were a few instances that that expressed a belief that some people know more than others and the need to raise the knowledge of the others. Helping people learn and giving them the ability to handle tasks is good, but the expression of intellectual superiority over others contradicts their own methods of education.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780877227755
Pages to read:   273
Publication:     1990
1st Edition:      1990
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           3

Review of A Treatise on Efficacy: Between Western and Chinese Thinking by Fran├žois Jullien

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Elaborate Description

Different perspectives, the assumptions everyone uses to evaluate the world, have vastly different understandings. The Wests’ perspective is very dichotomic. Starting with the theory of what should be to the practice which always falls short of theory. Chinese perspective considers the continuous process. The interactions between factors generating the order. Dividing the world into good and evil misses the interaction between them and changes the meaning of the opposites. While the West trying to identify the ideal architype of everything, Chinese try to manage the flow of events.

The different perspectives were found most in the military references. One such reference expresses the views of generals. From the West, generals need every individual to act bravery. Actions provides honor and action is what changes the course of events. From the Chinese, generals exploit the potential of the situation. Bravery is the result of how the general utilizes the potential of the army.

For the West, action is necessary to control uncertainty of the future. Chinese try to transform or nudge the potential of events to get their results. An emergent result from diffused responses. An emphasis on waiting to let the evolution of events take course. Without action there is little to distinguish from who has done and what is done causing many to claim to be the source. Imperceptible changes but with drastically different outcomes.

The book is a very difficult read. Being a translation may have made the book slightly more difficult, but much has to do with the way it was written and the topic itself. Most examples and clarifications are from military history. History going back more than a millennium and most of the time, going back more than two millennia. Without going into detail about the history, and without a more recent context, understanding the philosophy becomes a challenge. The other difficulty of the writing is due to the difficulty of explaining vastly different ideas. Trying to explain a different way of thinking. Without prior exposure to the assumptions held by the different philosophies, expressing an understanding to them is a challenge.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780824828301
Pages to read:   201
Publication:     2004
1st Edition:      2004
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          4
Overall           3

Review of The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance by Anthony Gottlieb

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Elaborate Description

When something in philosophy becomes useful, it stops being considered philosophy. Philosophy is a mindset aimed at questioning anything and everything. Philosophers come in various forms from questioning everything to making grand dictates of certainty. Particular philosophers gained support for their views which facilitated divisions between different groups. Many philosophers simplified and made grotesque caricatures of other schools of thought which greatly influenced the way each school is perceived. Philosophy tends to be encumbered with many prevailing views of the day in order to be accepted, such as theories and observations needed to be reconciled with the regional religion. The range of philosophy covered in this book comes from different regions and eras. Starting with Greek philosophy from roughly late seventh century B.C.E., then unto Roman philosophy from roughly late fourth century B.C.E. and last to philosophy characterized by Christianity from roughly mid sixth century C.E. until early fifteenth century. The center of philosophy changed due to regional power struggles.

Many ideas from the past about motion and matter were wrong, but some are really close to how we understand the ideas today. The basis for the periodic table and many ideas from physics are successors of early philosophers. Nature facilitated some philosophical ideas such as meteor strike or salt crystals extracted from sea. These events were taken to generalizations, trying to fit these natural events with everyday life. Along with observations, there was experimentation in early philosophy but it was not systematic. Certain philosophers and some of their successors did experiment, but it was sporadic and not ubiquitous.

Philosophers came all over to Athens as it welcomed inquiry. Philosophers basing their ideas on observations were usually from Ionia. The other philosophers are now considered idealists as they were searching for the perfect such as the Platonic Form. Even though senses may not represent what is actually true, the idealists tended to dismiss senses and base their ideas on reason. Even some philosophies, it was their way of thinking about the world which caused the individual to understand and then behave in a moral and ethical way.

There are many early philosophers like Pythagoras. For the Pythagoreans, numbers were everything that made life. As Gottlieb mentions, the motivation for mathematical inquiries was moral and spiritual. Another early philosopher was Heraclitus whose philosophy sees a world of opposites. Opposites means opposition and war. Harmony is brought about by their interactions.

The term Sophist has a derogatory meaning because of the attacks of Plato and Aristotle. They are seen as having a goal to win by any means rather than seek truth. Gottlieb explains that sophist was a term for people who taught for money which would be many professions. The Sophists wanted to reinstate human experience into the complex reality, which was in opposition to Plato who wanted to move beyond everyday experience. An example of Sophists philosophy sees morality as a human construction.

Much of what is known about Socrates comes from Plato’s writing, which is tricky because Plato attributed much to Socrates which was not part of Socrates’s philosophy. Although Socrates stated that he held no firm opinions, Plato credits Socrates with many firm opinions. Socrates did not write anything down because writing does not properly portray the collaborative process of discussion and argument which leads to individual realizations. Gottlieb references Socrates dialectic as the elimination of error by debate, as a way of attaining wisdom. Within this philosophy, inefficient and immoral behavior was caused by ignorance, so knowledge became the cure. Although Gottlieb does not reference this, from the dialogue of Socrates, it seems that many of Socrates questions were anchoring questions rather than neutral questions, as in a question with an implied right answer rather than an open answer. This anchoring seems to be more of what Plato was attacking in the Sophists.

Plato’s philosophy holds that genuine knowledge as something unchanging and stable such a Form. Everything else tries to mimic these Forms. The senses provided a distorting view opinion of knowledge. Reason was the key to understanding what the senses told. Plato tried to design a seemingly perfect system within the Republic. Even within a system meant to produce the best outcomes had problems for which Plato tried to reason out. Another of Plato’s philosophical strands is proper judgment. Such as to judge something as more appropriate, a person needed to experience the potential alternatives.

Aristotle is the founder of formal logic known as syllogisms which was expanded by later philosophers with propositional logic. Intellectual debate was thought to be resolved with logic. Logic was a system which used rationality to defeat blind faith. Besides logic, Aristotle did experiments and wanted experiments to be kept from external pressure. Artificial experiments changed the subject’s behavior and made the situation more confusing.

Many schools of thought flourished after the three well known philosophers. Three schools of thought in particular held for years which were Epicureans, Stoics, and Sceptics. Epicureans thought physics and logical exercise could prevent irrational fear thereby having no obstacle to happiness. For them, inquiry was meant to end dangerously false beliefs. Epicureans philosophy was trying to live in accordance with nature, which meant the solution to problems was the need to understand nature.

The Stoics saw conventional societies values as irrelevant distractions. Their key ingredient was learning to live with the inevitable. A resigned acceptance to what will happen. The Sceptics were seen as denying reality for they questioned every observation and theory. Sceptics themselves did not really oppose observations and theories, they described alternatives for argument. Sceptics philosophy is based on the understanding that there was still much to learn. A cautionary approach to ideas as to reduce dogma.

During the medieval period of Western history, philosophy was not prolific. With the fewer philosophers, their philosophy was subject to Christian theology. The church tried to stifle alternatives, but could not prevent it. Rediscovered texts coming from the East helped facilitate the production of new ideas. Philosophy was hindered, but did not end. Many later scientists and philosophers have roots in the medieval period.

An issue with this book is that most of it is about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Within the discussion of other philosophers, Gottlieb portrays these three philosophers in them. This makes it confusing to extract what a particular philosopher though as it is tied to an explanation of another who came later. As these later philosophers have space dedicated to them later in the book, certain information should have been detailed later. Other times, there are explanations for past philosophers that are attached to future philosophers, which the explanations would have been more helpful earlier. Sometimes it was partly necessary to use future philosophers claims to express the prior philosophers’ ideas as more of their work survived in translation or original. Some philosophers survive only in the accounts of others making it hard to untangle who thought what such as with Plato using Socrates as a mouthpiece when Socrates himself would have actually disagreed with Plato’s ideas.

Gottlieb does a wonderful job at not only explaining various philosophies, but also at not going to the extremes of what is said about the philosophies from the opposition’s perspective. Some parts were more tedious to read partly because the topic itself was more convoluted. Philosophy is a general approach to trying to understand how life works. Some philosophers used it for therapy, others for political purpose. What matters is that philosophy helps ideas grow. Over time, no matter how wrong or right the idea is, the ideas influence the creation of other ideas which impact everyday life.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780393049510
Pages to read:   452
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2000
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Friday, November 13, 2020

Review of Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, Science
Intriguing Connections = What Happens Next?: Series (Artemis Fowl)

Elaborate Description

Artemis Fowl has a child’s curious mind with the authority of an adult. Every plan made by Fowl is complete with counters to any possible action of his target. An ability to anticipate many moves ahead of his target is not the only think that makes him a genius, an affinity for complex though is primary. This causes Fowl deal with most situations in a calm and collected manner. The Fowl ancestry had always been supported by the Butlers, an organization of supremely trained bodyguards. A Fowl and a Butler is a paring for life. Artemis Fowl being only twelve, his Butler takes care of all the heavy lifting. The bond between them is of trust and understanding.

The story is about the mystical People and their gold. The People, losing the war to humans, now live mostly underground. Although the People have magic, it was no advantage to numbers. The fantasy species include trolls, fairies (pixies), dwarfs, and goblins. From the People’s perspective, humans are considered mud people. Human lore claims that leprechauns hid gold. In fact, the gold is actually prisoner exchange fund which no human ever got their hands on (expect Fowl). Leprechauns are actually a misnomer, as it is a job title LEPrecon which stands for Lower Element Police Reconnaissance.

An easy read book with humor, strategy, and moral lessons. Many human actions are taken from the perspective of the People. With different ways to handle the same life issues, provide alternatives from what is. Another anomaly that the People see in humans is their inability to co-exist with others. In the fantasy society, there are problems with co-existence, but they do co-exist while humans have trouble co-existing with each other.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780439356008
Pages to read:   280
Publication:     2001
1st Edition:      2001
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           5

Review of The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, Science
Intriguing Connections = What Happens Next?: Series (Artemis Fowl)

Elaborate Description

When the LEP uncover a goblin operation, they find that a human must be involved. Due the last year’s incident, their instinct tells them that the culprit is Artemis Fowl. Although Fowl did not make deals with goblins, but has obtained information that his father is alive. The LEP and Fowl make a deal in which Fowl helps identify the humans dealing with goblins while the LEP helps Fowl rescue his father.

A complicated plot unfolds in both situations making use of everyone’s key personality traits and skills. Artemis Fowl’s quick thinking and long-term planning. Butlers strength and combat ability. Commander Root’s leadership and persuasion. Captain Short’s cunning and flying skills. Foals’ theories and technology know how. Mulch’s stealing and grinding.

Due to these events, many of the characters show depth and growth of their personalities. Willingness to forgive, accept responsibility for actions taken, and understand others positions.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780439450706
Pages to read:   279
Publication:     2002
1st Edition:      2002
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall           4

Review of The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel, Science
Intriguing Connections = What Happens Next?: Series (Artemis Fowl)

Elaborate Description

In this part of the Artemis Fowl series, Fowl’s father regained consciousness and has changed his philosophy. Rather than money being the focus of the Fowl empire, family will be. Fowl’s father wants to make the Fowl empire fully legal and known to be honest and honored. Although Artemis does question his own devious way, his fathers changed philosophy causes Artemis to believe that the he is the last hope to regain the Fowl fortune.

Artemis Fowl wanted to do one last job, which was not illegal, but had questionable actions and characters involved. The job was to extort a tech giant for money by keeping Fowl’s invention from the market for a time. The invention was so advanced that it would have made the tech giant obsolete. The invention was a cube comprised of fairy technology. Unfortunately, Fowl did not anticipate the cube scanning the fairy’s world. It was even more unfortunate that Fowl did not anticipate the tech giant’s response, who was able to steal the cube. This meant that the People and Fowl needed to retrieve the cube from the tech giant to prevent discovery of the fairy world.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781423132219
Pages to read:   186
Publication:     2009
1st Edition:      2003
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall           4