Friday, January 27, 2023

Review of The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (04/29/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Once Upon A Future, 2) How To Allocate Resources?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“No one had the heart to point out that India had also failed to meet its emission reduction targets.  And of course if total emissions over historical time were totted up, India would come in far behind all of the developed nations of the Western world, as everyone knew.  In dealing with the poverty that still plagued so much of the Indian populace, the Indian government had had to create electricity as fast as they could, and also, since they existed in a world run by the market, as cheaply as they could.” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Chapter 6, Page 31


“Tatiana gave Mary a sharp look, as if to say Please be serious.  “Nations agree to them only if they like their judgements.  But judgements always side with one side or other, so the losing side is never pleased.  And there is no sheriff for the world.  So, the US does what it wants, and the rest of us also do what we want.  The courts only work when some petty war criminal gets caught and everyone decides to look virtuous.”” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Chapter 9, Page 46


“India is now leading the way on so many issues! We remain horrified by the memory of the heat wave, galvanized, and if not unified then nearly so, in a broad coalition determined to re-examine everything, to change whatever needs changing. You see it all around you!” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Chapter 31, Page 136


Review

Overview:

This is a story of the potential consequences of environmental mismanagement, specifically climate mismanagement.  Along with ways on how people cope with the tragedies.  Stimulating a reflection upon the potential destruction, and ways that can avert the destruction.  A reflection of the psychological coping mechanisms to the destruction, the science and technology of climate management, and the global political and economic ramifications of the changes.

When India gets ravaged by a heat wave that produces havoc, a movement is started to prevent further catastrophes.  But the rest of the world is not so eager to make changes.  Even a global agency meant to protect present and future beings known as The Ministry for the Future, is hesitant to make changes as rapidly as they would like.  India starts the changes, and breaks global political restraints on methods used to battle the deleterious climate.  Years pass by with much of the world resisting changing their practices to become environmentally sustainable.

There are groups that cannot stand for the lack of change, the lack of responsibility for the environment.  These groups rise up in resistance to those who would seek to destroy the environment.  Groups that protect the environment initiate a War for the Earth.  The methods are steeped in violence, but increase the costs of producing greenhouse gases.  Creating a search for alternative means of production, without damaging the environment.  The world economic and political stance on the environment gradually changes from resistance, to persecution of those who damage the environment.  Changing the way people think, and behave in relation to their environment.   

 

Caveats?

The book is composed of various ideas and narratives.  With so many different perspectives, their transitions are poor.  The book contains various ideas from environmental science, economics, politics, and psychology.  But the ideas are not given much detail, and the way the ideas are described contain the biases of the author.  The author presents many different ideals, in resolution of a single major ideal, but they are sometimes a distraction to the major ideal. 

The science itself is simplified to promote an ideal for the climate, but there is a loss to information within that simplification.  Science rarely does not have unintended consequences, while the resolutions to the climate problem in this book appear to be completely sustainable and without negative effects. 

The ways in which policy changes in this book utilizes instrumental evil.  Doing acts of evil, for good outcomes.  The promotion of these behavior is inappropriate, and have contradictory outcomes.  Wars to end violence have historically tended to create more violence.  But in this book, this type of tyranny has created a society in which people accept that violence as righteous and do not abuse this method.  Within this book, there appears to be no problem with persecution of any dissenter from the environmental policies enacted.  Seemingly minor incidents on the way to changing policies, only bring about greater defense of the methods used to persecute those who think differently.

With global changes to the economic system, there are acknowledged major economic disruptions.  Within this book, production methods and products quickly make adjustments.  Daily life seems to be going without much disruptions.  The appears to be nothing wrong with the different economic system. 

An economic policy that is promoted in the book is a carbon coin, that pays to prevent release of carbon.  Before the carbon coin, the author berated rents.  Rents are incomes that peoples receive without doing anything.  While the rents of the carbon coin are promoted in the book without any seeming contradiction.  There appears to be nobody in this book who takes advantage of the policy.  Historically, similar policies have been used, with devastating effect.  Firms have produced more unwanted products, for which they wanted an income to prevent releasing the product.  Damaging the environment way more than before the policy.  


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What happens to India?
•What was the purpose behind The Ministry of the Future? 
•How did people cope with the travesty? 
•How has the environment been mismanaged? 
•How do political systems respond to the environmental problems?
•How does economics manage the environment?
•What technology could have been used, and was used for environmental management?
•What is the War for the Earth?
•What is the outcome of War for the Earth?
•Does violence have good outcomes?
•How to change people’s minds on the environment?
•What is YouLock?
•Who are the Children of Kali?
•What is Crash Day?
•What is the responsibility of monetary policy?
•What technology is considered or used to manage the climate?
•What is a carbon coin?

Book Details
Publisher:             Orbit [Hachette Book Group]
Edition ISBN:      9780316300162
Pages to read:       568
Publication:          2020
1st Edition:           2020
Format:                 eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3






Monday, January 23, 2023

Review of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Psychology
Book Club Event = Book List (04/01/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Every society must operate with a theory of human nature, and our intellectual mainstream is committed to another one.  The theory is seldom articulated or overtly embraces, but it lies at the heart of a vast number of beliefs and policies.” – Steven Pinker, Part I: The Blank Slate, The Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine, Page 28


“The Blank Slate has also served as a sacred scripture for political and ethical beliefs.  According to the doctrine, any differences we see among races, ethnic groups, sexes, and individuals come not from different in their innate constitution but from differences in their experiences.  Change the experiences – by reforming parenting, education, the media, and social rewards – and you can change the person.” – Steven Pinker, Chapter 1: The Official Theory, Page 31


“The mind is a complex system composed of many interacting parts.” – Steven Pinker, Chapter 2: The Last Wall to Fall, Page 72

Review

Overview:

Each society has a theory of human nature, which is rarely referenced, but shapes beliefs and policies.  Theories of human behavior range from mainly genetics to mainly social constructs.  Human behavior is shaped by nature and nurture.  Evolution coded in genetics has limited resources and ability to anticipate various complex situations, therefore cannot do everything.  Nurture coded in social constructs have physical limitations, therefore cannot do everything.  There are contexts which can be explained with mainly nurture or nature.  Social constructs like language are nurture, while genetic disorders are nature.  Within most contexts, nature and nurture work together.  There are complex interactions between genes and their environment. 

The blank slate is a reference to an extreme nurture view of the human mind.  That the human mind has no inherent structure, in which society and the individual can inscribe values.  Differences in behavior come about through differences in experiences.  By changing the experiences, can the individual change.  This implies that problematic behavior can be ameliorated.  There are limitations within this perspective.   Blank slates cannot do anything because they would not have the innate circuitry for learning or understanding.  While culture shapes thought, thought could not come about without a biological entity capable of learning.  Humans are biologically distinguishable, and are constrained in their choices.

 

More On Evolution, and the Blank Slate:

Genes cannot provide a complete blueprint.  They have limited resources, which means can only be so big.  Genes cannot anticipate the complexity of the environment and behavior of other genes.  To compensate, genes have developed a program that enables learning mechanisms such as feedback, which generate information with which to adjust behavior. 

There are many limitations of the blank slate perspective.  The mind creates a model of the world, but the model is based on the physical world.  It takes a perceiver with information to decipher patters, combine patters with priory learned patterns, and use them to obtain new thoughts that guide behavior. 

Humans have the capacity to learn, and interpret information if a myriad of ways.  With finite information processing, can an infinite range of behavior be generated.  Culture is a cumulative pool of information that enables coordination of expectations about each other’s behavior.  Genes do not create cultures, but cultures do not impact formless minds. 

Recognition of biological differences has caused many unfavorable conclusions such as prejudice, Social Darwinism, and eugenics.  Biological constraints prevent complete reshaping of human behavior, and can be seen as deterministic.

 

Caveats?

The claims about nature and nurture are sensitive topics, which garner controversy.  The author attempts to provide a more appropriate and neutral explanation for how they shape human society.  The problem is that the way in which the book is written, is not favorable to neutrality.  


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is the blank slate?
•What effects human behavior more, nature or nurture?
•What is nature?
•What is nurture?
•What is culture?
•What are the limits to the blank slate?
•What are the limits to evolution?
•What are the consequences of using the blank slate for policies?
•What are the consequences of using biological differences for policies?
•What are the conflicts of language? 
•To cooperate or defect? 
•What happens to the brain when learning? 

Book Details
Publisher:             Penguin Books [Penguin Random House Company]
Edition ISBN:      9781101200322
Pages to read:       587
Publication:          2016
1st Edition:           2002
Format:                 eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          2






Friday, January 20, 2023

Review of A Philosophy of Evil by Lars Svendsen

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Philosophy
Book Club Event = Book List (06/10/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) The Persecuted and The Persecutors

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Extreme actions undertaken by “monsters” are among the clearest ideas we have of evil.  Perhaps there really are human “monsters” in the world – and by that I mean people whose actions are so extreme that we simply can’t identify ourselves with them – but there are far too few of these to explain the abundance of human evil in general.  In the end, it is we – we normal, more or less decent, respectable people – who are responsible for most of the damage.  We’re the only explanation for all the evil in the world.  From this point of view, it is “normal” to be evil.  Of course, we aren’t eager to describe ourselves as such.  If anyone is evil, it’s always “them.”” – Lars Svendsen, Foreword, Page 11


“For most of us, the idea of evil isn’t something we associate with our everyday reality, with our day-to-day experiences and routines, but we do nonetheless come into contact with it almost constantly by means of the mass media: we are always watching and reading reports of genocide, famine, unmotivated violence, and traffic accidents, living in a paradoxical situation where evil is both absent and omnipresent – absent in our concrete experience, but everywhere in the reality we perceive in the media” – Lars Svendsen, Introduction, Page 18


“We can also look at moral evil as a possible determination of human freedom.  A world without free agents might still contain evil, but it would only be natural evil, not moral.  A world without freedom might contain an infinite amount of suffering, in fact, but only someone who could have acted otherwise can be blamed for not having acted otherwise.  Only a free agent can be guilty of moral evil” – Lars Svendsen, Chapter 2: The Anthropology Of Evil, Page 84


Review

Overview:

Most damage done through evil does not come from terrible deeds of acknowledged monsters who cannot be identified with.  Most damage comes from normal and decent people.  Although evil is not associated with normal routines of everyday life, people still have constant contact with evil through mass media reporting violence and other tragic situations.  This is a paradoxical situation, as evil is absent and omnipresent.  Absent in experience, but perceived everywhere.  Evil is difficult to recognize without a centralized identity.  Evil is ubiquitous, which is fostered by the inability and difficulty to discuss evil.  People are a complex mixture of good and evil, and need to find ways to discuss evil to find ways to fight it. 

Moral evil exists because individuals are free to make choices.  To act differently in a given situation.  Individuals are responsible for the choices that they make.  Four types of evil are described which are demonic evil, instrumental evil, idealistic evil, and stupid evil.  Demonic evil is an act of doing evil because it is evil.  Instrumental evil is using acknowledged evil to accomplish another goal.  Using evil means to accomplish a good outcome.  Idealistic evil is when a person does evil in the belief that its good.  Those who committee idealistic evil considered themselves to be the representatives of the good.  Stupid evil is committed by someone who acts without consideration for whether their acts are good or evil.  Stupid evil is not a reference to intelligence, but a reference to evil coming about through thoughtlessness, an absence of reflection.  Stupid evil is banal, and the focus of this book.  

 

An Introduction to Evil: 

Evil has become aestheticized, as imaginary evil is seen as romantic while real evil is banal.  Imaginary good is banal, while real good marvelous.  The aestheticization of evil, has caused people miss the horror associated with evil.  With an aesthetic understanding of evil, there is no actual victim, acts without consequence. 

Although the focus of this book is the ordinary evil, could not escape the contrast with the extraordinary evil.  Evil is salient in the acts committed by acknowledged monsters, whom most people cannot identify with.  But that extreme evil is limited, and cannot explain the abundance of evil.  Most damage done through evil comes from normal and decent people.  Evil is the normal, but without the eagerness to identify it as such.  Evil is usually someone else, a them.

Society has developed a gap between experiencing evil and the ability to understand it.  Outside extreme cases with clear perpetrators, there is little understanding of where evil actually resides.  Satan was a scapegoat of evil, but with the death of God, along with Satan, people have lost the ability to talk about evil as there is no representation of evil.  Some claim to want to resurrect the dualism of evil, as the opposite of good.  Others want evil renewed rather than restored.

Few deny the existence of evil, but many deny the existence of an evil person.  There is a reluctance to call even the worse individuals evil.  Evil lacks meaning if the worst individuals cannot be called evil.  An evil person can be considered those who chose to intentionally do harm.  Alternatively, evil can from acts claimed to be evil. 

People want an unconditional concept of evil, but there are a lot of conditions that make life less good.  There is no ultimate evil, only various evils.  Good and evil are relative concepts, as they contrast each other.  Evil is a characteristic of things, events, or actions.  Evil is a human social construct describing actions, and refers to suffering.  People therefore seek to reconcile with the existence of evil, and attempt to find meaning within evil.  The author argues that evil should not be justified, nor is reconciliation with evil appropriate.  Evil should be fought, not explained, nor justified.  That there is no meaning in the tragedies within human history.

Choices made by an individual are more than a sum of causes, for the person was can act freely.  Free will allows for choices outside of the chain of cause and effect.  Moral evil exists only because there is free will.  Free will refers to the ability to act differently in a given situation.  Situations in which the individual could have acted differently but did not. 

As people mature, they become culturally acclimated, they become a moral being.  A complex mixture of good and evil.  Some have more good or evil, but each is a combination.  A morally evil agent is free, without consideration the human impact.  No need for intention, for suffering can come from thoughtless action.  A thoughtless person is responsible for the evil acts because the person should have thought before the act.  Blame comes to those who could have acted otherwise.  Those guilty of moral evil are free agents.

Evil usually refers to others, a transgression done.  The incomprehensibility of evil is both seductive and repulsive.  Evil becomes practical and clear if it is considered to be anything that opposes living a meaningful and worthy life.  Understanding the evil done by normal people, can contribute to an understanding of humanity. 

 

The Impact of Evil:

Harm to the victim tends to be greater than the gain to the perpetrator.  The same act that has a profound negative effect on the victim, but an insignificant positive effect for the perpetrator.  Conflict tends to escalate because of this gap.  Even if harm to both sides is equal, each will feel to have suffered more than the actual damage done. 

Those who consider themselves to be violent, think that others are violent, with situations requiring violent responses.  Knowing ourselfs, does not necessarily mean we know others. 

There are those who like to mistreat others, without any benefits.  They enjoy it.  The desire for violence is always present, but does require an excuse to utilize.  An excuse to legitimate the violent action, and blame the action on the other.  Victims tend to act aggressively, which contributes to a tragic outcome. 

 

Fighting Evil:

Contemplation leads to a better life.  The world is hard to change, but the individual can change themselves.  Discussion with others should precede application of practice wisdom.  Moral and political questions should be held in a public forum.

Citizens within democracies are meant to protest publicly when given the opportunity.  Silence gives consent.  Participating in defining an event’s moral status is important.  Participants can increase awareness of something morally unacceptable.  Evil is not something anyone should remain neutral to.  Sometimes, that might require physical force to prevent.

Legitimacy of an order comes from it being followed.  Refusing to follow orders, also refuses to recognize them as legitimate.  Refusal is a powerful weapon. 

 

Origins and Alternatives Understandings of Evil:

Traditions of the origin of evil claim that evil is done because of: 1) seduced by malevolent, supernatural power, 2) people are naturally predisposed to be evil, 3) environmental influence, 4) people choose evil with free will. 

God’s death is a reference to how humanity has given up believing in humanities divinity.  Rather than humans becoming divine with the death of God, people not have radical contingence.  They are able to shape the history, without a guaranteed right direction.  Without God, evil has become a human problem.  Science was thought to govern progress, but that belief was lost at its own demonstrated destructive potential.

Within Marxism, God was replaced with history and humanity.  It even contains a utopian concept.  Ideas that suspend morality for a higher purpose, which in practice has led to many dead.  Historic progress overshadowed any moral considerations for Stalin’s committees.  Their moral consideration was that of historic progress.  Even believers fell victim to egregious injustices. 

Biology cannot define a moral concept of evil, because moral evil requires a choice.  Biology defines good, that which is useful for reproduction, and evil as useless.  Good and evil are not located in the genes.

Sometimes evil is contrasted to what people would do in a natural state.  But a hypothetical primitive state does not explain who people are. 

 

Demonic Evil:

Demonic evil is self-sufficient evil.  The existence of evil for its own sake.  Appears in more testimonies of victims than perpetrators.  Victims tend to think that their perpetrator is purely sadistic, but there is no related emotional relevance for the perpetrator.  Those who appear to be monsters committing evil acts, tend to be normal people without any disposition towards sadism. 

There are race cases of murders that contain autotelic violence.  Violence that is self-justifying and self-sufficient, which is demonic.  Demonic evil is disinterested, for it has no purpose beyond itself.  This is the problem with the demonic evil view, for most of the time, every desire has a component of good even if just for the agent, even though the desire itself is evil.  Evil can come about in trying to attain the individual’s subjective good goals, at other people’s expense.  Evil then becomes purpose driven, a variant of instrumental evil.  People committing evil to attain a form of good, which is instrumental evil.  Demonic evil needs to be supplemented with instrumental evil.

 

Instrumental Evil:

Morals laws subordinate sensual appetites to social interest.  Moral laws founded upon reason.  Pursuing happiness is not an immoral activity, unless it intentionally transgresses on moral laws.  For Kant, the root of evil is accepting moral law, but simultaneously ignoring the precepts.  Moral evil chooses to subordinate moral law to sensuous inclinations. 

There are those who use evil means to obtain good outcomes.  Choosing evil for another objective, for self-love.  The agent knows the different between subjective and objective good and evil, but chooses subjective good. 

For Kant, respect for moral law comes through its transgression.  Knowing the negative effect the actions have on even one’s own thoughts, provides the reason to follow moral laws.  The guilt felt for transgression leads to respect for moral law.  Knowing that the individual is free comes from the transgressions as well. 

Those who do not understand moral laws, cannot be held accountable to them.  Kant’s instrumental evil applies only to those who knew that they were committing a wrong.  Ignorance prevents people from accepting moral laws, but that can also mean that the individual is responsible for being informed of moral laws.  The problem is that knowledge of the moral laws, comes about after the violation. 

Instrumental evil needs to be supplemented with idealistic evil and stupid evil.  For it is with idealistic evil that an agent believes they are doing good.  And stupid evil is when the agent does not consider moral consequences of one’s actions.

Instrumental and idealistic evil agents both desires good.  The difference is that while idealistic evil agents desire objectively good, the instrumental evil agents desire subjectively good.  Instrumental evil agents, knows that evil is being done but chooses to commit the evil for a greater purpose.  Idealist does not know that evil is being done. 

 

Idealistic Evil:

Ideas about evil, have created evil.  Those who attempt to overcome evil, have brought more evil into the world.  Those who hate evil, do evil.  When their destructiveness rebounds back on themselves, their world view is strengthened.  Theories of evil simplify the complexity of reality to a single arbitrary opposition, with no alternative possible other than good or evil. 

Not all evil is imaginary, but much of evil has been introduced by attacking something mistaken to be evil itself. Evil love brings into the world evil.  Love of self, country, and other objects of love.  Sometimes, what is perceive to be good, is actually evil.

The attacker perceived the attacker to be the actual victim, while blaming the victim as the aggressor.  Rare when those who do evil, recognize their actions as evil.  Evil is not part of a perpetrator’s self-image.  Evil is perceived by the victim and witness.  As the perpetrator judges the victim to be evil, they consider themselves to have good motives.

In the human attempt to find meaning, action is founded upon ideas.  The ideas of good and evil are correlated with us and them.  With evil always others, and never oneself.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the dichotomy of us and them.  Even arbitrary delineation are needed for identity formation.  The problem is when the pair is interpreted asymmetrically, which is a basis for discrimination. 

Many identities are created through imagined communities.  Even though most members of different groups would not have contact with the other group members, there is still a feeling of group identity.  Even an arbitrarily chosen trait is enough to create the difference between us and them.  Trivial traits that lead to systematic discrimination.

It has often been sufficient to attack others when they are perceived to be evil.  But, others being evil does not necessitate that attackers to be good.  Both sides are possibly evil.  Not every means of fighting evil is good. 

Humans tend to group themselves for the advantages of cooperation, but too tightly knit groups can become problematic.  Individuals tend to substitute the group’s values for their own.  Surrendering individually is equivalent to surrendering the capacity of thought. 

 

Stupid Evil:

Evil can be unmasked and prevented.  Evil creates the conditions for its own destruction, or at least provokes negative emotions.  There is no defense against folly, making folly a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil.  Folly cannot be reasoned with.  Contradictions are disbelieved, or become a source for criticism or exception. 

Stupidity in this book is a reference to thoughtlessness, not a lack of intelligence.  Stupidity is a lack of judgment.   

Terrible acts can be carried out by people without sadistic motives, but for want of resolving a practical problem.  Actions that take place in a moral vacuum.  Without sadism, elements that can cause people to accept evil is by presentation, distancing, separation of labor, escalation, and socialization.  Realization of evil comes the questions about how someone could have been thoughtless, why evil was not resisted, or recognizing what one has become.  Depersonalization can dissolve politics and morals which contributes to apathy.  Apathy threatens personal responsibility and critical thought.  

Radical in this book means root, as a reference to depth.  People who speak in cliches, are superficial, and lack depth.  Totalitarian indoctrination does not create absolute conviction, but rather destroys the ability to form convictions, to destroy the ability to think with depth.  The civil servant language is a depersonalized language.  A language full of cliches to prevent the individual from thinking for themselves.  Prevents reflection.  Thinking for oneself, becomes a form of betrayal. 

Lenin and Stalin wanted to use violence against enemies of the proletariat.  The regime was meant to serve the masses, but the masses were not what the regime wanted them to be.  Violence was turned against the workers and peasants the regime was meant to serve.  Purging those they deemed an enemy.  Purges that were also ethnically and racially motivated.  The opposition to be purged was ambiguous, and arbitrarily chosen.  With time, more and more groups fit the regime’s qualifications.  The ambiguity of the enemy, did not raise questions about the existence of an enemy.  As the criteria for an enemy became less precise, and more applicable to more people, the criteria fit not only enemies but also friends and relatives.  Within totalitarian society, what is good or evil is defined by state, not the individual. 

People do not actually know what they will do in a situation, until the realization of the situation.  People are fallible, but they can hope to do what is right, and find the strength to oppose evil. 

 

Caveats?

The focus of the book is on evil.  Specifically ordinary evil, that everyone is capable of.  With the objective to fight evil, not explain it.  The author also claims that there is no meaning to be found in the history of human tragedies.  These claims create various contradictions.  Without an attempt to explain evil, without trying to find meaning in the tragedies, there can be no reflection on what evil is and what to do about evil.  The author wants reflection to prevent evil, but also undermines reflection.  Reflection of evil would mean trying to understand evil to find alternative ways of being and ways to fight evil.  Knowing how evil operates and why, leads to ways to fight and undermine evil.  Within the book, the author does seek out examples of evil throughout history, and reflects on what was found.

What is missing from the book is a systematic explanation on what is needed to fight evil without turning into evil.  To know what is evil appears to need discussion, but different groups can come up with different views about certain actions as evil or good.  As the different groups can obtain different views about what is evil or good, the different groups can have a conflict and see each other as evil and themselves as good.  This type of conflict has features of instrumental evil, and of idealistic evil.  But within this conflict, they will be doing good, because they have reflected on what that means and chose the conflict. 

A way to fight evil is by speaking up against evil.  But there are social consequences of speaking up.  The author does reference a case when people willingly did evil to others, without harming those who did not want to participate.  But the lack of apparent consequences could only have been known after the event, for the author to obtain the statistics.  The people who were committing the acts or did not want to commit the acts, would not have known the consequences in advance.  Appropriate dissent is not as easy as the author tries to make dissent out to be. 

The author wanted to focus on ordinary people committing evil, but the examples of transgressions are mainly large or with extremely outcomes.  As anyone can commit evil, what is missing is the size of transgressions. 

There are costs to reflecting about morality of actions.  Ordinary people commit evil, and are meant to use those temporary acts to reconsider ways to act.  Even as the acts are transient, socially acknowledging and trying to become better is difficult, because society can emphasize the evil done rather than the willingness to change.  This social feature escalates the cost of acknowledging the transient evil, because it can be forever claimed as a reference of an evil individual.  The cost can prevent people from acknowledging the evil, and continue to do evil. 

There is more to reflection.  The author does acknowledge that reflection does not make people good people.  They can still choose to commit evil, or mistaken their views to be good.  But there is another problem with reflection.  Reflection takes energy, while delegating decision reduces the energy strain.  Many decisions are delegated to enable the individuals to think about other things.  What this means is that not thinking about something, is not necessarily the problem of evil.  Also, it would be near impossible for an individual to consider the moral consequences of every action, for there would be no every left to actually make a decision to act.  This leads to another missing part of the book, missing an understanding of appropriate reflection methods.  


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is evil?
•What is demonic evil?
•What is instrumental evil?
•What is idealistic evil?
•What is stupid evil?
•Why is evil not discussed?
•What is aesthetic evil?
•What kind of person is capable of evil?
•Does evil need a scapegoat?
•How does a person become moral?
•Why does moral evil exist?
•What is the difference between the impact of an event on the victim and the perpetrator? 
•How does an individual’s perspective on violence influence the individual’s actions?
•How to fight evil?
•What are the different origins and thought about evil historically?
•What does God’s death have to do with human action?
•What are the conclusions of Milgram’s experiments?  What information is missing from the experiments?


Book Details
Translator:            Kerri S. Pierce
Publisher:             Universitetsforlaget
Edition ISBN:      9781564785718
Pages to read:       226
Publication:          2001
1st Edition:           2011
Format:                 Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5






Monday, January 16, 2023

Review of Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring.  They may be perfect cows, attractive cows, cows with great personalities, cows lit by beautiful light, but they’re still boring.  |  A Purple Cow, though.  Now that would be interesting.  (For a while.)” – Seth Godin, Page 3


“Most people can’t buy your product.  Either they don’t have the money, they don’t have the time, or they don’t want it.” – Seth Godin, Page 13


“The new rule is: Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.” – Seth Godin, Page 21


Review

Overview:

Marketing used to be simple.  Produce a mass product, with mass advertising, which leads to mass sales and profits.  Those products have become boring.  Products now have to become Purple Cows.  They have to become remarkable.  There might be nothing wrong with regular cows, regular business products, but they have become boring.  Purple Cows are interesting, but that interest is temporary.  Businesses need to constantly find ways to be and stay remarkable. 

Marketing the advantages of the product no longer works, for most people do not want a different product for various reasons.  They are already happy with a similar product.  They do not have the money for the different product.  They do not have time to consider the advantages of the different product.  Most people will not eagerly familiarize themselves with a different product.  Marketing now has to be combined with a remarkable product that the right people will seek out.  A product designed to target influencers, called sneezers.  Because they will spread the product or idea with an ideavirus.  Early adopters who do not spread the product are not sneezers. 

 

Caveats?

The book is comprised of mostly examples.  Not much systematic explanation of the content.  Some advice seems to be contradictory, such as claiming boring products are not remarkable, but can be.  While disapproving of boring mass produced products, but claim that they are easier to sell.  There is other empirical research indicating that the traditional advertising works.  Does not work for every product, but does work.  


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How to design a product?
•What marketing strategies no longer work?
•What marketing strategies work?
•What are Purple Cows?
•What does it take to be a Purple Cow?
•What is wrong with boring?
•What are the implications of mass designed products?
•What are sneezers?
•Why do people not adapt to different products?
•What is an ideavirus?

Book Details
Publisher:             PORTFOLIO [Penguin Group]
Edition ISBN:      9781591843177
Pages to read:       206
Publication:          2009
1st Edition:           2002
Format:                 Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall          2






Friday, January 13, 2023

Review of Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (07/22/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Whatever happened, the British needed Iraq.  Its huge grain supplies could feed the army, its proximity to oil could fuel the navy, and its location put it at the center of the land route to India.  Mesopotamia, it was hoped, would be the place where the British could stave off the Turks by setting the Arabs against the Ottoman army.” – Janet Wallach, Chapter 15: Escape to the East, Page 155


“Tribal organization remained as it had been for a dozen generations, since nomad tribes had wandered north from Arabia; the power of the sheikhs deeply rooted, tribal laws and customs held sway and tribal blood feuds provided the excuse for constant and bitter revenge.” – Janet Wallach, Chapter 16: A Remarkably Clever Woman, Page 164


“Wilson’s tactics were too harsh, Gertrude believed.  In fact, they functioned like a pressure cooker: the more he bore down on the insurgents, the more their fury increased.  But Gertrude was in the minority.  At the office she was shunned for being too soft on the Arabs; Wilson spoke to her brusquely and refused to eat with her in the mess.” – Janet Wallach, Chapter 26: The Clash, Page 267


Review

Overview:

Gertrude Bell was a world adventurer, intellectual, author, and diplomat.  Throughout the adventures, Gertrude was attracted to the deserts, to the Arabic world, to Baghdad.  Gertrude learned the language, political aspects of the society, and the tribal politics.  Earned the trust of many societies, and gained allies.  Gertrude’s activities got the attention of various politically important people.  As a skilled diplomat, Gertrude radiated confidence in any conversation with anyone no matter the place.  Gertrude provided information, but gathered more.  Leaders were willing to share information with Gertrude, because Gertrude earned their confidence.  This made Gertrude an important source of intelligence, especially during war affairs.  Many offices wanted Gertrude, but none could replace Gertrude for Gertrude understood the language, politics, and had the confidence of the communities. 

As the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating, many regions sought sovereignty.  Iraq was such a region.  Iraq did gain independence from the Ottoman Empire, with the help of the British.  The British Empire guarded the Arab Government from being overthrown by other Arab leaders.  Iraq’s leader, Faisal, had to balance extremists who did not want foreign rule, while knowing the difficulties without the British.  British did not want to give up Iraq, because they wanted control of Iraq’s oil.  With rebellions, and their retaliations, negotiations recognized Iraq’s sovereignty.  Gertrude was essential in defining Iraq’s borders and political structure. 

 

Gertrude, Relationships, Women, Family, and Finances:

Gertrude Bell had wanted to have a life partner, like other women of the era.  But Gertrude had a personality that was curious, knowledgeable, blunt, and audacious.  Gertrude’s attitude did not appeal to many.  Those who Gertrude did appeal to, were readily dismissed because they did not have the qualities that Gertrude’s desired in a partner.  There were few men who had the qualities that Gertrude sought for in a man, who also loved Gertrude, but society, circumstance, or tragedy prevented a union.  

Oxford had trained Gertrude’s mind, and facilitated academic aspirations.  Romania would train Gertrude’s manners, and facilitated diplomatic skills.  Learned Persian, and Arabic to enter the Arab world.  During the adventures, wrote books about the adventures, and did research on the societies.

Gertrude lived in an era and place were Gertrude believed that women did not see themselves equal to men, but Gertrude thought otherwise of Gertrude.  Gertrude believed that the men and women had different roles.  Women for managing children, men the country.  Women were rarely knowledge enough to contribute to state affairs. 

Gertrude would think of Gertrude’s father often.  Gertrude was financially supported by Gertrude’s father.  Who’s fortune had come from industry.  Even when Gertrude got an income from the British, it was meager.  Supplanted by a family allowance.  With family business in decline and finances being difficult, Gertrude had to become a bit more fiscally responsible. 

 

Empires and WW1:

Britain’s power came from navy, trade, and access to resources.  During the era, the British Empire took upon themselves to protect the various peoples of the world.  To spread their morality.  They did not think other nations would do that.  Bell family contributed greatly to the British Empires might, and were proud of their efforts to maintain that position.  Gertrude was an atheist, whose faith was the British Empire.  A conviction that the British are meant to lead the world. 

For centuries, the Ottoman Empire acted as a stabilizing force in the region.  Balancing Russian power in the East, and British and French power in the West.  The Ottoman Empire protected Western traders from the Arab attacks.  Corruption, greed, and management had left the Ottoman Empire weakened by the 19th century.  Having lost territories, and economic prosperity, while being forced to rely on the West. 

Gertrude understanding of various political entities provided for valuable information.  Gertrude’s reports were studied in London, and Cairo.  Studied by military and foreign offices.  When preparations for war (WW1) were being made, Gertrude recommended organizing Arabs against the Turks.  Gertrude wanted to be present in the East, but permission was denied for some time because the situation was considered too dangerous for a female. 

When traveling Arab lands, Gertrude did not consider Arab unity possible.  Tribal affairs contained a lot of violence.  But the war depended on the Arabs, and changing political circumstance made Arab unity possible.  As Ottoman economy floundered, they had increased taxation on Arabs, which was also accompanied by inflation.  Although Ottoman threatened the Arab leadership, Ottoman military was thinly spread with too many costly wars which relied on Arab recruits.  Turkish was chosen as the official language, which angered those who spoke Arabic and considered Arabic the language of Islam.  Non-Turkish associations were shut down.  These factors culminated in Arab resentment against the Turks.  With the British Empire at war with Turks, the Arabs were considered potential allies against the Ottomans. 

The Arab decision between aligning with Turks or the British was difficult.  Turks were unpopular occupiers, but were Muslims.  The British offered a different political direction, but were Christian, and against whom a holy war might be called.  What the British needed was a leader who was independent and sympathetic to the British. 

Iraq was a strategic ally, that the British needed to keep.  Iraq had productive agriculture, oil, and was a trade route to India.  Gertrude came to Iraq early 1916, for information gathering and as a liaison between various groups in need of that information.  An unofficial position for the British to gather information, and gain Arab cooperation.

Gertrude information gathering had been paramount, so much so that many offices wanted Gertrude.  Even Lawrence (of Arabia) was hoping to bring Gertrude back to Cairo.  Gertrude appreciated the work in Basrah more than Cairo.  The material was firsthand rather than a desk with paper work.  Nobody was more qualified that Gertrude due to Gertrude reading and speaking fluent Arabic, as well as local politics.  Much of the information came to Gertrude via those whom Gertrude befriended and whose trust Gertrude earned.  Without Gertrude, the sources would not come.  Gertrude did not want to leave at one point because the situation was critical, and Arabs would have thought Gertrude to be deserting them.  Locals considered Gertrude to be El Khatun (the Lady.)  Gertrude knowledge overcame sexist claims. 

 

Iraq, and Sovereignty:

In the aftermath of WW1, various regions had wanted sovereignty.  Wanting independence, and recognition of their governments.  Even using President Woodrow Wilson’s phrase of “the right of self-determination.”  Arabs no longer feared the return of the Turks as much, for their concern was for who should lead them, and by which process.  Before, Arabs worried about British rule, but began to worry about how to rule themselves. 

Egypt was a state that wanted self-determination, but the British refused.  Egyptian response was rebellion.  The rebellions acts foreshadow the potential of other such acts in other states wanting self-determination. 

British, French, and American forces could not have won the war without oil.  Oil had become a strategic necessity.  Oil was needed for national security.  They had wanted to keep control of the oil supplies.

As Gertrude knew the regions better than most, given Gertrude’s prior adventures, Gertrude defined the borders.  Gertrude was integral in the construction of a brand-new state.  Before then, there was no independent Iraq, as a political entity, or with an administration.  Gertrude also determined Iraq’s leadership, government style, citizens, and laws.  This would become an asset for England, and an entity for Arabs. 

Iraq wanted sovereignty.  Negotiations were tricky due to British refusal for constitution proposals on one side, and nationalist extremist propaganda on the other side.  Conflict and violent demonstrations ensued.  British response to the rebellions was harsh.  Insurgents imprisoned, leaders deported, residents evicted and their homes destroyed without allowing an option for rebuilding them.  A punishment used many times.  The British response incited more fury.  Gertrude was antagonistic to such an approach, but was in the minority, and thought of as being soft. 

Faisal was chosen as Iraq’s leader, after fleeing Damascus.  Faisal was integral in creating an Arab Government in Damascus.  But after two years, France refused to recognize the government’s sovereignty.  The French sent military forces into Damascus, which Damascus could not resist.

As King, Faisal relied on Gertrude’s advice.  Advice on crucial topics such as Churchill’s ultimatum.  The Arab Government had to either accept independence, but with British control.  Or the British would leave.  The British protected the Arab Government, protected Faisal from opponents that would otherwise overthrow Faisal.  Without British protection, the territory would become fought for by various others who wanted the land. 

Faisal understood the complexity of the situation.  Due to negotiating with the different sides, remained quick to change one’s mind.  Faisal needed the British, and accepted the mandate.  But due to pressures of those trying to make Iraq equal to, rather than subordinate to the British, Faisal changed Faisal’s mind.  Churchill’s mandate was required given Iraq’s status under international law.  Faisal negotiation difficulties came from trying to reassure extremists to prevent them from rebelling, and that Faisal was not recognized by the British.  What enabled acceptance of the mandate, was Churchill’s claim to have Iraq admitted to the League of Nations.  Which meant sovereignty for Iraq. 

Gertrude was humble about the role Gertrude had in the development of Iraq.  Felt that the Arab Government gave Gertrude appropriate use of Gertrude skills.  Understood the delicate confidence Gertrude had earned. 

Iraq’s sovereignty had come with a cost, the reduction in British power in Iraq.  As Gertrude was a main agent of Iraq’s sovereignty, there were those who considered Gertrude as causing trouble for the British.  Gertrude realized that Gertrude influence with Faisal dependent on a British presence.  With an acknowledged Arab government, Gertrude influence declined.  Gertrude role changed from political counselor to personal companion. 

 

Caveats?

The details provided lack depth.  They provide the contours of what Gertrude did, but not the specific details that created the forthcoming outcomes.  Sometimes transitioning between Gertrude’s life too quickly, without much explanation of the transitions.  


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is Gertrude known for?
•Why was Gertrude attracted to the desert?
•How did Gertrude gain the confidence of Arabic communities?
•How did Gertrude influence politics? 
•Where did British power came from?
•What happened to the Ottoman Empire?
•What were sources of conflict between Turks and Arabs?
•Why did the British wanted to keep control of Iraq?
•What were Gertrude’s views on romance?
•Who was Cadogan to Gertrude? 
•How did Gertrude family influence Gertrude? 
•What were Gertrude’s thoughts on other women?
•How did Gertrude help during WW1?
•How did Iraq obtain sovereignty?
•What was Gertrude’s role in establishing Iraq’s sovereignty?
•Who was Faisal?
•How did Gertrude die?
•How did the desert communities respond to Gertrude presence? 

Book Details
Publisher:             Anchor Books [Random House]     
Edition ISBN:      9781400096190
Pages to read:       385
Publication:          2005
1st Edition:           1999
Format:                 Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall          4






Friday, January 6, 2023

Review of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Intriguing Connections = 1) Some Type of Romance

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“”This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary.  Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul.  The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.”” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Page 5


“”Mu uncle said he offered you a good sum of money for the Carax book, but you refused it,” Clara added.  “You have earned his respect.”” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Days of Ashes: Chapter 2, Page 19


“”About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship.  It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.”” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, City of Shadows: Chapter 21, Page 178


Review

Overview:

There are those who protect books.  Keepers of their secrets.  Guardians who make sure that the soul of the book is kept alive by having someone, someday, read the book.  Daniel Sempere is that someone, who finds a forgotten book.  An enthralling book.  Daniel finds The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax.  But the search for more of Carax books or who Carax is leads to very little information.  But Daniel is so enamored with the book and author, that little by little uncovers the story of the author.  As Daniel tries to uncover the story, the police start following Daniel, with an inspector who threatens Daniel.  Carax books were wonderful, but sold few copies.  Most copies went up in flames at a warehouse, with rumors that someone by the name Laín Coubert burned the warehouse and any Carax books found.  But Laín Coubert is a fictional character in a Carax book. 

This is a story of secrets, and of their consequences.  For there are those that act upon knowledge they do not possess.  Creating acts of sin, through the innocence of ignorance.  Consequences not only for those who acted without the hidden knowledge, but also for those who kept the secrets.  Driving them to madness.  Creating conflict that fosters cycles of hate and violence.  A cycle kept alive by secrets.  A cycle broken by the release of those secrets.   

 

Caveats?

A part of the story is written from a different perspective, but the style is the same.  Parts of the book provide dramatic information, but details are not unnecessary.


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is the setting and era for the book?
•Who is Daniel Sempere?
•Why is Daniel interested in the source for The Shadow of the Wind?
•What is the cemetery of forgotten books?
•Who is Julián Carax?
•Who is Laín Coubert?
•What secrets to people hold?
•Who is following Daniel and why?
•Why does Daniel help Fermín, and vice versa?
•What does Fumero want?
•Why is Aldaya’s home haunted? 

Book Details
Translator:            Lucia Graves
Publisher:             Penguin Books [Penguin Group]
Edition ISBN:      9780143034902
Pages to read:       485
Publication:          2005
1st Edition:           2001
Format:                 Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall          4






Monday, January 2, 2023

Review of The Politics by Aristotle

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Politics
Book Club Event = Book List (07/08/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“The final association, formed of several villages, is the state.  For all practical purposes the process is now complete; self-sufficiency has been reached, and while the state came about as a means of securing life itself, it continues in being to secure the good life.  Therefore every state exists by nature, as the earlier associations too were natural.  This association is the end of those others, and nature is itself an end; for whatever is the end-product of the coming into existence of any object, that is what we call its nature of a man, or a horse or a household.  Moreover the aim and he end is perfection; and self-sufficiency is both end and perfection.  ” – Aristotle, Book I: Chapter 2: The State Exists By Nature, Page 59


“There is further harm in the doctrine: the greater the number of owners, the less the respect for common property.  People are much more careful of their personal possessions than of those owned communally; they exercise care over common property only in so far as they are personally affected.  Other reasons apart, the thought that someone else is looking after it tends to make them careless of it.  (This is rather like what happens in domestic service: a greater number of servants sometimes does less work than a smaller.)  Each citizens acquires thousand sons, but these are not one man’s sons; any one of them is equally the son of any person, and as a result will be equally neglected by everyone.” – Aristotle, Book 2: Chapter 3: Extreme Unity Is Impracticable, Page 108


“This too is a healthy saying, namely that it is not possible to be a good ruler without first having been ruled.  Not that good feeling and good obedience are the same virtue – only that the good must have the knowledge and ability both to rule and be ruled.  That is what we mean by the virtue of a citizen – understanding the governing of free men from both points of view.” – Aristotle, Book 3: Chapter 4: How Far Should The Good Man And The Good Citizen Be Distinguished?, Page 182


Review

Overview:

It appears natural for everyone to try and obtain the good life, to attain happiness.  The good life is more likely in associations.  Which is why people form groups, for belonging in a group enables cooperative benefits.  Hierarchies are inevitable and natural in human society.  Among the hierarchy of human associations, the apex is the state.  A state is defined by self-sufficiency that enables a sustainable continuation of the good life.  The concern is who should rule and with what justification.

Sovereignty does not confer justice on the use of sovereign power.  Those who rule are capable of committing unjust acts.  To be a good ruler requires practice in ruling.  To have knowledge and ability to rule, and be ruled.  Understanding governance from both perspectives.  Governance defined by a constitution.  There is no singular best constitution.  Constitutions depend on their place, time, and the roles of citizens and non-citizens.  To be a citizen requires participation in the constitution, in the defined manners.  As there are different constitutions, the virtue of the citizen comes in relation to the constitution they are governed by.  Being a good citizen does not equate to being a good individual.   

 

Who Was Aristotle?

Aristotle was a Macedonian, subject to the King of Macedon.  While living in Athens, Aristotle’s status was that of a resident alien.  Aristotle was not a citizen, but valued citizenship and the associated privileges.  Without citizenship, Aristotle was not a land-owner citizen in a Greek polis.  Making Aristotle aware of what the disadvantages of not being a citizen.  Generally accepted in Athens due to powerful friends, but the position of other non-citizens would not be so tolerable.

Aristotle, like others, gathered supporters by praising various poets and other literary people, who justify Aristotle’s claims.  Approximate demonstration of ideas can be found through their information, and other experiences. 

Throughout the book, each aspect of politics is judged by how they enable the state to achieve its purpose.  The results of people’s actions, and how they utilize their means.  Well-being depends on having appropriate goals, and ways to achieve those goals. 

Learning the topics in the book is valuable to enable a comparison with the readers own society.  To understand and measure the society that the reader lives in.  Without knowledge of the past, people lack awareness of how different life has been or can be.  Making them bear tyranny easier, because there would be nothing to compare tyranny with. 

 

State, Constitution, And Rulers:

A state is self-sufficient, and is not a slave to aggressors.  There are three types of constitutions which are monarchy, aristocracy, and polity.  Monarchy is the rule of one, aristocracy the rule of few, polity the rule of many.  Their respective deviations are tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy.  The deviations come about when those who rule, care more for their interest than the common interest of those they rule. 

A polity is a constitution that elects people based on merit rather than only wealth.  Aristocracy is comprised of people of quality, but so are oligarchies.  Authority in the state used to depend on citizens taking turns are ruling.  Everyone practiced looking after the interest of others.  But the benefits of public offices incentivized people to retain their role continuously.  Zealously trying to obtain an office. 

For Aristotle, power is transactional.  Each person’s political power is meant to derived from their partial claim and contribution to the common good.  There is an inverse relation between property possessed by the politically dominant, and the rule of law.  Those who hold more property, have more opportunity to seize power, and less willing to abide by the laws.  Even if power is able to be distributed among the many, only a few will have the time needed to participate in the operation of the constitution.  Laws are then made to attend only necessary meetings.

States can be ruled by the best individual, or by best laws.  Laws provide only general principle therefore need to be supplemented by a ruler with experience.  Although rulers cannot do without the general principles of laws.  Laws do not have personal feeling, unlike every human.  Laws incorporate their designers’ biases.  A government requires the laws to be obeyed.  Government by good laws is defined by obedience to the laws, but also laws which people willingly abide by. 

Stability of the constitution depends on an influential middle people, that cultivates a middle ground.  Those of extremes views benefit from encouraging the middle ground.  The rich or poor do not have cause against the middle people.  The middle people can become mediators between the parties.  Stability needs to come from the mixing people, not by tricking them.  In the search to make the constitution acceptable to all groups, the middle people provide the best method.  They become the mediator between the parties.  

Historically, tyranny came from democracies in which a popular leader was also a military leader.  Only the lack of skilled speakers prevents tyrants from arising.  Popular leaders have become those with oratory skills with an ignorance of warfare.  Tyrants are ready to make war, for this keeps them in the position of leadership.  While a monarch has friends to provide stability for political power, tyrants mistrust everyone for they do not want to share power. 

 

Citizenship, and Values:

Citizens made the polis, not the non-citizens or slaves.  Daily life, administrative duties, and various other social functions are interconnected with membership in a state.  Aristotle considers humans to be political animals, for they utilize various aspects of human society and need to contribute to the good life.

Citizens need a subordinate class to do the dirty work.  The subordinate class tends to be a source of trouble.  Alleviated by either repressive legislation, or finding appropriate behaviors between the master and slave that can form a friendship.

The noblest faculty of the individual is the intellect.  There is a moral imperative to use the faculties, for that is how the individual becomes a good individual.  Those ruled are required to suspend their reasoning faculty, and therefore cannot be considered good individuals. 

Judgment works better as a collective.  Everyone has a share of virtue and practical wisdom.  Each sees from different perspectives, and understandings.  Each understands and judges some parts, while as a collective they can judge all parts. 

 

Economics:

Life depends on obtaining at least a minimum supply of necessities.  Exchange provides for mutual needs.  Local barter maintains self-sufficiency, as well as the use of money for trade with non-Greek peoples.  The need for coined money created a demand for exporting surplus.  Interest is an unnatural mode of business. 

Sharing is needed within any association such as a state.  What needs to be resolved is how much sharing is to be done.  Too much sharing would weaken ties and attachment which can prevent everyone from taking responsibility for anything.  Solidarity has benefits, but the more owners of the property, the less respect there is for common property.  Personal property tends to be treated more carefully than common property, which they are not personally affected by.  There should be some property held in common, but private ownership should dominate.  Liberty is expressed though practice.  Abolition of private property means no liberty.  Too much excessive unification of the state has consequences.  A state providing as much unity as possible is misguided, for diversity of membership and functions is needed. 

Household-manage is meant to use and distribute goods, not acquire them.  Household management requires skills, such as knowing the proper use of tools, to enable efficacy in task performance.  Tools can be inanimate such as objects, or animate such as slaves.  Tools serve to fulfill specific function, rather than be all-purpose.  Tools have a production purpose, meant to be used to enable completion of task. 

Slaves do not possess reason, but can recognize it.  Slaves are tools used to supply essential needs.  Because the slave takes care of a variety of tasks, they enable the free individual to be able to accomplish other necessary tasks.

As hierarchies are natural, slavery can be advantageous to the slave.  Ancient Greek economy was dependent on slavery.  Although Aristotle considered slavery part of the natural hierarchy, there was opposition to slavery being against nature as it was derived by force.  Another dilemma is that the master is meant to possess a certain aspect of knowledge which justifies the status, that knowledge can also be in possession of those who are not masters.  Aristotle doubted many of the defenses of slavery, but the doubts had minor representation.

 

Caveats?

The book is difficult to read because of how the ideas are organized.  Containing antediluvian language and values.  Many values, assumptions, and claims are no longer appropriate.  The values are a reflection of the era, which can be antagonistic to contemporary values.  The values can still be used to provide a contrast for contemporary values.  There are values and concerns which still resonate. 

This book’s editor inserts background information and explanations before Aristotle’s content.  Their quality is mixed, but are often provide the context needed to understand the forthcoming information.  The information can direct the readers thoughts about the content, which can influence how the reader understands the main content. 


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 do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Who was Aristotle?
•Why read this type of book about ancient times and values?
•What is the good life?
•Why are associations natural?
•Why do people form groups?
•Why are hierarchies natural?
•What is a state?
•Who should rule?
•What are the qualities of a good ruler?
•What is the best constitution?
•What are the types of constitutions?
•What are the corrupt forms of the constitutions, and why are they corrupt?
•What are the advantages of citizenship?
•What is needed to be a citizen, and how to be a good citizen?
•How should politics be judged? 
•How is political power distributed?
•Should states be ruled by individuals, or laws?
•What determined the stability of a constitution?
•Who normally becomes a tyrant? 
•What are the qualities of collective judgement?
•How much to share?  
•What are household management skills?
•What is the use of slaves?
•What are the slaves qualities?
•Why should Greeks rule over non-Greeks?
•What can lead to divisions? 
•Should wives be shared? 

Book Details
Ancillary Author: Trevor J. Saunders
Translator:            T. A. Sinclair
Publisher:             Penguin Books [Penguin Group]
Edition ISBN:      9780140444216
Pages to read:       464
Publication:          1981
1st Edition:           351 B.C.E.
Format:                 Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          3
Overall          3