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June 2017

July 2017

Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians

Becoming Fire!: Spiritual Practices for Global ChristiansBecoming Fire!: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians by Bruce G. Epperly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This will now be my go-to introduction for spiritual practices. It is a lively discussion of spirituality rooted in Christianity but informed by spiritual practices of other faith traditions. And a handy guide for spirituality in progressive church.

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After the Wrath of God

After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American ReligionAfter the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion by Anthony M. Petro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best written non-fiction books I've read. This is the author's first book, so I look forward to reading what he writes in the future. According to his bio at Boston University his next two book projects look equally as interesting.

This book is about the religious rhetoric used during the early years of the AIDS crisis and how that rhetoric shaped public policy. This is a fascinating study exploring how left, right, and center developed moral language to grapple with the crisis. The study refutes any reductionistic notions of religious conservatives versus secular leftists.

The final two chapters discuss Cardinal O'Connor and ACT UP's confrontation of him. Reading those chapters made me very angry at the Cardinal.

In the final section the author explores how AIDS and gay activists developed their own religious and moral language, but he left me wanting more. I hope that comes in subsequent books.

Also, while he does treat of progressive Christian responses, they don't get as much discussion as conservative responses. This is probably because conservative responses dominated much of the public health debates at the time.

Petro is a keen intellect and engaging writer.

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Rational Choice & Cold War Philosophy

With market fundamentalism dominating the US government, and with phantasms being paraded in the media under the sobriquet of ‘alternative facts’ that you can choose or reject, forgetfulness of the McCarthy era and the Cold War philosophy it spawned is no longer a rational option.

This fascinating essay on Aeon discusses the rise of rational choice theory in the context of the anti-communism of the early Cold War and how its theory about the freedom of choice came to dominate American philosophy.

I have never heard this history and was glad to read it, though it is deeply disturbing.  As a pragmatist I had long been troubled by the abandoning of America's philosophy in the post-War period as analytic philosophy was embraced.  Twenty years ago, had I entered full-time into the philosophy profession, I had considered researching and writing a book on this history and recovering our philosophical tradition.  I did not then realize, nor did I realize until today, the role that Cold War politics played.

Nor did I understand how this philosophical shift underlies some of the political problems we currently endure.


Moderation

A nice essay on the ethical and social importance of moderation.

Although our democratic institutions depend on political actors exercising common sense, self-restraint and moderation, we live in a world dominated by hyperbole and ideological intransigence in which moderates have become a sort of endangered species in dire need of protection. Can we do something about that to save them from extinction? To answer this question, we should take a new look at moderation, which Edmund Burke regarded as a difficult virtue, proper only to noble and courageous minds.

 


Neutrino's

One reason I reject reductivist materialism is because it seems to be an empirically bad description of physical reality. Physical reality (as Whitehead noted long ago) is more complex than the reductivists claim. As this view about neutrinos demonstrates.

 


The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyable to read a science fiction novel where the Cultural Revolution is the background. Also one so full of actual science and not just a fantasy set in space. The long section during which the protagonist plays a video game that serves as exposition wasn't fully my cup-of-tea, but I did rush through the book, intrigued by where it was going. And I'll likely read the other two in this trilogy.

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Panpsychism

When I was writing my dissertation almost twenty years ago and defending a panexperientialist physicalism, I was considered to be on the wild fringes.  Now it seems that an even more radical idea, panpsychism, is en vogue, according to this post by Marcelo Gleiser.

Is this coherence an accident or the product of something deeper, perhaps some kind of proto-consciousness that permeates the universe and gives it purpose? This is the question many physicists, cognitive scientists and philosophers have been asking lately, leading to a sort of reawakening of panpsychism.


I Am Abraham Lincoln

I am Abraham LincolnI am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this book at the Lincoln Memorial so ordered a copy for my son when I returned home. I read it yesterday and cried while reading it, moved by its story of compassion, kindness, and justice.

When I ordered I discovered that it is one of an entire series, and so I ordered two more and will probably order even more of them.

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