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  • Dr. Robert T. Morris: Fifty Years a Surgeon
    A clear window into many important and interesting areas of life in general - as well as medicine - in the mid-19th to early 20th century. Warts and all. Good read. (***)
  • Christopher Landon: Ice Cold in Alex

    Christopher Landon: Ice Cold in Alex
    Interesting and well developed characters, in genuinely tension inducing situations - even when the matter of "who did it" is not really a mystery. Vivid enough for the place and period - WW2 North Africa to early 1950s Britain - to come to life inside your mind. (***)

  • Karl Von Clausewitz: On War

    Karl Von Clausewitz: On War
    I read this first many years ago. The author then impressed me as being more lucid and broadly learned than many contemporary writers on this and similar areas. He still does. (****)

  • Loren Lomasky: Person's, Rights, and the Moral Community

    Loren Lomasky: Person's, Rights, and the Moral Community
    Well written, and clear. Many interesting ideas and explications of problems, but his theory itself - on a derivation of rights, seems possessed of unnecessary elements. Worth reading. (***)

  • J. B.Schneewind: Sidgwick's Ethics and Victorian Moral PhilosophyVictorian Moral Philosophy
    Details life and analyses work of one of the great figures in 19th century philosophy. Well written, gives good insight into the context of attitudes, assumptions, and circumstances affecting much of the intellectual spirit and life of Britain during those times. (***)
  • J.G.Ballard: The Drowned World

    J.G.Ballard: The Drowned World
    Another (long-time) re-read. Ballard tends to play one note - but it's a good one - and he plays it VERY well. Some uncontrolled/unforeseen calamity engulfs the world. Protagonist(s) confront general realization of the coldly impersonal nature of the world and how human responses are to a large extent a product of the interaction of those forces with his/there-own biological pre-dispositions - engraved in the structure of each and every one of their cells. And, that the true and only expression of one's authentic self and humanity, lies in how and whether one can/does inwardly accept the truth of these constraints, and expresses that realization, in those (few) opportunities available for actual personal choice. Intentionally or not his work gives powerful and poetic expression to the Existentialist perspective. The world of this novel happens to be slowly drowning in the over-heated flood-tides that result from a run-away solar anomaly. But, it could be just about any such occurrence - e.g. A "Wind From Nowhere," or the Japanese invasion of Shanghai (both of which served as the backgrounds of others among his novels). The story-line, character-types, dilemmas, decisions, and general moods are much the same in each story, but the pacing, poetry, intensity, and aggravating authenticity of the characterizations in each instance are gripping enough to make every reading worthwhile. (***)

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08 August 2008

Comments

mauve 1

I'm wondering if in saying "an attempted end run around the most basic tenet of OUR Judaic-Christian heritage," (emphasis mine) you are excluding readers whose religious heritage lies outside the Judaic- Christian. I'm assuming you truly are open to addressing your essay comments to any American, regardless of their faith. I think that's actually the case. Is it that you doubt others might be your readers? Or that only those of the J-C faiths might support your concerns?
If the word "our" in this case means "America's,"is there an implication that those unassociated with the J-C heritage did not contribute to shaping this nation? The word "our" jumped out at me as I read, and held my attention.

Reply from David Aronin
There are two facets to this comment that I wish to address. First in regards to the facts concerning the development of Western/American culture in general, second, in regards to the dictum referred in the article as the "...the most basic tenet of our Judaic-Christian heritage,"

There are things which I believe to be much worse than upsetting people over matters of "inclusion" etc. One such is the distortion of the record of history and culture in order to avoid making people feel glum. In fact it is clear that the key elements of American culture did have their origin within the framework of the Judaic-Christan heritage. Which complex - largely via the efforts of Scholars - Christian and Jewish alike - also includes the works of Greek and Roman classical antiquity.

The syntheses which are democracy/liberty, science and capitalism
have provided the motive power for the development and sustenance of the kind of society that has attracted persons from other countries - and cultural backgrounds - here for the last 200 years. And, these movements reached full fruition within cultures formed and informed by the JC heritage - and have done so there in a manner unique in world history - and in spite of the fact that other cultures - notably those of China and India - had also obtained significant sophistication (and made vital contributions) in relevant areas such as mathematics, technology, astronomy philosophy, etc.

Persons from other backgrounds are free to come and join in - and profit from - this inheritance. But, it is simply a falsehood and injustice to claim that the cultural backgrounds of such persons have had an equal part in producing those facets of this society which have attracted them here in the first place. It is an injustice both to those who have striven to develop and defend this Western/American culture - at times at the cost of their lives and fortunes - and to those who come from backgrounds outside of the JC heritage as well. Fore to do so - to perpetuate a myth of that kind in order to avoid "offense" to the later group of persons - is just another way of implying that they are too stupid and/or immature to face the truth.

In short - I respect my readers too much to think they need to be babied. And, if that is unwarranted - in general or in individual cases - I believe that, in regards to the issues I am trying to address - it is more urgent - ethically - to try and tell the truth as I understand it than to coddle those persons who may lack the ability to deal with expressions of that kind.

The other facet of these comments i am concerned with is actually that of an absence. I.e. that no mention was made in them of the actual dictum ("...of Judaic-Christian culture") mentioned in the passage in question - i.e. the "Golden Rule" variously expressed in that tradition as: "Love thy neighbour as thyself,(or "thy neighbours honour and possessions should be as dear to thee as thy own") ""do not do onto others that which is hateful onto oneself," and "do onto others as thou would have them do onto thyself."

In placing this principle in the centre of Western culture - actually of Western ethics - I freely admit to the fact that similar sayings are to be found in other traditions as well - notably those associate with Zoroastrianism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. However, as far as I know, it was in the Jewish tradition where they were first explicitly expressed and that the role of those sentiments have been more central to western ethical thinking/discussion than to that of the other cultures mentioned. This last impression being one that I am more than willing to change if presented with evidence to the contrary. But which, if correct - I suspect may be the result of the prominence of the "Law of the Excluded Middle" i.e. "non-contradiction" in Western systems of logic as opposed to those of the East (see below). And, that it was in part the resulting urgency imparted by the "Law of the Excluded MIddle" to the task of resolving apparent contradictions of all kinds that has historically placed principles - such as the "Golden Rule"in ethics or confirmation/verification in science - at the centre of scholarly inquiry of all kinds in the West.

-Dialetheism [the belief that there can be contradictions that are true] appears to be a much more common and recurrent view in Eastern Philosophy than in the West. In ancient Indian logic/metaphysics, there were standardly four possibilities to be considered on any statement at issue: that it is true (only), false (only), neither true nor false, or both. Buddhist logicians sometimes added a fifth possibility: none of these. (Both positions were called the catushkoti.) The Jains went even further and advocated the possibility of contradictory values of the kind: true (only) and both true and false. (Smart, 1964, has a discussion of the above issues.) Contradictory utterances are a commonplace in Taoism.
(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dialetheism/)

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