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A. I. Mackenzie "alimack" (Glasgow, Scotland.)

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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Good on moral Psychology but lacking otherwise, 26 April 2012
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This is a decent read Haidt knows his stuff and writes well, his major thesis is that there are six moral 'receptors' rather than the two that the dominant moral philosophies allow (Utilitarianism and Consequentialism).
When Haidt is on home ground he's at his strongest, he makes a very convincing case that we instinctively decide on morality and then rationalise afterwards.

However he significantly simplifies to the point of distortion both Deontology and Utilitarianism and never mentions Virtue Theory. He basically defends Hume's sentimentalist theories. He seems to think that Mill only allows harm as a moral arbiter when what Mill actually said that the government could only intervene to prevent harm. He also completely misses the point of Kantian ethics, includes an as hominem argument which is a disgrace and never actually notices that duty ethics means we have moral intuition which we should follow (in fact Haidt's theories seem to be a sub set of Kantian ethics to me).

This leaves the arguments somewhat lop sided, saying that people aren't economic calculating machines has become the new standard theory - see Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, and Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions books, so it's not exactly news.

There's also a chapter where he argues that social conservatives have the right moral balance, unlike say classic liberals or Libertarians, the insight that he seems to miss is that a society consisting of only conservatives would never progress, and that a mix of types is critical. The question is how to avoid the extreme polarisation which we have seen in the last 20 years or so.

There's an interesting chapter on Religion which argues that religion is an evolved group effect and he accurately skewers Dennett and Dawkings on this account.

There is a personal subtext to this book which is that the author has drifted right in his political views as he's got older and seeks to justify his changed mind, the book's at its weakest during these points.

So an interesting read, but he's largely ignorant of ethical philosophy and the book suffers on that account.

by Ben Masters
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ah, Mate .. give it a miss, 28 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Noughties (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I thought this would be a comedy look at the transition form student life to 'real' life. Unfortunately it was unexpectedly depressing with very little comedy.
The strong points were good writing and a strong sense of the central character, the weak points were that the central character is totally unsympathetic and the writing tips over into the pretentious and occasionally overwrought.

The premise is the the big last night out at Oxford Uni for a group of friends of Eliot Lamb, split into the three acts of pub, club and nightclub. A lot is told in flashback - basically it's the full three years that whips by.

So not at all what I was looking for, student life isn't this depressing or it wasn't for me. The story stuck with me, though. Better luck next time.

Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma
Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma
by Eric Saward
Edition: Audio CD

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Diehards only, far too long, 26 Mar. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This story is battling against the poll vote placing of last out of 200 stories in Doctor Who Magazine (Stories up to Planet of the Dead), so it's got its work cut out.

Unfortunately Eric Saward decided what was wrong with this story was that it was too short, and a frankly 25 minute story at best has been dragged out over 3 hours or so.

The whole plot feels like a mcguffin except when the elements are arranged, nothing's done with them. The twins are kidnapped and then do NOTHING apart from squawk in righteous indignation. Their back story is misjudged too - a father wanting to kill his kids is probably nothing new but it's not played as comedy and leaves a sour taste. There's lots of pointless detail, with a rushed resolution.

Also I dislike Colin Baker as a narrator and the scripts language is hammy and scientifically inaccurate. This story deserves its poor reputation and the Audio extended treatment is slow torture.


Wittgenstein (Blackwell Great Minds)
Wittgenstein (Blackwell Great Minds)
by Hans Sluga
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent book on an overrated Philosopher, 5 Mar. 2012
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The book starts by going over the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Routledge Classics)and the Philosophical Investigations and it's very good at teasing out small ideas from better known ones. There is a bit of a weakness in that you need the original books beside you as you read this text as it doesn't really requote the text. The Tractatus is also oracular in the extreme, and a little more help might well be useful.

However I should be clear and say that I don't think much of Wittgenstein as a Philosopher, as Sluga says repeatedly Wittgenstein was a man at the crossroads. In my opinion he took the wrong road. His main idea (to me) seems to be that
Philosophical problems are caused by misuse of language - I couldn't disagree more.
Philosophical problems such as ethical problems exist external to language, a question such as 'How should I live a good life' is difficult to answer and can't simply be analysed away. I admit that in Metaphysics you run up against the limits of ordinary language but that's not at all the same as saying all Philosophical problems are caused by language errors.

Wittgenstein's influence on analytic Philosophy was pretty disastrous, as he was responsible for the following schools/ lines of thought: Logical Positivism, Behaviourism and Ordinary Language Use.
Logical Positivism tried to get rid of Metaphysics with very little success - Metaphysics always creeps back in.
Behavourism follows on from Wittgenstein's idea that there can't be any Private Language, he seems to miss that subjective states are not shareable by their nature.
And Ordinary language just wasted a lot of Philosophers' time, studying use is unproductive at best and turns into stamp collecting at worst.

Given all that, I think Sluga does a good job at picking up Wittgenstein's incomplete and poor ideas but unlike a lot of Philosophers, Wittgenstein seems to be given a free pass and not hammered for his ambiguity, obfuscated writing style, intellectual bullying and numerous errors and I'm not sure why. He could possibly bring out the dependence on Nietzsche and Schopenhauer a bit more too, both better Philosophers and writers. Wittgenstein borrows freely from both of them but never credits anyone. So a decent guide and useful if you need to write essays on Wittgenstein but if you have a choice I'd start with other Philosophers.

The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
by Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing, not a patch on Feynman, 13 Feb. 2012
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OK, so I've got a Physics degree lurking in my background from 20 odd years ago and I found this book quite hard work. In fact I think I was at Manchester about the time Brian Cox was there.

They decide to use the 'clock' approach to explaining Quantum mechanics which they've borrowed from Richard Feynman, unfortunately they're not as gifted as him.

I found this approach really confusing, I read the epilogue first about the black hole or Chandrasekhar mass limit. This was great, I always love astronomy and a practical application of the Physics was really interesting. However the bulk of the rest of the book is too abstract and impractical for my tastes. It gets better as it goes along. I found the rejection of Philosophy implied in the text quite irritating too, they use Popper's verification Principle at one point without crediting him, which they would never do with a scientist. My own opinion is that the best scientists are good Philosophers, and only mediocre scientists need to rubbish other fields.

So intermittently worth reading it improves as it goes along, Feynaman's QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Penguin Press Science) is much better.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2015 9:15 AM GMT

Amo, Amas, Amat... and All That: How to Become a Latin Lover
Amo, Amas, Amat... and All That: How to Become a Latin Lover
by Harry Mount
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant ramble through Latin, 13 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I really enjoyed this, it's a chatty breeze through Latin sentence construction with lots of stories in-between and a useful phrase section at the back.
It's primarily aimed at old lags like myself who once studied Latin but have forgotten everything except something about 'all of Gaul being split into 3 parts'.
It might also be useful for a bit of light relief for current students of Latin.

It's not meant as a serious primer as he says in the book you want Kennedy's Revised Latin Primer Paper for that. It actually made me want to learn Latin again, even though I was never that good at it.

Appillionaires: Secrets from Developers Who Struck It Rich on the App Store
Appillionaires: Secrets from Developers Who Struck It Rich on the App Store
by Chris Stevens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable book - no quite what the title implies, 30 Jan. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a good book, by an actual app developer.
The content is broken up into chapters covering the launch of the iPhone and then every chapter covers an app that has made it big on the store.

The first thing to understand is that it's really not that easy to make substantial money as an indie developer (Apple of course make 30% of each sale).
Getting your app up and noticed is the hardest bit and then all of the developers here went through several versions before they 'hit the big time' and some have risked bankruptcy - notably the Angry Birds developers.

Then there's the chance of being hit by a law suit from the patent trolls who have recently appeared.

So the chances of making a fortune on the App store are slim, but this book will give you several stories of people who have gone ahead of you.if you want to try.

Doctor Who Serpent Crest 1: Tsar Wars
Doctor Who Serpent Crest 1: Tsar Wars
by Paul Magrs
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a big improvement, 19 Dec. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The team behind these audio adventures seems to have kicked in for me and this is much closer to the old school Tom Baker of the seventies.
The basic premise is that the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey are kidnapped and taken by a robot based aristocracy to look after an ailing prince (as others have remarked it's pre Russian revolutionary ).

I found it much more exciting than some of the previous adventures which were more macabre and less sci-fi. I know plausibility is relative but I found myself being drawn into this one and enjoying the setup.

So I would say this is definitely worth a look, and I look forward to the rest of the set.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2015 10:51 AM GMT

Apple iLife '11, Family Pack, 5 User (Mac)
Apple iLife '11, Family Pack, 5 User (Mac)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected, 12 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The price of this has dropped amazingly since its release.
However it is also available on the App store as single apps (minus iWeb and iDVD) an d is slightly cheaper to upgrade a single component.
Note that you can't buy iWeb and iDVD on the App Store, so the disk is the only way you can get hold of these if they're not already installed on your machine. I won't review either iWeb or iDVD as they're unchanged since iLife '09.

Apart from a major upgrade bug in iPhoto, the apps went on both my machines OK. (iMac and Macbook both 2007 vintage).

On Lion this makes a lot more sense - you lose some features on Snow Leopard such as full screen. The edit tools are much the same - but the automatic red eye remover is really good, I used to have to to this manually often but not any more. The strip under the pictures is good too.

Not much changed to be honest, the trailer feature is fun but a bit of a gimmick and apart from a sound feature there's not much new here.

Don't really use this, some nice new lessons with more feedback might tempt me to.

So apart from iPhoto not a lot of new features, however the main problem I had was during installation - I installed and then went to software update ans upgraded 9.0 -> 9.2.0 -> 9.2.1. DO NOT DO THIS, it basically wrecked iPhoto on a day when I needed my laptop. The correct update is to install, then open iPhoto accept the software update to 9.1 and then upgrade to 9.2.1. This is very poor, as it required a major amount of fiddling around with to fix (using AppCleaner). Apple should have fixed it, and this is the first time I've seen this with an Apple application upgrade.

So worth buying, I think if you have Lion probably as long as you avoid the upgrade pain. I like the new iPhoto although I appreciate this is heresy(!)

The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism
The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism
by Colin Crouch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good analysis, weak on solutions and written in very solid jargon, 23 Nov. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There is a great book in here, Colin Crouch has written a good analysis of the current dominant ideology of our times.

He points out the weaknesses of the current 'Chicago' school of economics which maintains that the market fixes all problems. He analyses the distortions of the market caused by monopoly players and the various imperfections of information transfer that cause the real economy to deviate from the ideal situation. He's very good on all this and ultimately it's clear that the market performs poorly in situations where there are natural monopolies or where there isn't a clear job or profit to be made. His tables on p-30 and at the start of Chap 4 are excellent and really summarise the weaknesses of the market-led approach.

However the book isn't for the general reader, it's very dense with jargon and a slow read. He also doesn't supply much in the way of solutions, the firm becoming more politically engaged (almost quasi government) is one idea but he doesn't really follow it up. It's clear things are broken but more advice on how to fix them would be good.

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