Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Profile for vincent ryan > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by vincent ryan
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,934,383
Helpful Votes: 32

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
vincent ryan

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
The Uses of Pessimism & the Danger of False Hope
The Uses of Pessimism & the Danger of False Hope
by Roger Scruton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Liberal Review..., 13 Mar. 2012
There is a lot to be said for this book, and this is coming from someone who disagrees quite a bit with many of Scruton's positions. He is ever reasonable and rarely shrill, which is perhaps as a result of years of being on the receiving end of emotive attacks, and shrill character assassinations, from what I have gathered. His writing is clear and engaging. I don't necessarily agree with many of Scruton's conclusions, but I do like the way he goes about defending our collective right to elaborate, to debate and to draw our conclusions, an old fashioned liberal value.

I found most agreeable his meditations on transhumanism. He offers the best and most eloquent response I have yet to read on what we stand to lose in terms of our human nature if the dream of radical life extension ever comes true. His reflections on human connection, affection, love and friendship between fragile, finite beings is both sensitive and moving.

Elsewhere he establishes a principle of conservatism that I have not come across before. In effect it is that if some practice has earned its place in society through tradition then it must have value, to have survived and to have been retained over the years. Following from this the burden of proof lies on the reformer to defend why it should be changed. This is an interesting principle I think.

Scruton's criticisms of the European Union project is very even handed and targeted. It is easy to see similarities between his criticisms of communism, fascism and the EU commission's plans and diktats. It has become harder to question the undemocratic juggernaut that the EU has become, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, and not sound like a loon. Scruton's position puts him on the far right of euro scepticism, yet many of his criticisms are reasonable.

Scruton's praise for the common law, democracy, decency and moderation, acquired over many centuries, that we enjoy living in now, is well articulated and argued for, and is a solid reminder to not take a good thing for granted.

There is a lot more of merit in this book. It really is packed full of interesting points, which force you to think. However, I have to take issue with a few things Scruton has to say before concluding. His attitude to homosexuality lets him down and are frankly offensive. However, most homosexuals would probably dismiss Scruton as a grumpy old foggy who is so overwhelmed by the tide of tolerance as to be safely ignored, so perhaps no foul. Secondly, he seems convinced that multiculturalism is a total failure. I disagree. It's a mixed bag, like most things. For the good, we now live in a much more diverse world with lots of cross pollinating influences and challenges which we can grow as people from. And the food is better.

My final criticism of Scruton is that he fails to address the growing inequalities of our time. He posits that freedom must trump equality, but should it absolutely? Is it not that growing inequality, that causes much suffering, is often the result of political choices that are not "for freedom" but rather for greed? I don't think he examines the seeming dilemma between freedom and equality deeply enough. There is a principle even more basic than equality, namely fairness, that could have been examined in this context. So this is an area that I would greatly disagree with Scruton's treatment. However, we would be doing it within a background of agreeing on many fundamentals I suspect, based on reading this book.


Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World
Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World
by Barbara Ehrenreich
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book but with at least one important omission, 7 Aug. 2011
Having just finished Smile or Die and I have to say I found it a joy to read. It is impeccably well researched and written in a balanced, engaging way. The only point I would call referee on is Ehenreich's seeming conviction that antidepressants have been perfected and that talk therapy has been finally displaced by them.

As an instance of this, I quote her on page 149 (of my 2010 UK paperback edition) as saying, "Effective antidepressants had become available at the end of the 1980's and these could be prescribed by a primary care physician after a 10 minute diagnostic interview, so what was left for a psychologist to do?" She elsewhere acknowledges that the US currently consumes two thirds of the world supply of antidepressants (page 3). It's strange that she doesn't ask the obvious question: if antidepressants are so effective then why is the US not the happiest and most mentally balanced place on earth? Why, as antidepressants are been prescribed like sweets, are mental distress rates going through the roof in recent years there? The jury is still out on the benefits and limitations of currently available antidepressants at the time of writing.

The corollary of this is the omission of an examination of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), as another reviewer has noted. CBT is a mainstream psychological treatment that is a lot older (dating to the 1970's) and much more influential (currently it is highly regarded by national and international health organisations) than positive psychology. It has a lot of empirical studies attempting to measure its effectiveness against other talk therapies and against medication for a variety of mental disorders. The cognitive aspect of it is heavily invested in thought monitoring and thought management. It seeks to identify and replace various 'negative' thoughts (which, according the theory, 'cause' negative feelings) with broadly 'positive', constructive thoughts. For instance, check out David D. Burns' "Feeling Good" to see this presented. Most crucially, it locates a person's mental problems in the person's own head, and places the burden on the patient to "work on" and "fix" their own "faulty" thinking patterns. Although CBT is more sophisticated than the more dumbed-down positivity streams, it bears some striking resemblances to this conceptual gene pool. This is right in the territory of Ehrenreich's book, but it is overlooked.

Crucially, CBT typically balances the cognitive "thought monitoring/thought management" aspect with an action orientated behavioral therapy element. This is closer to where Ehrenreich sees the right location for one's energies to be targeted, albeit she would urge community-based collective action while CBT usually urges individualist efforts. A critical review of this topic and its place within her thesis would have been fitting, but we will have to seek it elsewhere it seems.


Men's Health: 15 Minute Workout [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Men's Health: 15 Minute Workout [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by dawlishboy
Price: £43.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work out video, 29 July 2011
I got this DVD free with a copy of Men's Health magazine (UK) some years back. I still think it's one of the best around that I've seen. Perfect for doing in the morning before breakfast when you are tight for time. It works for motivation, because you know that you'll be done in 15 minutes (and if you want to do more it'll be a bonus). There are 4 programs, each with a different emphasis (full body, lower body, strength and cardio combined and another I can't recall). So you can do a different one each day of the week or stick to one you like and hone that.


The Happiness Trap (Based on ACT: A revolutionary mindfulness-based programme for overcoming stress, anxiety and depression)
The Happiness Trap (Based on ACT: A revolutionary mindfulness-based programme for overcoming stress, anxiety and depression)
by Russ Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great approach to mental health, 14 Jun. 2011
I am currently reading The Happiness Trap for the second time and I now work with an excellent ACT therapist. It's making a real difference after years of struggle with depression. Just read a sample chapter if you doubt this book's caliber. It is cutting edge. Thank goodness this has finally come along. Move over Freud, 21 century psychotherapy is finally arriving...


The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading: A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Persuasive Psychological Technique in the World: A Comprehensive Guide to the ... Manipulation Technique in the World
The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading: A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Persuasive Psychological Technique in the World: A Comprehensive Guide to the ... Manipulation Technique in the World
by Ian Rowland
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate debunker of myths, 8 Jan. 2011
I stumbled upon this book a while ago and I was really surprised. I didn't know that such a book existed. It was a revelation. First of all it explains in detail the techniques that cold readers (fortune tellers, psychics, channelers) use that are so impressive. These same techniques that make believers see "proof" that a person has special powers, and that make skeptics wonder, ok, he's not really psychic, but how did he know that? It doesn't skim either, it really explores each technique and how it can be applied, so it is quite meaty. The book furthermore explains how anyone can practice these techniques and get results, for those who are interested. Finally it gives a sequence of steps that can be applied to debunk any cold reader. The strange thing is that the book doesn't seem to be very well known. With so many books about psychics and horoscopes of one kind or another filling our bookshops, Rowland's book it an impressive contribution to critical thinking. This work would be right at home in any skeptic's book shelf.

If this book was taught in schools (preferably as a part of religion class), a whole generation of kids would grow up a little less gullible about horoscopes, tarot cards and salesmen.

The only criticism I would have is the price. Bloody expensive. I got my copy for free, luckily


Stumbling on Happiness (P.S.)
Stumbling on Happiness (P.S.)
by Daniel Gilbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas written in style, 16 Dec. 2010
This book is about how we try to predict the future and how we think we can predict what will make us happy or unhappy.
Or rather it is about how we mis-predict the future.

Gilbert brings our attention to the ways in which our brains have hard wired blind spots in regard to various things, especially our ability to accurately forecast which is the best path to take in our decisions. This I found to be a good accompanying volume to Dan Gardner's book about risk (Gardner looks at our psychological blind spots around evaluating risk, hence the title.)

The book's format treads a line between being a scientific report on the finding around prospection, and that of a human speaking to another human both with a big vested interest in the subject, i.e. happiness. It works for me. Everything he talks about is coming out of scientific studies so this is not armchair self help. It is a scientific review of latest findings that the reader can muse over and it would make for interesting discussions. He certainly doesn't preach the one true road to happiness, rather he explores the findings and lets them speak for themselves. If anything his conclusions are tentative and discursive rather than dogmatic, as you might expect. I see that Malcolm Gladwell liked the book, and i can see why. There is some similarities in their styles, though Gladwell is still the master for me, stylewise.

In conclusion, this book illustrates that we tend to feel far more sure of what we want than we deserve to think, and we are prone, by nature of being human, to fall into patterns of error regularly. Our brains are designed in very specific ways and it doesn't hurt to be aware of these blind stops, so we can perhaps take them into account more in our decision making.


The Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer and Throttle Your Inner Child
The Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer and Throttle Your Inner Child
by Pearsall Paul
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In self help recovery..., 16 Dec. 2010
Hilarious!

As someone in "Self Help Recovery" myself, I found this book very valuable. I'm gradually realising how damaging self help can be. As has been said before, the only way to get rich/successful/happy from a self help book is to write one.

Not as hard hitting as it could have been, but some excellent points.

We have grown too obsessed with feeling good/fulfilled all the time and are far too self-absorbed a generation. And both these things paradoxically can get in the way of contentment.

A self help book to help you get past self help books. Oh the irony of it!


Light Mind: How Mindfulness Can Enhance Your Daily Life
Light Mind: How Mindfulness Can Enhance Your Daily Life
by Padraig O'Morain
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.45

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice addition to the mindfulness library, 24 Nov. 2010
I bought Padraig's book recently and an about half way through it and I have to say I am enjoying it. There are a lot of good writers out there who write about mindfulness, Kabat Zinn and Tolle to name just two, but this book is still a good addition. It's another angle on the age old Buddhist message, but like all fingers pointing to the moon, its all about how the ideas and practices are transmitted. Here Padraig's conversational style is uncomplicated and very easy to follow. I feel it kind of second guesses questions the reader will naturally have when beginning practice and it tries to address these. His writer's voice carries through and is reassuring. All in all a good introduction for people new to mindfulness and meditation, and a solid addition for those of us who already are familiar with the terrain but welcome a refresher course. Well written. Recommended.


Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear
Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear
by Dan Gardner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Malcolm Gladwellesque effort..., 10 Aug. 2010
Another Malcolm Gladwellesque effort... and I don't mean that as a criticism (the Gladwell style is extremely engaging).

This is a good book. The first chapter was a bit dull and some of the referencing is shoddy, and that looses it one star, but the other four stars are fully earned. I read this on holidays and it was great food for thought, not to mention optimism, which is a central theme.

It's easy to lose sight of the good things in life that we have now, when all the talk seems to be of decline and a descent into a new barbarism.

As a guy on the far left once put it (Noam Chomsky), we need to strive to practice "intellectual self-defense" in the face of the avalanche of propaganda we face daily. And as another guy, this time on the far right (PJ O'Rourke) said, "In general, life is better than it ever has been, and if you think that, in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single word: "dentistry."


Page: 1