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Curry
Curry
by Vivek Singh
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tasty, pretty authentic curries, 24 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Curry (Paperback)
I've been cooking from this book for about half a year, and almost all the dishes I've made have been tasty. You'll need Indian and various Asian ingredients, but I had little trouble finding most of these in a big Tesco, and the few I couldn't locate there I found with little difficulty in local ethnic stores.

Some favourites include: the Laotian green prawn and dill curry, the South Indian okra and aubergine masala, the Vindaloo (one of the most layered I've tried) and the (ferocious!) Southern Thai beef curry.

While these relatively quick recipes don't demonstrate everything the various cuisines have to offer, of course, they're nonetheless vibrant, fun to prepare and a lot more nuanced than ready made sauces.


Hegel (The Routledge Philosophers)
Hegel (The Routledge Philosophers)
by Frederick Beiser
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.14

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good historically informed introduction, 12 Sep 2010
Beiser's book fulfills the aim of the Routledge series of providing contextually informed introductions to the great philosophers (it does this better than the books on Kant and Schopenhauer). In situating Hegel so well in his intellectual context, an approach which is of course fitting considering the importance of wider culture and society to Hegel's thought, he helps the reader have some sympathy with the ideas. I didn't agree with all of Hegel's speculations, but Beiser succeeds in making them never seem pointless.

Beiser sets up his detailed discussion of Hegel's arguments very well with the introductory chapters. Beiser, like most Hegel scholars, describes Hegel's motivation as the attempt to overcome the frustrations of Kantian thinking and the disappointments of the Enlightenment. Beiser does this better than most by showing how interlinked these two concerns were in the mind of a young Hegel first turning to philosophy. Hegel first aimed to be a pamphleteer for Enlightenment, Kantian values, but in the face of events like the Revolutionary Terror thought that Kant left much philosophical work undone.

The subsequent chapters fill out this programme, with Beiser always grounding the grand speculations in the concerns of Hegel's time. Beiser even makes the vaulting ideas about Geist less daunting and alien. Apparently he first developed the concept when discussing the mindset of lovers: like Geist they go outside themselves and realise themselves in another.

Beiser's excellent study is itself a persuasive case for his way of writing commentary, namely part intellectual history, part exposition of the arguments. Philosophy students will need to go on to more focussed books (Houlgate is good for the next level), but this is a rich, interesting study that you'll wish other scholars emulated.


Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Thomas Dixon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant little book, 12 Sep 2010
If you're thinking about the relationship between science and religion this is a fun and gently persuasive guide to the issues that succeeds in complicating any lazy "science vs religion" construal of the interaction.

Dixon's book, as you might have guessed, is basically a tour of the big questions in the debate. Dixon has a knack for raising big themes in a a fun way. The chapter on how science has been used to promote moral agendas does this nicely. Dixon mentions a pamphlet warning of the perils of onanism, which reports the ruinous effects of self-abuse on a person's mind and body.

Dixon's demolition job of the Intelligent Design movement is worth the price alone. Dixon traces the tendency of its proponents to hop from one "irreducibly complex" phenomenon to the next. Behe and co tend to focus on what is currently a problem in area in scientific research, only to jump to another when the mystery starts to unravel. They once talked about biochemical cascades, now they talk about the bacterial flagellum motor. In addition to exposing this dodgy use of difficulties in current research, Dixon also illuminatingly discusses the cultural forces driving what is really an American thing.


Minima Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Life (Radical Thinkers): Reflections on a Damaged Life
Minima Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Life (Radical Thinkers): Reflections on a Damaged Life
by Theodor W. Adorno
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a neglected gem, 5 Sep 2010
Minima Moralia consists of loosely connected meditations and ponderings on society and culture. Adorno was clearly an incredibly perceptive mind, and these rueful meditations observe how the wider forces of capitalism creep into the minutiae of our lives. Adorno laments the brusque and utilitarian quality of door shutting, the demise of the French brothel, as well as making broader digs at targets like revolutionary communism. Minima Moralia, and this is probably the best compliment you can pay so called critical theory, is a provocative and quite depressing work, showcasing Adorno's seemingly endless disgust toward life in capitalist society. I'd say it ranks with the works of other great provocateurs like Nietzsche and Foucault, doing the Socratic job of making us uncomfortable about how we are living our lives.

Minima Moralia is also a nice companion volume to Adorno and Horkheimer's more widely read "Dialectic of Enlightenment". Adorno's thinking is more relaxed and concrete here, showing his talent for a telling story and a wry observation. You could, rather simplistically, read Minima Moralia as a catalogue of the sort of observations that led to the Dialectic's grand theses about Enlightnement and modern reason. For those like me who found the Dialectic infuriating, this work gives you some insight into what led to Adorno and Horkheimer's rather baffling claims.


Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God
Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God
by Alvin Plantinga
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original and penetrating essays about rationality, 3 Sep 2010
Faith and Rationality is a collection of essays concerned with the rational acceptability of common garden Christian belief. It's a dense, rich book full of promising ideas that found fuller statement in the writers' later books (such as William P. Alston's "Perceiving God" and Alvin Plantinga's Warrant trilogy).

Although in these later works their thinking is more developed, and Plantinga's thinking on rationality is in quite an embryonic state here, it is still worth reading for a number of reasons. To mention only two, Alston's essay is a snappy version of his more lengthy pieces, whilst Plantinga's paper will be of interest to Plantinga nerds. (To say nothing of the other interesting essays).

The thrust of the essays is probably best described, as the introduction says, as a rejection of Enlightenment ideas. The thinkers like to tell the story of John Locke debating the great issues of the day with his friends. Locke found that while they could easily reach agreement in matters of science, when the discussion turned to morals and religion there was nothing but discord and dispute. Locke resolved to sort this out by working out what rational belief consists in. And lo epistemology was born. The writers are basically united in the view (to varying degrees) that this is a misguided and damaging project.

Plantinga, Alston and co. are part of the movement in contemporary epistemology aiming to rehabilitate our ordinary, everyday beliefs and the reasons we form them for. In this volume they argue that it's ok to believe you ate waffles for breakfast because that's what you remember eating, to believe there's a red apple in front of you because you see it there, and, controversially, to believe God made the stars as a child because this is what your parents tell you. They think these beliefs are all perfectly ok and reasonable.

If you're not a Christian you will probably feel a mix of interest and frustration. Although they have interesting ideas about perception, experience and belief formation, they never fully address whether or not Christian belief is actually true or whether the evidence really points that way. Plantinga and Wolterstorff think that this demand for evidence is as strange and unnatural as asking for watertight arguments why you believe your leg itches when it feels itchy. George Marsden captures the extent of their ambitions well in his chapter, where he draws the distinction between positive and negative apologetics: the former has the positive apologetic aims of showing that Christianity is probable, whilst the latter only aims to defend it from charges of being irrational and stupid. Their ambitions seem to only stretch as far as showing that believing in God in an everyday way is not a ludicrous or insane thing to do.

The essays delve into the theme of rationality in a quite fundamental way that goes deeper than the usual level of debate about the existence of God.


Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy)
Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy)
by Robert Audi
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to contemporary analytic epistemology, 3 Sep 2010
When I was studying epistemology I found this a useful guide. If you're looking for a whistle stop tour of the history of epistemology this isn't it, as the book is indeed only a guide to contemporary epistemology. This means an introduction (largely) to epistemology in America for the last 40 odd years, from Gettier to Goldman (no Gadamer or other European thinkers).

Other reviews on amazon.com have unfairly said this is a bad introduction, when I think the problem is that they were expecting a different book. What it does very well is guide you through the main directions in analytic epistemology, which means you're in deep waters fairly quickly. The chapters quickly descend to the hair splitting pedantry we know and love of analytic philosophy, such as whether it is right to call thinking there are leaves in the garden because you see the leaves an instance of believing and perceiving or just perceiving.

Audi's book argues for a certain thesis and is not just descriptive. In arguing carefully and quite persuasively he shows how credible a modern, nuanced kind of foundationalism can be, which makes you wary of the rhetoric about the demise of foundationalism popular in the humanities. Audi and other modern foundationalists do not think that the sciences need to be anchored in absolute certainty, but do think that our beliefs have definite sources. (For an introduction from the other coherentist side, look at Jonathan Dancy's introduction).

This is a very well organised and clear guide to what is basically a dry and very abstract subject.


Kierkegaard: An Introduction
Kierkegaard: An Introduction
by C. Stephen Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.24

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction I know of, 3 Sep 2010
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When studying Kierkegaard this year I spent too much of my time trying to find a decent introduction to the thinker. Patrick Gardiner's Very Short Introduction is alright for what it is, but perpetuates some quite outdated misreadings of his thought (even the old faith involving believing two contradictory things at once chestnut). Evans provides the contextual information to dispel such mistakes, in this case by saying that the word contradiction is just an allusion to Hegel. Kierkegaard is just thinking of the tension between two contrasts, like the tension in King Lear between a King's nobility and his abject suffering, so Kierkegaardian faith is not trying really hard to believe something daft.

Evans has been publishing articles about Kierkegaard in philosophy journals for decades, but this is more than just a loosely stitched together collection of articles. Evans is always clear, dry and good at providing the examples needed to connect Kierkegaard's abstractions to life. One nice example of this is the connection Evans makes between Kierkegaard's idea that it is impossible to wholly escape the ethical through immersion in the aesthetic with the experience of addiction.

This is an elegant introduction that fills a gap in the Kierkegaard literature nicely.


The Radical Orthodoxy Reader
The Radical Orthodoxy Reader
by John Milbank
Edition: Paperback
Price: 25.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A collection of vibrant Christian theology, 3 Sep 2010
This volume is a genuinely interesting collection of book chapters and papers from a (let's face it) marginalised discourse. I found it bracing to read Christian theology with a bit of p*ss and vinegar, when the front of intelligent Christianity is usually feeble and conciliatory (a la Rowan Williams).

Radical Orthodoxy is basically a vision shared by a number of thinkers, which is usually taken to involve two main theses: that secular, liberal society is vacuous and intellectually incoherent, and that orthodox Christianity is the answer to modernity's ills. The volume follows this pattern with savage attacks on modernity coupled with loving riffs on the wisdom of Christian doctrine. Although such a brash manifesto might remind you of fundamentalist rhetoric, the vision is cashed out in very subtle arguments. Milbank's chapter from his book "Theology and Social Theory", for instance, offers a deconstruction of secularity, arguing that what presents itself as a neutral public space where religious differences are set aside is in fact anything but. It gets really interesting when Milbank makes connections between the texts at the intellectual roots of secularity and Christian doctrine (gone wrong). At one point he even says that the liberal man was first imagined in the image of a heterodox Christian God.

There are other excellent essays, my favourite is probably Catherine Pickstock's loving meditation on the eucharist taken from her "After Writing". Pickstock argues that the church's practice of the eucharist outwits both post-modern scepticism and reductive positivism; both the position that there is nothing behind appearances and that there is nothing but appearances. There is divinity behind the wafer and the wine, but it's not something you can see or pin down. Pickstock thinks that, in this way, the logic of the eucharist offers a way for language to have meaning.

I should also say that the essays are, for the most part, painfully difficult. This difficulty is for good and bad reasons. It is partly due to the subtlety of the arguments, but also just because of the style in which they are written. This is less true of Graham Ward, William Cavanaugh and to an extent Pickstock, but Milbank's essays are torture. Critics say Milbank is showing off to his postmodern buddies, but in his defence the problem is largely to his habit of cramming a new idea or two into every sentence.

In short, this volume shows interesting Christian theology is being written (yes, it is out there). If meditations on topics like the implications of invoking the eucharist for post-structural language theory interest you, then you'll find this book challenging and imaginative.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 20, 2011 12:39 AM BST


Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry
Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry
by Bernard Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an inspired study, 1 Sep 2010
The book is a highly original and quite ingenious study of Descartes' thought that makes its own philosophical contributions.

However, I find it strange to see this recommended as an introduction, since its exposition of the arguments is really quite subtle. At times Williams engages in involved debates with other figures in the Descartes literature, and I doubt the beginner wants to read a critique of Hintikka's construal of the cogito argument. When I was reading Descartes as an undergraduate I found John Cottingham's excellent "The Rationalists" helpful as an entry level study.

Although Williams' style of writing is, as another reviewer pointed out, rambling the book is organised in a clear thematic way. It starts with Descartes' method of doubting all the beliefs he has inherited from tradition, then later chapters cover the arguments for God's existence, for the mind's independence from the body, and so on. The discussion is usually meandering and subtle, with Williams pondering questions like how appropriate picking bad apples out of a barrel is as a metaphor for methodological doubt.

The book is so rated by philosophers not for its learned readings, however, but for its own ideas. Without giving too much away the argument goes that a broadly Cartesian view of knowledge might be necessary for intellectual investigation to make sense at all. Williams puts it vividly at one point by saying that in Descartes we need the guarantee of what the world looks like to God as an anchor for our investigations.

Lastly, I should say that this is difficult reading, as you'd probably expect from a book concerned with such abstract and conceptual themes. Despite this, as a student I found it refreshing to see a commentator so clearly in love with the texts showing how resourceful and subtle they remain, when the thinker's reception is usually an impatient bashing.


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