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George R Dekle (Lake City, FL United States)

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Introduction to Classical Legal Rhetoric: A Lost Heritage (Applied Legal Philosophy)
Introduction to Classical Legal Rhetoric: A Lost Heritage (Applied Legal Philosophy)
by Michael H. Frost
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Look at an Old Discipline, 3 July 2007
Over 2,000 years ago the Greeks and Romans worked out pragmatic principles of advocacy which are as applicable to the modern courtroom as they were to the Areopagus or the Forum. Prof. Frost has done superb job of demonstrating this in his excellent work. Quintilian wrote that a lawyer's presentation should be lucid, brief, and worthy of belief. Prof. Frost's work achieves all three of these qualities. The practicing attorney would do well to read this book, and then delve into some of the Classical works it cites. Cicero's "De Inventione" or the anonymous "Rhetorica ad Herennium" would be good places to start.

Two minor criticisms of the book: 1. Prof. Frost cites to the Classical works using standard legal citation style. It would have been more helpful if he had used the citation style of Classicists and historians, citing to the book, chapter, and verse of the ancient authors. 2. He spends more time on the written aspects of advocacy than he does on the oral. Classical rhetoric was nothing if it was not an oral discipline. There is a need for another book applying the Classical rhetorical principles to the trial court rather than the appellate court.

Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History?
Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History?
by Maurice Goguel
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Paradoxical Book, 3 July 2007
Goguel wrote this book back in 1926 in defense of the historical verity of Jesus and his resurrection. It has been reprinted by a printing house that specializes in books hostile to the Christian faith. The introduction to the book touts it as evidence against the historicity of Jesus because Goguel admits the strengths of the arguments against Jesus' historicity and admits the weaknesses of the arguments in favor of Jesus' historicity.

Goguel does admit the strengths of opposing arguments, but feels, as I do, that his counter-arguments defeat them. Goguel further is willing to admit the weaknesses in his arguments. Such honesty is refreshing. On balance, he makes a strong case for Jesus as an actual human being whose Messianic ministry was cut short by Pontius Pilate. He also makes a strong case for Jesus' disciples sincerely believing and honestly reporting that they had seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion.

Why is Goguel being reprinted by a group that specializes in publishing anti-Christian rhetoric? Because, although he accepts the Gospels as historically accurate, he rejects them as literally true. He subjects the resurrection accounts to a most rigorous examination and comes away with conclusions which should please neither militant disbelievers nor militant believers.

Much debate falls into the error of false dichotomy. Either it's one way or the other with no alternative. Either you must vote Democrat or Republican in the next presidential election--nope, there will be other names on the ballot. Either the Gospels are fairy tales or every word of them is absolutely true--Goguel sees this as a false dichotomy, but he sees more truth than error in the Gospels.

Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome
Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome
by Rodney Stark
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough Statistical Analysis of the Rise of Christianity, 3 July 2007
A lot of historical scholarship consists of perceiving historical phenomena and then working out plausible explanations for the phenomena. Such explanations are largely untested, but they often become accepted as "historical truth" when they are little more than "just so stories." The example from the final chapter of Schlesinger's "huge upswell" of popular democracy during the era of Andrew Jackson is a case in point. Going back and counting the votes from previous elections shows that the voter turnout in the Jackson era was actually lower than many previous elections.

It is all well and good to devise hypotheses to explain historical events, but they should not be accepted as truth unless they can be tested. Stark undertakes to test a number of historical hypotheses relating to the rise of early Christianity, and does so through statistical analysis. This entails a lot of spadework, but the results are worthwhile.

A lot of Stark's findings validate many of the hypotheses of previous scholarship, and this should lead to no controversy. A lot of his findings invalidate the hypotheses of "cutting edge" Biblical scholarship, and this should mean that Stark's book won't be profiled on prime time television.

Some of Stark's more interesting findings are: (1) Orthodox Christianity, not "Gnosticism" or some other "Lost Christianity" was the original form of the religion. (2) "Gnosticism" was a loopy, lunatic fringe blend of paganism and Christianity. (3) Orthodox Christians did not persecute paganism into oblivion. (4) Pentecost most likely did not result in 3,000 newly baptized Christians, but simply 3,000 wet Jews and pagans. (5) Paul did not invent Christianity and actually had very little to do with the spread of Christianity throughout the Empire. (6) Paul was much more successful in converting Jews to Christianity than in converting Gentiles. (7) Hellenized Jews provided large numbers of Christian converts during the first four centuries of Christianity.

Stark's writing, as always, is entertaining, educational, and thought provoking.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2009 3:17 PM GMT

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
by Richard Bauckham
Edition: Hardcover

70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Scholarship -- Intriguing Speculation, 3 July 2007
This book sets out to establish that the Gospels compare favorably with other historical and biographical literature from the Classical period, and it makes an admirable case for that proposition. The author recounts the methods of Classical historians and biographers and posits certain literary conventions they used to warrant the accuracy of their text. He then turns to the Gospels, finding that they not only conform to good Classical historiographic methodology, they also make use of the Classical literary conventions warranting accuracy.

Basically, he finds that Classical historians highly valued eyewitness testimony as a basis for their works, and that the Gospels showed the same care to base their accounts on eyewitness testimony. He also demonstrates how, through the use of Classical literary convention, the Gospels identify the eyewitnesses to the various events they recount.

Bauckham engages in a statistical study of the names of minor characters mentioned in the Gospels, and his findings should raise more than a few eyebrows. It is a complex study, but the bottom line is that the statistical distribution of names of minor characters validates the historical accuracy of the Gospels.

Bauckham also tackles the identity of the Beloved Disciple, drawing parallels between the Beloved Disciple's relationship to Jesus and Porphyry's relationship to Plotinus. Porphyry was a disciple of Plotinus who wrote a biography of that philosopher, and whose self-portrayal in that biography mirrors the portrayal of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel. Bauckham identifies the Beloved Disciple as the author of the Fourth Gospel and the three letters of John, and names the Beloved Disciple as John the Elder of Ephesus, a young Jerusalem disciple of Jesus who was not a member of the Twelve.

Interesting reading, to say the least.

Truth, Knowledge, or Just Plain Bull: How to Tell the Difference
Truth, Knowledge, or Just Plain Bull: How to Tell the Difference
by Bernard M. Patten
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Libertarian Logic, 3 July 2007
Patten gives a good exposition of a number of different ways that people can go wrong with their thinking. The problem is, in his book he himself commits almost every one of the logical errors he so lucidly defines. He decries overgeneralization and then goes on to discuss how all lawyers are liars. "Attorneys as a group are people who like to twist the truth and make things seem real that are not. They are advocates. Bending the truth is part of their business." p. 135. Granted, some lawyers bend the truth, but so do some authors. Patten talks about truth value in pp. 28-29, and pontificates that all scientific knowledge is hypothetical and tentative because inductive reasoning is hypothetical and tentative. Karl Popper, in "Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge" (Routledge Classics) posits that the essence of scientific knowledge is that it is potentially falsifiable. That's why we have the theory of relativity and the theory of evolution, because there is always the possibility that data will be discovered which will falsify the theories. But then, when Patten talks about the theory of evolution, he passionately tells us that it "is a fact, not a theory." p. 196. Ironically, in the next paragraph he tells us that the more passionately something is believed, the more likely it is wrong.

Patten decries partial selection of the evidence, but the book abounds in examples he gives where he has partially selected the evidence in order to arrive at conclusions congenial to his predetermined libertarian agenda. He confronts and "solves" numerous knotty conundra in a few paragraphs where experts have devoted volumes to the problems without a clear resolution. One example of this is his two page treatment of the trial of Jesus. Libraries have been written on this subject. E.g. "The Trial and Death of Jesus" by Haim Cohn; "The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth" by S.G.F. Brandon; "The Six Trials of Jesus," by John W. Lawrence. His exposition on the trial betrays his total lack of insight as to the issues. Per Patten, Jesus stood trial because he told the truth about current conditions among the Hebrews. p. 195. The Gospels suggest a number of reasons for Jesus' trial -- his claim to the son of God, his claim to be Messiah, his cleansing of the Temple, his raising of Lazarus, the fear of the Sanhedrin that he would provoke a tragically unsuccessful uprising against Rome -- but not the reason stated by Patten. It is quite a coincidence that Patten divines a reason for Jesus' trial which is so congenial to Patten's libertarian agenda. Time and again Patten does this, cherry-picking his facts to make his superficial analysis coincide with his preconceptions.

Patten warns the reader to watch out for reasoners who have a hidden agenda, but he himself appears to have a hidden agenda of validating his libertarian views by putting them in a book on critical thinking and passing them off as good examples of critical thinking. Two much better books on critical thinking are "Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking" by Browne & Keeley, and "Thinking about Thinking" by Antony Flew.

Did Jesus Exist?
Did Jesus Exist?
by G.A. Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.00

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Try but No Cigar, 3 July 2007
This review is from: Did Jesus Exist? (Paperback)
Wells has made a cottage industry of questioning whether Jesus existed. In addition to this book he has written "The Historical Evidence for Jesus" [1988] and "Who Was Jesus?: A Critique of the New Testament Record" [1989]. At one time he seemed willing to admit that Jesus actually existed around 200 BC ("The Jesus Legend" [1996]), but he apparently has reconsidered with "The Jesus Myth" [1998].

In this book he takes the position that Jesus was invented by Paul, embellished by the catholic and pastoral epistles, and placed in somewhat of a final form by the Gospels. The pagan mystery religions, with their dying and reborn divinities, served as a model for Paul's Jesus, and from there Jesus sort of morphed into a quasi-historical figure by the process of reading Biblical prophecies and making up details of his life to fit the prophecies.

Wells begins his argument by noting that the extra-Biblical testimony to Jesus is both sparse and late. Later on, however, he admits such a one as Jesus would likely have lived under the radar screen of widespread public awareness. He completely rejects both of Josephus' references to Jesus as Christian interpolations. Scholars generally agree that Josephus' longer notice of Jesus has been reworked by Christian copyists, but they use the second, less complimentary reference as evidence that the first was reworked by Christian revisionists. See
"Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament." Wells then tries manfully to show that when Paul speaks of meeting the brothers of the Lord, he is using that term metaphorically and doesn't really mean that they were actual brothers (or half-brothers, or step-brothers) of Jesus. In so doing he manages to turn in as fine an example of straining at a gnat to swallow a camel as can be found in Biblical interpretation. He takes the fact that Paul voices opinions compatible with Jesus' teaching without attributing them to Jesus to mean that Paul knew nothing of the earthly Jesus. As I demonstrated in my reference to straining at gnats, it is quite possible to echo Jesus' words without attributing them to him. (See Mt. 23:24). As Wells grudgingly admits, absense of evidence is not evidence of absense. Although Wells argues strenuously, without citation of evidence, that the incidents in Jesus' life were invented to fulfill Bible prophecy. What is much more likely, and what we can find evidence for having happened in other circumstances, is that actual historical events get interpreted as having been prophesied by earlier writings. Nostradamus is a fine example of the phenomenon, where his ambiguous verse gets twisted to fit every major happening in current events. I distinctly remember a noted psychic claiming on television that the Watergate scandal was prophesied in Nehemiah, because it refers in chapter 8 to a water gate. It is much more likely that Biblical prophecy was interpreted in light of historical events than that quasi-historical events were made up to fulfill Biblical prophecy. Wells mentions Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (70-156), in order to date the writing of Matthew and Mark, but never deals with the evidence that Polycarp was a student of one John, an apostle who knew Jesus. Again he mentions Papias (60-135), but never deals with Papias' personal acquaintance with an apostle named John nor with Papias' statement that he collected reminiscences of Jesus by eyewitnesses to his ministry. See "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony."

Wells tries manfully to prove Jesus did not exist, but there is much more evidence for Jesus' existence than for the Trojan War, which is accepted as having actually happened ("The Trojan War: A New History") or King Arthur, who is agreed to have been an actual historical person ("The Discovery of King Arthur").
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2014 11:53 PM BST

Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers: A Practical Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Be a Better Advocate (Communication)
Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers: A Practical Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Be a Better Advocate (Communication)
by Keith Evans
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.95

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Rules of Advocacy Revisited, 18 Jun. 2007
When this book was originally written, it bore the title "The Golden Rules of Advocacy," and the previous edition is still available under that name from Amazon.co.uk. I discovered "Golden Rules" on a trip to England, where I found it on sale at the information desk of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. As a recently retired trial advocate of 32 years experience, I was interested in the English perspective on trial advocacy. I bought the book and read it straight through on the flight home from England and was greatly impressed by Evans' knowledge of the essentials of trial advocacy. When I discovered "Golden Rules" on Amazon.com, I wrote a glowing review.

Then I found "Common Sense Rules," and debated ordering it. I rightly suspected it was "Golden Rules" under another name. After some time, I gave in to the urge to purchase, and I have not regretted it. "Common Sense" is "Golden Rules" revised and expanded for the American market, and set forth in a much more user-friendly format.

I lament the change of title, however. The term "Golden Rules" conveys the high ethical standard set by the book far better than "Common Sense". You can have a head full of "Common Sense" and still be as crooked as a corkscrew. Despite my preference for the former title, I cannot fault the publisher for the change. Either term is equally applicable. Maybe the third edition could be entitled "The Golden Rules of Common Sense Advocacy".

Reading this book would profit any advocate of any experience level. Judicious application of the advice contained in the book will make anyone a better advocate.

The Further Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 (BBC Audio)
The Further Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 (BBC Audio)
by Bert Coules
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fallible Holmes Confronts Four Lateral Logic Puzzles, 8 Jun. 2007
Bert Coules did yeoman work in bringing the entire Holmes canon (or is it Conan?) to the air and to audiotape. Merrison and Williams were the best Holmes/Watson combo since Rathbone/Bruce. As the stories continued to flow from Coules' pen, he became more and more free in embellishing the stories with added detail. The result was both entertaining and true to the original stories.

I mourned when the canon was finished and rejoiced when I heard that Coules intended to continue the saga with adventures drawn from the canon's references to apocryphal cases.

This is a reissue of the first volume of additional stories by Coules. Entertaining in the extreme. Some random observations: The stories seem more like lateral logic puzzles than mysteries. Holmes is (perhaps a bit too) much more fallible than in the canonical stories. Although I miss Michael Williams as Watson, the Holmes/Watson chemistry is still quite good. The sly references to William Gillette were quite amusing.

Until the coming of Bert Coules, Anthony Boucher and Dennis Greene (who wrote for Rathbone and Bruce) were the best writers of audio Holmes pastiches. Coules has surpassed them. I wish "Further Adventures" a long run on the BBC.

Sadly, it appears that after the issue of volume two of the further adventures, there will be no volume three. The mentor/student relationship Holmes had with the London librarian in "The Saviour of Cripplegate Square" was quite good and it is unfortunate that it will not be revisited. Coules is especially good in characterizing the firm friendship of Holmes and Watson; he brought some of that same charm to Holmes' relationship with the librarian.

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
by Robert Pirsig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Walden" Meets "Easy Rider", 8 Jun. 2007
Anyone with moderate intelligence and sufficient leisure can work out their own private philosophy. The worth of such a philosophy should not be measured by comparison to the great philosophers of the past (or present); rather we should ask how well does it assist its creator in coping with life. Some personal philosophies are crafted in such a way that they help, not just their creator, but large numbers of their creator's fellow beings. Thus it is with the personal philosophy of Robert M. Pirsig, who laments that he has not had an original thought in years.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" recounts a semi-mythical motorcycle trip from Chicago to California in which Pirsig confronts and defeats his inner demons and repairs his shattered relationship with his eldest son, Chris. With a past of involuntary hospitalization, a present of recurring nightmares, and a future of anticipated return to commitment, Pirsig rides the roads, introspects, and works on his relationship with his son.

Pirsig's former self, whom he calls Phaedrus, went mad attempting to work out the meaning of the abstract concept of quality; his current self totters on the brink of madness attempting to achieve a quality relationship with his son.

The book covers thousands of miles of countryside and thousands of years of Western philosophy, from Chicago to California, from the Academy to academia. Although the word Zen figures prominently in the title, and although Buddha is mentioned more than Socrates, the philosophy partakes far more of the tradition of the "Iliad" than of the "Bhagavad-gita."

Pirsig should not despair over his inability to formulate original ideas. Qoheleth wrote that "there is nothing new under the sun," and centuries later Omar Khayyam echoed that thought. Pirsig's chosen field of rhetoric recognizes man's basic lack of originality. The first of the five departments of rhetoric is Invention, the devising of arguments. An alternative name for that department is Discovery. The rationale for this alternate name is that the rhetorician does not "invent" arguments, all the arguments already been invented. The rhetorician simply discovers the best arguments for the case at hand. The rhetorician's originality is expressed, not in the department of Invention/Discovery, but in the department of Arrangement. How well are the arguments organized?

Pirsig may not have expressed any original ideas in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", but he has arranged those ideas in (for the 1970's) a fresh, original way. The enduring success of the book attests to Pirsig's creative genius.

by David Ross
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief, Clear, & Comprehensive, but Inevitably Superficial, 7 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Advocacy (Paperback)
Cicero taught that two of the three essential qualities of advocacy were brevity and clarity. David Ross's book has achieved those two qualities admirably, but by attempting to be too comprehensive the book inevitably suffers from superficiality. Ross makes many statements that the capable, experienced practitioner would wholeheartedly endorse, but he makes them in such a way that the inexperienced pratitioner will most likely miss the point. If they recognize the point, they may be insufficiently informed to be able to implement the suggestion.

The book speaks to Australian advocacy, and some of the nuances of Australian advocacy are very different from American practices. These subtle differences will pose a problem for American rookies. I'm not saying that Americans should therefore avoid the book, they should be on guard for those nuances.

A second, more basic flaw of "Advocacy" can be found in the opening paragraph. Ross categorically states that the job of the advocate is to win. This is somewhat off the mark. Aristotle, who wrote the first book on advocacy (On Rhetoric), said it much better when he wrote that the job of the advocate was not to win, but to come as close to winning as the circumstances of each case will allow. Aristotle went on to liken the advocate's role to that of the physician. The physician sometimes cannot heal the patient, but must simply do what can be done to ease the patient's suffering. Ross recognizes Aristotle's wisdom when, in a later chapter, he confesses that sometimes the art of advocacy is the art of damage control.

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