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Frank Bierbrauer (Manchester, Lancashire, UK)
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The Wild Within: Adventures in Nature and Animal Teachings
The Wild Within: Adventures in Nature and Animal Teachings
by Paul Rezendes
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and sometimes questing, 23 July 2011
Paul Rezendes's book "The Wild Within" is a wonderful book, easy to read and sometimes as casual as a hot summer's day and at others intense and deep with illuminating experiences of the searcher for truth, no matter how contradictory this sounds. His life, that of a man trying to find a way to reality if you like when it was always there all the time just waiting to be noticed once the chattering mind has been silenced, is fascinating. His years as leader of a motorcycle gang and then his route to the opposite extreme that of a yoga and ashram founder show how much suffering someone must sometimes go through to reach that impossible peak where you are already standing. Rezendes's book takes turns wandering in different directions, often through a factual journey of animal tracks and behaviour patterns and then to his own experiences with them as he is tracking them and finally to his own very deeply personal experiences in trying to live life as a human being, in the end, must. It is remarkable how the intensity of the book varies throughout, the animal connections are really amazing, such as his direct communication with the Moose and the almost scary reply of the fox to his own infringements on its territory. If you're looking for a strictly tracking book, don't read this, if its more you want, maybe. Delightful and sometimes questing.


Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics
Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics
by Henri Bergson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An example of intuitive writing, 23 July 2011
As has been noted by others in previous reviews this book is about several issues: one a kind of autobiography of his life's work and as well a lesson in what philosophy is and should be in comparison to science. Bergson points out that science much as other fields such as literature, philosophy, art and so on rely on two ways of approaching reality one is the scientific systematic, mechanical way which is practiced by the majority of researchers and the intuitive way which is used occasionally to make headway. The first of these approaches clarifies succinctly what has been discovered in a systematic way which aims to make the phenomenon explicit as a whole, the second of these, the intuitive approach, is that which is required to make the initial leap, the creative surge needed to make sense of a phenomenon which no longer makes sense when old approaches are applied. As such, both of these approaches need to be practised side by side with scientists and artists both making use of them. Unfortunately the first of these, the standard methodical approach, is prone to be considered the only way of attack on a problem given the intellect which is a system to analyse and make use of the world's phenomena. This ensures a mechanical way of thought comes to the fore. Bergson stresses that this method is well and good where it applies, mostly after a discovery has been made, but in the stages where something is to be understood as a whole rather than as made of parts, intuition comes in providing the guiding light, a sort of vague feeling of rightness or truth which cannot be denied. From this pont it is developed using the first method, but the first method cannot succeed without this creative step.

It needs to be noted that the systematic approach is relatively easy to implement for a mind trained in it, as are most of today's researchers, and unfortunately it is difficult to escape the confining modes of thought which prevail once this method has gained a firm foothold of the mind. The creative approach is vague and fleeting seeming to glide past you as you attempt to grab hold. This is the wrong approach, it needs to be cultivated without a method otherwise it is a sham intuition and just another form of the first method. Strangely enough once such an intuition has overwhelmed the mind it convinces not by argument or proof but by a strong sense of rightness, "this is true and that is all", it cannot be denied. Any attempt to deny this makes no sense as even those who argue against this possibility themselves suffer from these intuitions which they cannot explain either.

Bergson was a man who lived this intuitive mode more than most, especially through his experience of duration. He is qualified more than most in describing this way of "thinking", actually sensing, and he brings it out in this fine book. Although not as illuminating as his "Creative Evolution" it is still a very well written book and he deserves his Nobel prize for literature. Compare this with for example "Process and Reality" by Whitehead which is so full of obscurity it stands as a prime example of how not to write. It is Whitehead's attempt to be clear which is his downfall in fact.

As always Bergson's books are themselves examples of intuitive writing if there is such a thing.


On Dialogue (Routledge Classics)
On Dialogue (Routledge Classics)
by David Bohm
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.68

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superb book, 23 July 2011
Bohm has a certain style in his writing which makes him stand out from others who write on similar topics. One aspect is his willingness to suspend his own viewpoint, at least to some degree, by introducing his approach to communication on an intimate level. This does not mean the kind of intimacy between lovers but it is of the same kind. What does this mean ? It means that it is communication without the presence of walls/barriers which interfere with the ability of one person to give rise to the same meaning in the mind of the other. This is the essence of communication at its most basic. The 'normal' mode of cummunication which takes place between people nowadays is way short of this ideal. The social barriers and thought constructions which are firmly embedded in the mind of most induce various automatic or reflex reactions when questions or comments are made which are in some way outside of the "allowed" list. These reactions can vary from fear, the most common, to anger and eventually in extreme cases to violence. How do they arise ? Through purely reflex reactions generated from countless experiences which promote a protective response because of the "existence" of the self. I say existence in inverted commas because Bohm denies this has any reality. Bohm uses his dialogue mode of communication to let people face their thought reflexes and stay with them ie staying aware while their mind and body undergoes its automatic reactions. Only this allows the mind to go beyond these usually unconscious reactions and proceed into a place where creation can occur. This means the creations of new ideas rather than a fallback into the old ones. This form of communication is far from easy to undergo and reactions of fear would be common as would eventual anger and frustrations as the self attempts to dominate in some way by either trying to control the dialogue or hide from it. This is overcome by staying with the discomfort until it dissipates by itself.
Dialogue offers much more than the current ways of communication such as discussions or negotiations which never face the serious issues. Bohm stresses the pathless approach, ie one where no direct goal is provided and no leader selected. This has some similarity to tribal councils practised by native Americans for example.

In this book Bohm through examples and ideas develops this mode to something useful for all of society. Bohm always leaves room for ideas to be generated from his own beginnings. As usual a superb book.


Manifold and the One
Manifold and the One
by Agnes Arber
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good summary, 23 July 2011
This review is from: Manifold and the One (Hardcover)
This is a book I've been trying to get for some time ever since Henri Bortoft's "The Wholeness of Nature" mentioned Agnes Arber's name in his superb book. It addresses the questions which perplex myself: The feeling of Oneness present at times in the subjective life which strangely appears totally objective and the very obvious barriers generated by the logical ways of thought. Arber divides the book up into sections including the convictions of both Oneness and the manifold, coincidence of contraries, finite and the infinite, emotion and reason. All of these issues have been studied by various people throughout the ages often by instituting a certain bent on top of them eg Augustine forcing them into the straightjacket of religion, she covers thinkers right from ancient times to the present: Heraclitus, Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Aquinas, Ibn al-Arabi, Nicolaus Cusanus, Giordano Bruno, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and so on. The book basically discusses each of these issues with the assistance of these thinkers and their particular views and occasionally her own views on the matter. I was looking for a fresh insight on the issue but it was not forthcoming but then maybe it wasn't meant to be such a book and it certainly represents the whole task of understanding the manifold and the One in the gamut of variations. A very good summary.


The Story of Philosophy
The Story of Philosophy
by Bryan Magee
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb introduction to philosophy, 23 July 2011
Bryan Magee has compiled a wonderful book on both the history and the actual tenets of philosophy throughout, mostly, the western world. Starting from the earliest Greek philosophy right up to the present day although current philosophers are not considered given their, as yet, unknown claims to fame, to be decided by future generations.
It is a beautifully illustrated book with many paintings, photos and descriptions of the meaning of philosophical concepts spread throughout to aid clarity and ensure the ideas are firmly based on the real world. Apart from the main outstanding philosophers and the main trends in philosophy he also includes small excursions onto related thinkers/poets/writers of the era concerned, this certainly illuminates the ideas as well as giving them historical perspective, a subtle indication of the influence of the time (Zeitgeist) on the ideas and vice versa.

The major philosophers include Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Heraclitus, St Augustine, Descarte, Husserl, Hegel, Fichte, Popper, Hume, Berkely, Locke, Schopenhauer, Bergson, Sartre and so on, exploring the whole gamut. Included in terms of major trends is pragmatism, phenomenology, empiricism etc. All in all a superb book which is hard to put down even for people often bewildered by complex ideas and usually not willing to explore them seriously. Luckily Magee keeps the sections relatively short and prevents this fading of attention. This is yet another good aspect of the book. In addition he makes the reader fascinated and interested in further reading in depth of the central ideas. The book is also enclosed in a very hardwearing soft cover with overlapping ends and so keeps from falling apart, this is especially useful for infrequent readers or for multiple reading of the book by many, something I found out as I went through it. To call it a coffee table book does not do it justice since it is much more than this and does not look out of place on a philosophical bookshelf.

Even though the book covers mainly western philosophy it also takes an aside into Buddhist thought because of its deep philosophical foundations and influence all over the world eg on Schopenhauer. Taoism is not discussed and neither is Confucism but this is not a real drawback.

A superb introduction to philosophy.


Lessons from the Living Cell: The Limits of Reductionism
Lessons from the Living Cell: The Limits of Reductionism
by Stephen Rothman
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for every practising scientist, 23 July 2011
Stephen Rothman has produced a book severely lacking amongst today's criticisms of the reductionist program, which, unfortunately now almost defines science itself.
In other words the understanding that all phenomena can be reduced to their constituent parts and thus constructed as a whole from those parts. This implies that given the parts, and only the parts, the whole can be assembled without any need for access to the true whole to check whether this makes sense. In biology this typically means deconstructing an organism into its recognisable parts and rebuilding it in this way. This leads inevitably to the local view now used in modern medicine and thus to various problems with the associated medicines produced in this way. The unwillingness of most scientists to even consider the possibility that other methods exist or that other methods can be constructed without this part-wholes strategy means any other medical treatments exist on the fringe without proper investigation.

What do I mean by the first statement ? I mean that many books exist which propagate a given idea or concept but few exist which investigate in a detailed way a given theory such as the vesicle theory and analyse its shortcomings and its evidence in a thorough way. About the only other text I know of which does this, to some degree at least, is the one by Michel Schiff on "The Memory of Water" where again a scientist battles against the deeply entrenched reductionist paradigm.

Rothman, in the first six chapters, discusses the concepts and the basics surrounding the reductionist metaphysics (it is a metaphysic since it is based on an obvious metaphysical belief: that parts are only constructed from below i.e the parts upwards) as well as what the main aim of biology is: to understand what life is. He includes a section on the various ways scientists implicitly rely on the reductionist idea, he has a wonderful discussion between two scientists who argue the basis of life from both a reductionist and a non-reductionist viewpoint. Most of the second half of the book is a very detailed analysis of the evidence for two separate theories in biology: the first, on the contraction of muscle tissue and, the second, on the transport and secretion of proteins within the cell. Rothman finds quite succinctly that life cannot be explained in the reductionistic sense, meaning that an anlysis of the parts cannot ever lead to the whole without the whole being an aspect of the study itself. In fact it is the whole which defines the parts and the parts cannot exist in and of themselves without the whole.

Rothman presents the first of these arguments (muscle contraction) very well and details the failure of the reductionistic paradigm, however this is done in hindsight since this has been confirmed; the second argument is still on-going and as such his arguments are no doubt contentious and will remain so for some time to come. Nonetheless he analyses the evidence in great detail and presents very strong arguments in favour of his own research which attempts to study this process as part of a whole. Rothman also accounts for the longevity of dsicredited theories through the artificial support of them through authority and an attempt to revamp defunct theories through slight of hand by forcing the contradictory evidence to support the old theory.

A book worth reading for both a criticism of the reductionist paradigm and the failure of the scientific community to go beyond typical human weaknesses such as egotism. A must read for every practising scientist.


The Organism
The Organism
by Kurt Goldstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential read for any practising scientist, 23 July 2011
This review is from: The Organism (Paperback)
Kurt Goldstein was a highly experienced and respected neurologist in the earlier years of the twentieth century who after a lifetime of experience with patients of all walks of life, but especially brain damaged soldiers of World War I, came to the conclusion that the working of the human body is far more than just independently functioning mechanisms which make a kind of slapdash whole from the sum of these "parts".

Goldstein explores many kinds of brain disorders he met along the way involving damage to the cortex and other parts of the brain often associated with structures which control certain aspects of behaviour such as reflex actions. Goldstein analyses in great detail and without prejudice each particular case describing the standard approaches on the subject and what he actually observes directly rather than just using the theory to define what is happening. Through this method he is able to obtain a far richer description of the neurological aspects of man than is usually given. He does not speculate arbitrarily but rather convinces by objective analysis. This is a hardnosed scientific approach although he still gives himself time to consider the wholeness of the body and its repair and "coming to terms" with its situation. In the last chapters he discusses approaches to the wholeness of the body and how important and relevant they are to a truer experience of the world as such. He nonetheless maintains a strong contact throughout with real patients never once releasing his touch to reality.

An essential read for any practising scientist who wants to understand.


Goethe and the Sciences: A Reappraisal (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science)
Goethe and the Sciences: A Reappraisal (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science)
by Frederick Amrine
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential item in my library, 23 July 2011
This is a book of essays contributed by numerous historans, philosophers of science and scientific researchers specially focusing on Goethe's scientific work as well the philosophy of nature inherent in his approach to studying natural phenomena.

The book is separated into three parts: I. Goethe in the history of science, II. Goethe in Scientific methodology and Ontology and III. The contemporary use of Goethe's approach.

Each section has contributions which are deep analytical studies in their area, recapitulations of Goethe's stance and in some instances a remarkably insightful and philosophically/spiritually deep comprehension of the scale of Goethe's aim in science which explains the degree to which he himself considered his scientific work as more important than his artistic achievements.
As an example consider (not all):

Jeffrey Barnouw: a study on Helmholtz's comments on Goethe's work.

Douglas E. Miller: Goethe's colour science and its translation from the German into English.

Carl Friederich von Weizsaecker: a very deep study of Goethe's concept of metamorphosis.

Dennis L. Sepper: Sepper's superb, in depth, study of both Newton's Optics and The Farbenlehre which led to the book published by CUP.

Arthur G. Zajonc: The comprehension required in order to know what Goethe meant when saying that "the phenomenon is already the theory".

Ronald H. Brady: The understanding of both form and cause in Goethe's phenomenology.

Frederick Amrine: A study of the contemporary work of Jochen Bockemuehl in plant metamorphosis.

and finally a postscript summarising the individual contributions and their overall standing regarding the current view of Goethe's scientific contribution.

This is a must book for anyone wanting to not only get some understanding of Goethe's contribution to science, the philosophy of science but of the spirit of science as well. Ever since reading the superb book "The Wholeness of Nature" by Henri Bortoft I have attempted to purchase a copy of this text which unfortunately has been much too expensive. Luckily I obtained one second hand. It has been worth it. Along with the aforementioned book by Bortoft, Portmann's work on "Animal Forms and Patterns" and Jack Turner's "Abstract Wild" it becomes a member of essential items in my library.


General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications
General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications
by Ludwig Von Bertalanffy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book for the development of system ideas, 23 July 2011
This book is quite old now and shows some of its age. At the time the idea of system theory was new and invigorating although it still appears that the theory was not radically new by any means even then.
Bertalanffy discusses the idea of a system mainly through dynamical systems in his early chapters but also discusses important issues such as open systems, teleology and the organism considered as a system. By no means does this remove the dogma of the reductionists but the whole idea can be incorporated within it by some adjustments and expansions of the original concept. In that sense it is still possible for a biologist to consider animals and plants as complex machines. Nothing in this book really forces anyone to onsider an alternative.

On the other hand his later chapters from chapter 8 onwards discuss truly fascinating questions in psychology and the study of language especially noting the work of Whorf. It is these last chapters which make the book interesting. In its day it would have been something that evoked interest and fascination but now its the as yet unexplord aspects of the study of man which remain as they have always been an enigma and a source of endless wonder.

A book for the development of system ideas


The Cornish Trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, and, The Lyre of Orpheus): What's Bred in the Bone, The Rebel Angels, The Lyre of Orpheus
The Cornish Trilogy (The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone, and, The Lyre of Orpheus): What's Bred in the Bone, The Rebel Angels, The Lyre of Orpheus
by Robertson Davies
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good as a whole, 23 July 2011
Robertson Davies' Cornish trilogy is good, in fact a kind of work of art. Its the second book (which I have already reviewed) which is the main attraction throughout. In fact the second book should be read first of all of the three, followed by the first and third in that order. The second book is a great piece of work and without it the other two would not stand as they do. Its much like a painting and the technique of preliminary drawings of the main work. The main work being the second book and the drawings the first and third books.

Although there are characters in the other two books who are interesting in their own right they have nowhere near the life and depth of Francis Cornish of "Bred in the Bone". These two books surround the great one on either side sort of like hangers on to a great man hoping for some of the glory themselves.

The first is concerned with the academic life in a Canadian University especially concerning the life of Maria Theotoky a great student of Renaissance legend Rebalais being mentored by the brilliant but socially inept Professor Hollier who is overwhelmed by the arrival of his old friend, the obnoxious Parlabane. Although interesting especially when discussing academic life and the jealousy evident when a reputation or fame is at stake, the novel does not really come to life in the same sense as the second. There are some characters who liven things up such as Maria's mother Mamusia the gypsy half of her. To be honest its difficult to tell where the male leads end and Maria begins, there is really little differentiation. A woman's aspects, as compared to the men involved, do not really come to light. The somewhat stale atmosphere of academia is never expunged by any kind of life, even from the female heroine. Still not bad at all.

The third book details the life of another of the characters in the first, i.e. Professor Darcourt, a priest but now successful academic and his and other's attempt to execute the estate of Francis Cornish, especially the use of the Cornish Foundation and its attempt to support the PhD of a gifted composer Hulda Schnakenburg. It's her fascinating mentor Dahl-Soot, as well as the spirit of Hoffmann who keeps this going.

All told the books enliven each other but the second one gives the whole thing a semblance of greatness. Its Davies' inability to really produce passion and spontaneity which prevents me from singing the books praises.

Good as a whole.


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