Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Saturday, February 28, 2015

John Berger's Ways of Seeing

"The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe"- John Berger. The book is one of the greats for understanding art and how perception makes all the difference in our lives. In any painting there are the perceptions of the painter and the perceptions of the audience. Each person sees something a little different from the painting based upon how they perceive the world around them. The concepts in his book have broader implications.

We know this through this experience but his book helps highlight this for the artistic crowd. Most of us have experienced two people seeing the same thing but interpreting what they are seeing differently. This can lead to all types of arguments and discussions on whose interpretation of the version is real.

To us our perceptions are real. What we see is real and what we feel is real. Despite this belief it is not necessarily true. Most of us have a single way of seeing the world and simply can't comprehend the ways others view the world. Entire cultures are in the delusion of their perception which leads to conflict.

In the book he looks at a number of different paintings and shows how the artists perception is built within the painting. Each painting has a hint to the nature of the author much like each of our actions gives a hint to us. Paying close attention to the objects, styles and colors in the painting will help you see a glimpse of who the author really is and how he/she views the world.

This is why we must sometimes close our eyes and see the world beyond the obvious. Take a look at the pieces, parts, and manners of a people and you will start to see how they view the world. Berger's specifically uses the concept that "men act-women appear". Men seek to gain and possess and women simply exist in relation to themselves. One is projecting outward and the other projecting inward.

The book has implications beyond art and sexual relations. The gazes he talks about can also be seen as the way we engage in selective attention. We see what we want to see in the world around us. We have been programmed in our lives to pay attention to certain cues from our environment and we are blind to the other cues and interpretations of the world. The scariest part of human nature is that we often misinterpret and try and force that misinterpretation on others.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Hidden in Plain Sight Offers Easy to Understand Physics

Physics isn’t the most popular book topic people gravitate towards when looking for a subject worthy of reading. Hidden in Plain Sight by Andrew Thomas provides a broad overview of modern physics. Even though the topics can be quite complex to lay readers this book has simplified the principles so that seemingly complex topics are covered parsimoniously.

Two theories have dominated physics for more than a century. General relativity and quantum mechanics have allowed scientists to explore the universe with satellites and has led to new momentum in the space race. The two theories have not been well connected in literature.

General relativity explains how objects relate to each other in space as well as the influence of gravitational forces on the movement of those objects. Quantum mechanics helped scientists develop the laser, computers, and other high processing products. It is possible to argue that general relativity is about big things while quantum mechanics looks at little things.

Quantum mechanics tells us how particles behave and how they influence each other on a miniscule scale. The problem is that in physics all particles and objects are relatively the same and should be following similar rules. Whether one is looking through a microscope or a telescope the same principles should be at work based upon the type of elements involved.

In Quantum mechanics everything in the universe is connected to everything else. They may seem like they are separate but that is not the case. Two particles may work together in unison in a system that develops its own unique attributes. Some objects may have distance between the elements but can still influence each other in a more complex arrangement.

As knowledge and research develops people become aware of how elements work together to create the whole. The book will work through concepts such as unification, universe, space, time,quantum reality, observation, rationale and what we can’t see. It provides an overview of the link between relativity and quantum mechanics by leading readers through present knowledge. 

Thomas, A. (2012) Hidden in Plain Sight: The simple link between relativity and quantum mechanics. [Kindle Edition].

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: Philosophy 101 by Paul Kleinman

Philosophy 101 provides a broad snap shot of the major philosophical thoughts since ancient times. The book is easy to read and simplifies the theories and ideas for layman philosophers to see the depth and scope of thought in human society. It is this human thought that has pushed society to newer levels of thinking that keep humanity moving forward to new heights. 

Philosophy is considered a cultured persons hobby, a poor man’s occupation, and trivia entertainment to the masses. We fail to see that philosophy is the root foundation of science and the two cannot be unmarried. Skilled philosophers use multiple avenues to understand a problem and regularly are running against the grain of current thought. 

Despite the natural desire to arrest new thoughts in society it is the philosophers that society owes its greatest consideration. Whether we are discussing scientific principle or the very constitution of the country none of it would have been possible unless philosophical minds pondered the possibilities. 

I selected one theory, one philosophical point, and a logical-sequential function to highlight the point. The Theory of Universals tells us that everything in the universe has some type of order through connecting universals, the Philosophy of Cultures shows us that understanding our world is subjective based upon rearing, and the Scientific Method guides us in a methodology of testing our environment. 

The Theory of Universals:

The Theory of Universals states that there are universals in our world outside of mind and language. Plato believed that there were properties and qualities that can characterize our world. Some believe in forms that exist outside space and time while others believe they exist within our space and time. The example provided are the redness of a cherry and apple and how these exist regardless of whether or not someone perceives them. 

If we were to look at science and properties we can find that there are universals in terms of elements that exist and function regardless of whether or not we perceive them. As technology increases we are able to perceive universals in their more minute form and change how we define them in our minds but don’t necessary change the fundamental nature of existence. It exists whether or not we are aware of it.

The Philosophy of Culture:

Culture in the past was seen differently than it is today. Culture was part of the rearing process and created a way of understanding the world. It fundamentally changed how we view the world and how we see particular issues. Culture is embedded in our language and mental images derived from language. 

Culture is seen as collective or individualistic. In collective societies people see their duties to their social networks while in individualistic societies people feel that their duties lie primarily with themselves. Ethics and values can be culturally relative depending on the values one is reared with. Some have argued that both types of cultural vantage points can still judge right and wrong based upon helpful and unhelpful behaviors. 

The Enlightenment:

The enlightenment changes the way in which we view the world as philosophers sought to find truth in the universe. It had a profound impact on perceptions of society, government, nature, the universe, and rational thought. It changed the mystical views of the past to the scientific method we use today. 

The scientific method provided a frame work for reason and logic to analyze the world around us. The circular model is based on observation, theory development, prediction, and experimentation. As new observations and predictions occur new theories develop and existing ones are adjusted to make them more accurate. 

Kleinman, P. (2013) Philosophy 101. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: The Philosophy of Science A Very Short Introduction

The Philosophy of Science A Very Short Introduction by Samir Okasha discusses the very nature of science and what it means to engage in scientific thinking. The book will bring you through the definitions of science, scientific reasoning, realism and anti-realism, scientific revolutions and philosophical problems. It is solid reading for students and laypeople that desire to get a basic grasp of science.

Science started in the 1400 to 1700 with people like Copernicus who built a model of the universe and Aristotle who put forward ideas of physics, biology, astronomy and cosmology. Science is a way in which we think about the world (i.e. scientific mindset) and how we compare and contrast elements to come to conclusions of the world in which we live. 

A key component of science is a concept called falsifiable brought forward by Karl Popper. All theories and predictions must be falsifiable in the sense that experience can determine them wrong over time. Pseudo-science was described as theories of psychotherapy brought forward by Freud because anything the patient does can be explained away with no obvious observable proofs of latent functions. 

Consider the use of a theoretical model to predict that a certain event will occur. As time moves forward the event either happens or it doesn’t thereby making is verifiable. Theories that cannot be tested and shown to be false are also unlikely to be true. There must be criteria to lend support or take support away from the theory. If you can’t prove or disprove it then it isn’t a theory.

More pointedly the book discusses induction and deduction as methods of understanding concepts and coming to new conclusions. The example of deduction provided by the book is 1.) The French like wine, and 2.) Pierre is a Frenchman therefore it can be deducted that Pierre likes wine.  It doesn’t matter if the inferences actually make the conclusion true but that they can lead to the conclusion. 

Inductive reasoning is difficult to use in science but is commonly applied to everyday life. It is assumed that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West every day. Using inductive reasoning we can say that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow and set in the West. We are likely to be right but that doesn’t make it a truth while the observation isn’t necessarily proof that it will happen over and over. 

The book doesn’t move into this concept but it is possible to use deductive, inductive and probable abductive reasoning together to be more accurate. We may use deductive reasoning to go from the general down to the specific and then use inductive reasoning to rebuild the model outward in another place to see if it also holds true.  We can then use abductive reasoning to understand the likelihood of the conclusion holding true to the explanation in both examples. 

Either way you are likely to find the book interesting and provide a broad understanding of the basic principles of science. It is the type of book you should read if you have studied the sciences, plan on studying to a doctorate, or want to test something within your environment. The price on kindle is reasonable and retails for around $2.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The Moral Tale of Moby Dick

Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a classical example of 1851 literature that sparks deeper levels of thinking and provides a moral story for readers. As an artistic production it is seen as one of the greatest seafaring stories ever written. It provides a glimpse of early American life through the occupational experiences of sailors.

Literature has an important function in society and transfers values and cultural beliefs. Story telling has been part of the human experience since the beginning of humanity. Moby Dick tells a moral story as much as it tells the tale of a whale hunt. Encouraging people to read such stories and think about their meanings helps to broaden their perspective. 

Some of the lessons you may encounter include:

Don’t Let Your Passions Consume You: Captain Ahab had a mission and he was going to fulfill that mission at all costs. His passions consumed him to the point that he no longer considered the other factors associated with winning. All missions should use sound judgment and reasons to balance out the decision-making process.

The Whale Represents Greatness: At this time in society killing a white whale represented wealth, prestige, and accomplishment. As one of the largest creatures known to man it was difficult to find, harpoon, and bring to market. Moby Dick came to represent man’s desire for material and social recognition. 

A Piece of American Experience: Melville used his experience as a sailor to write the story and became a sensation. The story represents how life was experienced by seafaring people in New England during the 19th Century.  Life was different then and economies made their money from natural resources such as fishing, farming, mining and lumber.

Forms of Government: The process of gathering sailors from various walks of life is a democratic process where all members are individually judged based on their contributing skills. In a capitalistic society each member is focused on catching whales for economic purposes and has a positive contribution on collective action. Captain Ahab turns into the tyrant who fails to consult with others which eventually leads his crew to death.

The Flipping of Good and Evil: At the beginning of the story Moby Dick is characterized as evil and must be hunted down for its savage behavior. As the story unfolds you find that Moby Dick is only escaping the hunt and was never a man eater. Eventually we find out that it is Captain Ahab that failed to use sound reason and becomes the embodiment of evil in the story while he irrationally hunts Moby Dick for his own vain egotism. 

You don’t need to pay for this book. It is offered for free on Kindle. 

As an interesting side note whale attacks can still happen. In July a crew of two people were attacked tracking whales on a picture taking escapade. Following their target at 150 yards a second whale jumped upon their ship capsizing both crew members and flipping the boat. The incident occurred in the ocean somewhere off Point Loma in San Diego. You may want to watch a little of their experiences to get a feeling for the chaos of a whale attack. Fox News San Diego provides additional details (1).