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The Denver Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Philosophy Book Club

Philosophy Book Club

Amherst, OH
Post #: 789
Go on, read the book if you haven't. When you get to page 100, yourself saying, "Holy crap he could have said all this in 10 pages." Then you finish it and realize that it was only a setup, with another shoe to drop, and half the time was wasted manuevering around classifications and posturing.

In the end, Dan is still right, and I am still right, regarding the nature and the end of your new direction.

Here's my suggestion, and it is intended to be helpful: pick a subject, not a book. In this case regarding Dennett the subject would be how consciousness functions. Everyone would be asked to read a book or develop a position on this topic. Then, you meet, and share ideas.

In this way you leverage yourselves and make the most advantage of your diversity. Spread the focus, keen the talent, ramp up the communication, strengthen the nodes. It's all quite in line with Dennett, who is not all bad, merely a yeoman who's riding a trendy wave of fascination.

And that, in short, is my recommendation, submitted because I think it's in your best interest.
Amherst, OH
Post #: 790
But, as you might remember, yes, I have a low tolerance for good books and authors, and generally have them pegged down quite well after even one page. Call it my gift.

So in theory we should be able rely on you to guide us to good books and authors, since you consider them "crap" and are able to determine that in short order, due to being "specially abled" in that area??? confused

Yes, exactly. I'm a connoisseur of books and good writing. Give me the first ten pages and I'll tell you if should go on. I'm quite serious. This is not magic, it's a teachable skill. I do make no claim on infallibility, but, give me a book and the first ten pages.

Why is this this claim such a surprise? It ought to be evident. You should be able to distinguish Mozart from Sallieri within the first 20 measures. It's not that hard. Authors are really not that different.

I can't tell you how the book will be received and what not, but I can tell you whether or not it's *worth reading* to begin with, to a very high confidence coefficient. You can do this, too, if you study it. Looking back at William Shakespeare vs Robert Lilly and the comparison is so concrete and absurd that it is hard to imagine that anybody ever preferred Lilly over Shakespeare, yet the aristocrats did. What you do, simply, is boil it down to essentials and linguistic fundamentals and the truth outs like lightening who is to be preferred.

Nietzsche, a philosopher of whom I'm a skeptic, was a fascinating literary genius who combined philosophic arts with literary ones. So did Plato. These are easy calls. Then, some wildass bird like Thomas Aquinas comes along who presents as a scholastic lawyer yet, incredibly, puts a heartbeat in that deadness. And so on.

Every good philosopher, and also every good scientist (like Newton, until this committee age), and in short anyone with a great mind who has bothered to write down their thoughts has naturally exhibited their talents from the first sentence onward. They leave an identifiable trail.

So, yeah, I can smell them out. I know what to look for. You can too.
Jeanette M. N.
Denver, CO
Post #: 2,916
Before you said you could do it in one page. And that you had a "low tolerance for good books and authors."

I think that if you're reading something very simple it's easy to judge it in a few pages. But with headier topics, it's necessary to give it more time. And I don't agree that everyone with a great mind is automatically naturally gifted in the area of writing.

And to look at it the other way around, I also think that people who are otherwise complete dimwits or full of crap could be good in that one area.

I bet a lot of great ideas have never seen the light of day because their authors were not great communicators. And we only have to look toward politics and world history to see that people who are full of crap can sometimes herd people in whatever direction they want with deft communication skills.

Anyway, I've only read one of Dennett's books so far, but I thought he did a decent job of getting his points across... considering that it wasn't Doctor Seuss, the bible, or anything like that.

(I now have the book, but I don't know if I'll be able to finish it in time to join the discussion. Certainly not if I'm going to be spending my time this way.)
A former member
Post #: 33
Here's my suggestion, and it is intended to be helpful: pick a subject, not a book.
I see, now the problem with our nascent book discussion group is that we're going to read and discuss a book.

(Good to have such useful recommendations from someone who isn't going to participate, and as far as I can tell, doesn't even live locally.)
Jeanette M. N.
Denver, CO
Post #: 2,926
Well, I gave the book 95 pages, and most of my weekend. I have to agree with Spry that I'd be better off reading the Cliff's Notes version... not, as he asserts, because it's "crap," but because it was clearly not written for a general audience.

And I ~am definitely~ a "general audience." The book is way over my head, and I've been really struggling to understand it. And not enjoying it at all.

I struggled with Consciousness Explained, too. It was like reading a textbook, which is to say, difficult to concentrate on and not a pleasurable experience. But at least I was mostly able to understand that one.

This book makes me remember what a wonderful sensation of freedom I got from dropping out of college, because reading textbooks is a form of torture.

I like some of Dennett's ideas, at least as far as I can comprehend them, but I'm never going to read his books again. I hope that someday someone will come along to translate his work into English.

I don't know whether I'll be able to be involved in a philosophy book group, after all. Dan may be right, and the topic may simply be beyond my reach. I'll have to see what books are suggested in the future. But I may have to bow out of this endeavor, and stick to the regular group that is really mostly just a social group for ordinary people like me who wish we were smarter than we are or will ever be.
Jeanette M. N.
Denver, CO
Post #: 2,928
Funny coincidence... my buddy Greg just got back from the Humanist Book Discussion Group. He brought home a book for me that he borrowed from another good friend.

It's called Dennett, and it's by Tadeusz Zawidzki. He summarizes Dennett's theories, and his book is supposed to be a lot more readable than Dennett's books.

So that's the book I'm going to read.


Edit: ...After I'm done reading Physics of the Impossible, by Michio Kaku. It's a book about science, but is ~not~ a textbook. It's fun to read.
A former member
Post #: 34
FWIW, the most recent philosophy bites podcast, Pat Churchland on Eliminative Materialism, covers some issues related to Dennett's book - folk psychology and the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and philosophy.
Amherst, OH
Post #: 791
Bah, Jeanette. Don't sell yourself short like that. You're perfectly capable of understanding Dennett. Yes, half of the game in academic literature is linguistic bullshit. You should check out the literary criticism genre if you want to see grand champions of this inside game. The book doesn't even end in a conclusion but rather a "mid-term". It's wrapped in the trappings of academic showmanship, ego and inspeak, and that's a big shadow purpose of it. It's dishonesty, really, defeating the purpose of communication thru games. You're picking up the internal confusion evident in the book and attributing that confusion to your own shortcomings. There's no need for that.

I don't blame you for tiring of it. Told you up front the book is crap. Your mind isn't crap, your ability isn't crap. The book is crap. It'll be out of print in 20 years, and completely forgotten in 50. Oh sure, to its credit the book makes a contribution to an incremental parlor game and it lends itself as ammunition in various arguments popular among certain sects. But hey.
Jeanette M. N.
Denver, CO
Post #: 2,929
It is very academic, for a fact, Spry. But I don't think that discredits the ideas in it.

It just discredits it as an enjoyable way to spend my time when I'm not on the job.

Everything that's not my job has to be fun; that's my new rule that I decided on tonight.
A former member
Post #: 19
FWIW, the most recent philosophy bites podcast, Pat Churchland on Eliminative Materialism, covers some issues related to Dennett's book - folk psychology and the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and philosophy.

The Churchlands . . . sigh. Their stuff hasn't advanced a single inch on 1940s materialism/behaviorism. Folk philosophy, in my view.

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