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Reviews Written by
Jonathan "marjo_wycam" RSS Feed (Alexandria, VA USA)

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Germanic Warrior AD 236-568
Germanic Warrior AD 236-568
by Simon MacDowall
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.53
51 used & new from $6.83

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get it for the pictures, July 12, 2003
The text is interesting, but what sets the book apart is the illustrations. I am a fan of the Beowulf epic, and these drawings help me imagine how Beowulf the Geat might have appeared. The king on his throne receiving a new thane could have been Danish king Hrothgar, in a rundown throne room next to what was left of his meadöhall, receiving Beowulf!

Beowulf: A Prose Translation (Second Edition)  (Norton Critical Editions)
Beowulf: A Prose Translation (Second Edition) (Norton Critical Editions)
by Nicholas Howe
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.19
89 used & new from $0.01

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars True to the Original, June 17, 2003
Of the translations that I have read this is the most true to the original words. It is a prose translation, so Donaldson did not need to select words based on their sounds and could get the meaning more accurately.
The exactness of the translation makes this language sound archaic.
The footnotes are quite helpful, especially when going through the difficult passages at the start of the Dragon story that describe the wars of the Swedish succession.
Read this translation and then try a poetic translation such as Heaney's.

Socrates: The Great Philosophers (The Great Philosophers Series)
Socrates: The Great Philosophers (The Great Philosophers Series)
by Anthony Gottlieb
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from $0.01

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short But Sweet, April 19, 2003
Socrates was important as a cultural figure who showed other people how to be a philosopher. Much of this entertaining account talks about Socrates' lifestyle and personality. There are amusing little vignettes, such as how Socrates fended off the homosexual advances of the much younger Alcibiades, who later became a traitor to Athens.
The book emphasizes that Socrates did not advance his own positions as much as he criticized those of others.
Now that I have read this shorter work on Socrates I feel prepared to move on to longer works on Plato and Aristotle.

The Vikings: Lord of the Seas (Abrams Discoveries)
The Vikings: Lord of the Seas (Abrams Discoveries)
by Yves Cohat
Edition: Paperback
100 used & new from $0.01

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Illustrations, April 19, 2003
Within a day after getting this book I had finished reading it. The book's strongest point is its illustrations: paintings of what artists thought the Vikings looked like; maps; and photos of Viking artifacts, ruins and habitats.
The last portion of the book consists of excerpts from writings by or about the Norsemen.
The text suffers slightly by being a translation. It implies that Weland the Smith was a real person. I doubt that the author originally intended to give that impression.
I noticed a slight error at one point in the book. The number of doors in Valhalla magically grew from 540 to 550 in just a few pages!
The Vikings are a fascinating subject, and this book does them justice. So if you are interested in the Vikings you will enjoy it and learn much as well.

Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
by Sue Hamilton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.31
120 used & new from $0.01

24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mentions Bhagavad Gita on Numerous Occasions, April 11, 2003
Contrary to what another reviewer wrote, the book mentions the Bhagavad Gita as one of the canonical texts of certain Indian transitions. Prof. Hamilton warns against taking the positions of a particular strand of Indian thought and saying "this is true Hinduism."
Indeed, she questions whether Hinduism is a useful concept for discussing the historic traditions of India. Various forms of what we call Hinduism are very much at odds with each other and have different sources for their beliefs. For some the Vedantas are the core of Indian spirituality, for others it is the Gita.

Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
by Simon Critchley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.71
81 used & new from $1.08

5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an Introduction, March 29, 2003
As someone who does not know much about Kant or the German Idealists, this book was difficult to follow. I actually had to look up Kant in other books in order to understand somewhat Critchley's description of his work.
Critchley then started talking about the German Idealists, and he does not define what an Idealist is. He assumes the reader knows already.
Even a beginner can learn from this book, but it is not an introductory text. It is a discussion of a relatively arcane professional dispute among philosophers, and about the generally different focus of philosophy in Continental Europe as opposed to the English-speaking world.
The sections on Heidegger were incomprehensible to me. Towards the end Critchley talks about Popper and positivism and it was like a breath of fresh air. Finally a simple subject that seemed comprehensible and meaningful!
I will read other books by this author, but if I were to approach this book again I would first read more about Kant, the Idealists and even that Nazi Heidegger (Critchley is quite upfront about this aspect of Heidegger.)
Here is a question: If Heidegger does not claim to be presenting scientific truth then why should I want to learn about his ideas? Heidegger the man was a lowlife and a Nazi. Whatever benefits one might get from his philosophy, it is not likely to make one a better person.
Carnap on the other hand was great and opposed the Nazis.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2010 8:41 AM PDT

Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
by Julia Annas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.50
72 used & new from $0.01

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Thought This Book Was Excellent, March 17, 2003
This little pamphlet is the first philosophy work that I have ever read, and Prof. Annas wrote it for people like me.
Her intention is to help people engage with the thoughts of the ancient (Greek) philosophers, and to show how the questions with which the ancients grappled are the same questions that we ask today.
I have a somewhat better understanding of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. Am I a better person? I do not know. Did the ancient Greeks tell me anything I did not know already? Maybe not.
Yet I think Prof. Annas might say, along with the ancient Greeks, that philosophy is worthwhile even if we derive no benefit from it at all. This is a book about those who practiced philosophy for its own sake.
So I would say that a beginner such as myself ought by all means to engage with both the ancient Greek thinkers and Prof. Annas's exposition of them. You might find yourself wanting to learn more and more about the ancient thinkers, without being sure why.

Beowulf: A Verse Translation
Beowulf: A Verse Translation
by Frederick Rebsamen
Edition: Paperback
71 used & new from $0.01

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Alliterative Translation, February 16, 2003
This translation attempts to reproduce the alliterative and metric structure of the original Old English work.
Each line in this version is divided into half-lines, which are separated by whitespace. Each half-line contains two beats. The first beat in the second half-line must alliterate with at least one of the two beats in the first half-line. The two beats in the second half-line cannot alliterate.
Reading this translation I enjoyed picking out the alliterations and the beats. Eventually the poem appeared to flow into a rhythm, unlike prose translations and unlike my reading of Heaney's Beowulf.
I would say that this translation is not a good one for understanding the meaning of the poem. But once one has read one or two other translations and understands what is going on in the poem, this is a great version to read. It enabled me to experience a Beowulf whose sounds are based upon alliteration and meter, much like the poem sounded to its original audience in those mead-halls a millenia ago.

A History of the Jews
A History of the Jews
by Paul Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.58
222 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, February 8, 2003
This review is from: A History of the Jews (Paperback)
For the past fifteen years I have been using this book to look up various aspects of Jewish history. As a Jew, I really appreciate Paul Johnson's deep sympathy for the Jewish people as well as his insightful and informed descriptions of events.
Today I looked up Johnson's treatment of the Crusades. He pointed out both the violence of the Crusaders towards the Jews and the sometimes successful attempts by some bishops to save the Jews. One bishop even hung the ringleaders of these attacks.
I had not known about the latter aspect of the Crusader violence. Historians are interpreters and filter the past through their own experience. This book is a commentary on the Jewish past as seen by an erudite outsider. Bravo.

Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948
Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948
by Tanya Reinhart
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.95
70 used & new from $0.01

38 of 109 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Contradictory Title for a Contradictory Analysis, January 27, 2003
Reinhardt is a controversial figure in Israel, because last year she was one of about a half-dozen Israeli academics (she taught linguistics at a major Israeli university) who signed a British petition calling on the world's universities to boycott Israeli institutions of higher learning.
It is no surprise, therefore, that her point of view in this book is decidedly pro-Palestinian. That being said, she is a Jewish woman living in Israel and thereby helping her country stay Jewish. One ought not to reject her point of view on the basis of a foolish petition that she signed.
The title of her book means that the 1948 war is still going on. Otherwise the book's title would be "How to End the 1967 War."
But Israel did not capture the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza until 1967. If the war between Israelis and Palestinians is only over the land that Israel captured in 1967, and the Palestinian sides accepts the loss of the land that Israel captured in 1948, then in what sense is the war of 1948 still going on?
Her book's title indicates the contradictory nature of her analysis. On the one hand, Reinhardt claims in her text that the Palestinians have renounced their claims to the 77 percent of 1948 Palestine that became Israel in that year. On the other hand, in her title Reinhardt indicates that they have not accepted this loss.
At first Reinhardt tries to hide the contradiction. But even readers of this book eventually learn that Palestinians continue to demand something that they call "the right of return," and that this demand means that some Palestinians must be allowed to settle inside of Israel's PRE-1967 borders. Mere withdrawal from land captured in the 1967 war will not be enough to satisfy even the most minimal set of Palestinian demands.
Reinhardt downplays this contradiction, but her book's title shows that she realizes the contradiction is still there. The war between Israelis and Palestinians over the Palestinians loss of land in 1948 (not just in 1967) continues.

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