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On Truth and Untruth: Selected Writings
On Truth and Untruth: Selected Writings
by Friedrich Nietzsche
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nietzsche the Postmodernist; Nietzsche the Pragmatist?, July 15, 2016
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This is a great collection of Nietzsche's writings on truth and what he thinks it is (or really, is not). One thing to "warn" prospective readers about is that there is no introduction here or any writing other than the excerpts of Nietzsche. The editor/translator has selected and created some great readable translations of Nietzsche's writings on truth, but does not add anything himself by way of explanation, context, etc. I don't think that is a bad thing, as it lets Nietzsche's words speak for themselves. But some may be expecting an introduction or chapter introductions.

The writing selections are quite good. Everything here are shorter excerpts from Nietzsche's larger works - The Antichrist, Beyond Good and Evil, Gay Science, Will to Power - except for an early essay Nietzsche never published, "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense," which begins the book. Since the book consists of excerpts from various books by Nietzsche, there is some repetition here, as many of Nietzsche's ideas on truth and what it is carry over from one work to another. But in some ways, that is a good thing with a writer like Nietzsche who, although his writing is clear and engaging, often speaks in metaphor and can be a bit difficult to "get." Having the same, or similar, things said in different ways can add some clarity, and give us a chance to compare Nietzsche's thought on truth from one work to the next.

The last note i want to sound is about Nietzsche's thought. Nietzsche is, with justification, considered to be a forefunner of postmodernism, a perspectivist who believed the idea of truth as correspondence to an external reality is quite impossible, because we can never get outside of our subjectivity to check its alignment with that external reality. This collection, I think, also makes clear (at least as I read it) how much Nietzsche had in common with pragmatists like James and Schiller. The "will to truth," he says, is always based on some human need, whether it be a feeling of order, mastery, or something else. And abstract truths are at the same time a lie (as they abstract a world of concretes) and beneficial because they re useful. That is, our theories about what is true are good not because they are accurate (who can know that?) but because they work for human purposes in allowing us to best do what we want to do. (Last note on this; Nietzche confuses a bit, because of his tendency to at once deny that we can say things are true n a correspondence-theory sense, but at the same time talk about how our belief in truth is false. Maybe it is a deliberate play on words, but there are times when i think he contradicts himself here, talking as if he wants to let go of the idea that truth can be had but also suggesting that we know for certain when and how we err.)

I have a love/hate relationship with Nietzsche. I value his "negative project" - stuff like this, where the goal is to reconceptualize things like what truth is from a very skeptical and ultimately postmodern standpoint (and that's all we have, isn't it? Standpoints.). But a good much of his "positive projects' - describing how we should live once we have torn it all down - generally strikes me as inadequate for humans as a social species. This work is exclusively made up of Nietzsche's "negative project" and particularly, his focus on tearing down all conceptions of truth that are premised on their being an objective reality that we can somehow access with reason or some other faculty, that we can use to compare to our beliefs about truth. All we have, he says, is those beliefs, and any belief about how the external world lines up with our beliefs are themselves beliefs. It's belief all the way down.


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R'stoyours, K-Carafe & K Cup Reusable and Refillable Coffee Filter Set, Carafe Brews 4-5 Cups of Coffee for the Keurig 2.0, K Cups Compatible with 1.0 & 2.0 , K200, K300, K400, K500 Series Machines
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1.0 out of 5 stars Nope, These Cups Don't Fit Keurig 2.5 Machines., March 25, 2016
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I have a Keurig 2.5 machine. And while the carafes fit the 2.5 just fine, the refillable small cups do not. Each time I put them in the machine - no matter at what angle - the machine rejects them with a caption about how these cups are not compatible.

If you have a Keurig 2.5 machine, do not buy these. The product description is (blatantly?) inaccurate.


Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness
Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness
by Alva Noë
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.00
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Different, but Equally Confusing, View of What Consciousness Is., December 21, 2015
The traditoinal model of consciousness (a bit oversimplified) has it that we experience the world, our senses pass along information to the brain, and the brain creates consciousness by taking this information and representing it (somehow) to us. Our brains, then, are where consciousness happens.

Alva Noe has a very different idea - that consciousness is not something that occurs in our minds, but in our minds and bodies interacting with the environment. An analogy he is fond of using is that of scientists looking at the money itself (and the material it's made from) to understand where it's value comes from. Money's value is not "in" the money but an effect of the money's interaction with things and people. Consciousness, Noe says, may be like that Maybe when we look exclusively in the brain, we are looking in the wrong place (or more accurately, in a place that will give us only a part of the picture).

Much of Noe's case seems a bit obvious. The only way I can be conscious of something is if I come to experience that thing or that it is accessible to me. I am conscious of the computer in front of me, and particularly the back of the computer, not because I see the whole computer (I only see the front of it), but because I know that I can encounter the computer's back if I manipulate the computer and myself a certain way. (I can use my hands to turn the computer around, or adjust my body to see the computer's back). And my consciousness depends on a lot of things: my brain, yes, but also my body and the environment I'm in.

But some of his case is still, at least to me, quite confusing. Again, the conventional account of consciousness is that the environment interacts with my senses, which relay data somehow to my brain, and the brain creates my experience. If the experience is not generated in or from my brain, as Noe seems to argue, where is it generated? Noe hints at an answer, but I just didn't get a sense of him giving a comprehensible answer. And, especially since Noe seems to argue against the idea that the brain produces 'representations,' what goes on when I remember something and remember it so clearly that I feel like I'm holding an image (or sound) of it in my mind? (That is a trickier one, because when I evoke a memory, I am not conscious of what is in my environment, but a prior experience I had.)

I do not doubt that Noe might be able to answer these, but I fear that he did not (at least to my eyes) do so in this book. Noe very adeptly argues that the current brain-based account of consciousness has a lot of problems, including figuring out what in the world 'representations' are and how the physical brain can create them. But to my mind, Noe's view also has problems, such as the one I mentioned about what in the world a memory could be if consciousness is an interaction between me and my present environment.

Very suggestive and intriguing (and remarkably well-written) book, especially for those who follow enactivist (or distributed) theories of cognition. But Out of Our Heads seems more like one salvo in the discussion of what consciousness is rather than anything like a final word. If you're like me, you will be left with more questions than Noe gives answers.


Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education
Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education
Price: $16.17

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Notes From The Deflator!, December 2, 2015
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This is a wide-ranging but thematically based collection of some of Stanley Fish's recurring New York Times column. That means that all of these articles are available online elsewhere. But this is a pretty awesome collection of many articles, so I would recommend buying it anyway.

I have been a longtime fan of Fish's writing. One reason is, of course, that Fish is quite thoughtful. He sees his task in these articles as less to take stances on things and more to point out and evaluate the conceptual issues involved in each. In some interviews, I have heard him explain his role as being "the deflator" - whether it is a deflator of neutral principles like free speech or inflated ideas of academic freedom, or to evaluate the pros and the cons of original intent jurisprudence. And he does this quite well.

But the other reason I like Fish's work - and this reason is on full display here - is that he is really difficult to pin down. On some issues, he seems sort of like a conservative - he believes that all sensical jurisprudence is based on ascertaining the "original intent" of the law. He also defends a quite narrow conception (to most people, especially most academics) of academic freedom :academic freedom is the freedom to have freedom in your role as a scholar to teach and research the way you'd like, but does not apply to areas where you are acting as something other than an academic (like writing op-eds outside your field of expertise). But on other issues, he comes off very much a liberal: he is something of a "soft postmodernist" when it comes to the idea of objective reality and neutral principles, and therefore, is quite down on things like free speech libertarianism, or the idea that affirmative action is some sort of unjustified reverse racism.

I agree with Fish more than I disagree, and quite honestly, one of the essays here - "Condemnation Without Absolutes" - really helped shape my own thinking about ten years ago toward Fish's style of postmodernism. But I disagree with him a fair amount too. His stance on neutral principles is about 50% crap for instance. The true part is that there is no such thing as a neutral principle. But the crap part is that this means that the idea of free speech (and principles like liberalism with its small "l") are therefore a waste. Free speech and liberalism may not be neutral principles, but that doesn't mean that we can't aspire to create better and better, more expansive and more expansive, principles. If Fish had his way (and I doubt he really means what he says regarding free speech, because he is intelligent), since free speech can never be neutral, there is no meaningful difference between a country that permits no freedom of dissent or speech and one who permits some free dissent and speech. Since the rules of baseball are not neutral, therefore, all rules about where and how big a strike zone should be are equally good.

Fish loses some respect from me for his position. But even when I disagree with him, he is a wild ride and always provides thoughtful justification for his positions (even when they fall short). Those who want some really thoughtful but short (and entertaining) reads need look no further than this book.


The Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism without Consumerism
The Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism without Consumerism
by William Irwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.74
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4.0 out of 5 stars Free Markets Arrived At from a Different Direction!, October 15, 2015
There are many ways to arrive at libertarian conclusions. Most libertarians seem to take a "natural right to property and deduce from there" approach. William Irwin wants to convince us that one can also arrive at libertarian and free-market conclusions coming from the wholly opposite direction: existentialism. Existentialism is a position that cannot start from a natural right to property because it eschews all absolutes as anything but human inventions, and does not believe any moral code to be objective or factually true. This, in other words, will be a tough sell.

The soon-to-be-reader needs to be aware, though, of what Irwin is NOT doing. He is not trying to convince us that free markets are best justified by existentialism, nor is he arguing that existentialism, rightly understood, must lead to free-market conclusions. His argument is simply that this existentialist philosophy - long associated with socialism through Sartre and Camus - CAN be compatible with free markets, or that free markets can be a good thing for the exitentialist.

Irwin's case really hinges on two things. First, Sartre's notion of human freedom - that humans are free at all times to make different choices - is very compatible with free markets, because free markets are centered around the idea of giving people more choice by minimizing coercion; free markets are the mechanism that will allow us the most freedom to choose our own path and live by our own values. Second, since existentialists are moral anti-realists (they do not believe that any moral code is factually or objectively superior to any other), free market libertarianism is the system mot compatible with allowing individuals to live in accord with their own values, short of the value of forcing others to live by their values.

The two big objections an existentialist might give - that Irwin thinks are wrong - are these. First, existentialists like Sartre put great value on the idea of living with the freedom to create and recreate oneself as one wants, which Sartre believed was impossible in an economic system that left folks dependent on money. This is why Sartre was a socialist, because he believed that when individuals were freed from the burden of having to earn money for survival, they could be most themselves. Irwin believes this is misguided because it overlooks the huge restrictions on freedom that come from socialism, which often tells individuals what career they will go into to best serve the economy, how much they shall produce, etc. In markets, these things are, to some degree, left to individuals.

Second, existentialists are skeptical of consumerism, because consumerism requires living for others and living for the approval of others. But to Irwin's (and though he didn't see the implication, Sartre's) point, if humans are free at all times, then one can choose to live in a market society and not be a consumerist. That one feels social pressure to have the flashy cell phone or big house is what Sartre would call "bad faith," or offering an excuse for the personal failing of not exercising choice by convincing oneself that one had no choice.

I find Irwin's case pretty convincing, but the area where I think he is most existentialist is the area where I think he is most vulnerable to criticism: when dealing with Sartre's unreal idea of freedom. Yes, we can always choose differently, but what we call choice versus coercion generally has to do with more than the formal possibility of choice, but the ability to feasibly choose. I can choose not to work, but if my alternative is to starve, it is hard to say that I have choice unless we so cheapen what we mean by 'choice' as to make it unhuman. I also suspect that Irwin's case for markets and libertarianism isn't quite rock solid without appealing to some absolute moral values to "ground" the argument on, which existentialism denies can be done.

That said, this book is fantastically interesting, and while philosophy books are usually slow-going for me, I tore through this one. I am not an existentialist, but a pragmatist (and the two are sort of different-aged cousins), so the book really resonated with me. But whether you are an existentialist who is loathe to think his philosophy is compatible with capitalism or a free-marketer who can't see how an existentialist or someone like her could possibly have a case for free markets, this book will be a great and thoughtful read.


The Inequality Trap: Fighting Capitalism Instead of Poverty (UTP Insights)
The Inequality Trap: Fighting Capitalism Instead of Poverty (UTP Insights)
by William Watson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $32.95
50 used & new from $16.25

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On Not Throwing the Baby Out With The Bathwater, September 26, 2015
In this book, Canadian economist William Watson has Thomas Piketty squarely in his sights. Watson doesn't spend time (as others have) disputing Piketty's data purporting to show that inequality is rising at an astonishing rate. Watson's concern is more philosophical - to counter Piketty's blanket (or near-blanket) condemnation of all inequality as bad, and reducing inequality as an unquestioned good.

Watson's point is that some inequality is bad, other inequality is good, and still other inequality is benign. Reducing inequality is only good if you can ferret out and affect the bad inequality without affecting the good and benign inequality. So, Watson's early chapters are devoted to a discussion of what is meant by bad, good, and benign inequality. Bad inequality is the type of inequality where wealth is gained and the rich pull ahead by people getting income by dishonest means that doesn't create value - think Bernie Madoff. Good inequality is the kind where wealth accrues to those who are good at producing value for others and not leaving anyone (except maybe competitors) worse off while making society at large better off; think Steve Jobs. Benign inequality is the type where the rich pull ahead, or the poor fall behind, via a process that is based on some sort of choice or luck that, in or of itself, doesn't harm anyone. Here, Watson reviews data showing that where people used to marry a lot more outside of their social class, they do so less and less today. Thus, the rich marry the rich, the middle class marry the middle class, etc. No one is really harmed, and the inequality arises solely from innocuous personal choice, and it is hard to see how that kind of inequality could be remedied.

From there, we get a chapter exploring who the demonized 1% are, and contra popular belief, the majority are not financiers, but doctors, lawyers, farmers, and a lot of other folks (yes, including financiers). Later, we get some chapters discussing why certain kinds of widening inequality aren't problems. First, since we are often dealing with private goods (like carrots) that aren't positional goods (like homes in elusive neighborhoods), the fact that some can amass larger fortunes doesn't prevent others from attaining goods and services as well. Others argue that widening inequality decreases the poor's ability to do things like have a political voice (not quite true, of course, in a democracy), or buy positional goods (like the houses in exclusive neighborhoods or really good private education). But Watson suggests that, as pessimistic as it may sound, as long as inequality already exists, widening inequality generally doesn't put things that were in reach out of reach; it only puts things that were already out of reach a bit more out of reach.

Lastly, Watson suggests that while inequality should not be a primary concern, poverty (both absolute and relative) should be. And he reviews several ways to alleviate poverty - from doing things to foster "rising tide lifts all boats" economic growth to figuring out how to give the poor good "human capital" training, to direct wealth transfer that prevents people from living below a certain standard.

Watson considers himself (even in the book) a "conservative economist" tending toward belief in free markets. But even so, his discussion never comes off as ideological. He is generally skeptical of government's ability to remedy either inequality or poverty, but suggests that things like direct redistribution of wealth can sometimes alleviate poverty. Watson thinks governments have a role to play in aiding the poor's access to job and skills training (and things like drug treatment facilities), but is very skeptical of government doing anything more than providing the funding that the poor can use for private services; governments, he writes, generally do a bad job at providing those services directly.

The most disappointing aspect of the book is that Watson provides no real endorsements on solutions. The last few chapters are largely spent reviewing possible ways to alleviate poverty and their potential upsides and drawbacks. But Watson's main message, of course, is about what we should not be regarding as a primary policy issue: the "inequality trap" Watson refers to is the trap that we should focus on tackling inequality which often finds us putting less focus on the real problem of poverty.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2016 5:31 PM PST


The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self
The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self
by Anil Ananthaswamy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.74
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Self And Its Supporting Cast, September 16, 2015
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In this book, Anil Anathaswamy sets out to argue that the self is not an illusion. But it also isn't a "thing" either. The self is the feeling we get when a variety of brain parts do their job correctly or well. His study examines the self and the feeling of it by looking at cases where some of those brain parts don't work as they should.

We start off with Cotard's syndrome, or, patients who are very much alive but believe themselves to be dead. (Imagine how strange it must be to have someone talk about how they think they are dead as if this weren't a contradiction.) This is a syndrome where the part of our brains that identify our actions and our bodies as OURS somehow isn't sending that signal.

Then there is Body Identity Integrity Disorder, where a person's body doesn't match with what they believe is really their body - maybe one of their legs feels like it shouldn't be there. These are the folks who quite deliberately seek out amputation, not because they WANT to look different, but because a part of their body feels like it is not really a part of their body. (This happens when the part of our brain responsible for mapping a mental image of our body doesn't align with how our body actually is.)

As a former special educator, I am quite educated on autism and schizophrenia, but Ananthaswamy talks of them in a bit of a different way - for instance, how some theorize that schizophrenia is basically what happens when the part of our brain that identifies mental thoughts or voices as ours (rehearsing my thoughts in my head) doesn't identify certain voices in my brain as coming from my brain. So they feel foreign. And mabe i feel like my thoughts are controlling me.

Anyway, that is a taste of how this book goes. In the style of Oliver Sachs, Ananthaswamy does a great job teling the stories of diverse others in a way that makes them quite relatable. But what was most fascinating about this book to me was watching folks create narratives to try and make sense of what their brains are telling them. If my brain is telling me that my body is not my body, then how do I make sense of that? Oh, well, I must be dead. I am hearing voices that seem to be in my brain, but I'm not intuiting that they are coming from me. Oh, there must be someone or something who has taken over part of my brain. Etc.

So, the author argues that the self is not an illusion, or at least not the kind of illusion that we can step out of to see if it is an illusion (making it unlike every other illusion we know of). But the story that emerges here is that the self is not really a thing, or one function of our brains. It is many functions of our brains coming together to give us this feeling. Whether that counts to someone like Daniel Dennett as an illusion is another discussion. But the self is a feeling that we cannot step away from, even when the brain parts giving rise to it don't always work right.


Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests
Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests
by Jason Brennan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $37.27
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If it's Okay to Do For Free, It's Okay to Do For Money: Challenging Some Conventional Wisdom!, September 8, 2015
Philosophy Professors Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski have a seemingly simple task in this book: to convince you that if it is not wrong to do a thing voluntarily, it cannot be wrong to sell the thing. In other words, the introduction of a money transaction into the equation cannot itself make a thing wrong. If it is morally wrong when it is bought and sold, it must be morally wrong for some other reason than that it is bought or sold.

But this is not so simple a task. Philosophers like Michael Sandel (and his bestseller, What Money Can't Buy), Deborah Satz (Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale) and others have argued that there are times when it is wrong to buy or sell a thing even if the thing isn't immoral itself. So, donating your kidney may be okay, but selling it is not. Standing in line for tickets to the free Shakespeare in the Park play is fine, but buying the services of someone to stand in line for you (or selling your ticket after you get it) is not.

With the skill of philosophical surgeons (and some very clear and engaging prose), Brennan and Jaworski dissect these arguments and find them wanting. They tackle several different kinds of objections. Some argue that markets are inherently corrupting (evidence shows this to be dubious). Others argue that markets introduce exploitation into the equation (which evidence again gives lie to, but even if they did, we can introduce regulations that will guard against exploitation). Still others argue that commodification takes something away from the dignity of the bought/sold thing (here is where I think Brennan and Jaworski's discussion is quite fascinating, as they review evidence that shows our perceptions of disgust/disapproval toward certain markets are more matters of cultural convention and anything inherently correct).

But we need to be clear about what Brennan and Jawarski are and are not arguing. Free market libertarians will probably be a bit disappointed in this book, as the authors are not making a case for FREE markets without limits, but simply that if you think buying and selling x is wrong, your objection is almost surely about something other than markets. So, there are times that this means the authors entertain the idea of regulated markets: if someone is concerned that selling body parts may take advantage of the poor or vulnerable, then what if we introduced regulations that the poor could only buy or sell organs with evidence of informed consent, or that the poor could not sell body parts? If we are concerned that those markets will result in only the rich being able to afford organs, introduce price controls that now put those body parts at a price more affordable. This will likely not satisfy the free market libertarian, but the authors' point is simply to pinpoint what it is (other than the existence of markets) that people are objecting to, and then show that markets could exist that take those factors into account.

This book was a really good read, and should challenge a lot of conventional wisdom (and intuition) on the matter of markets in certain areas - from adoption markets to sex markets to policy analyst markets that allow folks to place money on when the next terrorist attack will occur. One important role philosophy has to play is to analyze arguments and pinpoint where they go right and wrong. Brennan and Jawarski do that with great care here, and it makes for a fantastic and challenging read.


DBPOWER® Linckclock Smart Smart Alarm Clock LCD Display Light-activated Sensor Bedside Snooze Alarm Clocks, Rechargeable
DBPOWER® Linckclock Smart Smart Alarm Clock LCD Display Light-activated Sensor Bedside Snooze Alarm Clocks, Rechargeable

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just Beware of Some Features The Description Doesn't Make Clear!, August 31, 2015
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I bought this clock based on the reviews for it and the product description. What I received was quite disappointing. There are several things to be cautious of about this clock that the product description doesn't make clear. Here they are:

a.) The clock is only chargeable by micro-usb cable (and they supply a cable, but you need to supply the actual plug). It is meant to run on an internal battery, which holds a decent charge, but is still less than reliable, and certainly not as reliable as keeping a clock plugged in. Each recharge takes about 6 hours.

b.) If you turn the clock off or run out of battery, you must reprogram everything. You lose your calendar (year and month) and your time. YOu'll need to do this every time you recharge or turn off the clock.

c.) If there is a way to get a 12 hour (rather than a 24 hour) time, I haven't found it, and the directions don't tell. I prefer 12 hour to 24 hour, so this clock is usable, but...

d.) The clock is VERY small. I don't have exact measurements, but my 6-inch-screen cell phone is longer than the width of this clock (not just the clock face, but the entire width of the clock.)

So, there you have it. This a a good clock, maybe, if you need a clock for traveling with. But I wouldn't and won't be using it as my bedroom alarm clock.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 7, 2016 2:00 AM PDT


Meddling: On the Virtue of Leaving Others Alone (American Philosophy)
Meddling: On the Virtue of Leaving Others Alone (American Philosophy)
by John Lachs
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.98
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the Virtue of Not Telling Others What to Do!, August 10, 2015
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While I didin't get quite the bad taste another reviewer did (this book is much more than diatribes against Medicaid and other public policies), I cannot give this book high marks. I have read and enjoyed almost all of Lachs other works, and as one who values human freedom, I thought this book would be quite interesting. Some of it was, but the book (a) in my view, goes too far in what it is asking of people, and (b) does not go far in entertaining possible objections.

The book is about the virtue of non-interference in others lives. To Lachs, the avoidance of meddling is framed as a virtue, and like Aristotlean virtues, this one seems not to lend itself to iron-clad rules of use. There are times we can tell others what to do (when danger is imminent and we have no ability or time to ask permission), but generally, we must be careful to allow others to do what it is they want to do. Telling (let alone forcing) others to do as we'd like gets in the way of others doing as they'd like, and given that Lachs is committed to respecting the enormous amount of human diversity in values, he believes we are best to assume that others often just hold different values than we do.

First, I think Lachs goes a bit far in what he asks of people. Even most libertarians like myself are generally committed to not forcing others to do what they do not want to, but not telling others what we think they should do is quite different. Example: I cannot force racists to not be racists (to not associate with or disparage those of another race). But it seems like there may be a legitimate reason for me to tell racist that I believe their judgment to be wrong and maybe even despicable. And when I see someone about to make what I believe to be a poor financial decision, it is one thing for me to respect their right to make that decision, but I don't see why it is wrong (as Lachs does) for me to open my mouth and let them know why I think the decision may be a poor one. (It may be that I have experience with this kind of financial decision and can offer something the other doesn't know that they don't know.) Either way, if I'm in a position to get the person to reconsider, but deliberately don't say anything by assuming they just value finances differently than I - and then the decision DOES turn out to be a bad one - it isn't clear how my not talking can be described as virtuous.

This leads me to another point. I think Lachs exaggerates a bit on the motives people have for giving advice to others. He writes as if it all comes down to want of control. But my wanting to give advice to the person about to make (what sees) a bad decision isn't about control; it is about wanting to help another by giving a perspective that might save them from a seemingly bad choice. When I tell the racist that I think her choices are bad and dangerous, it is not motivated by a desire to control her, but a desire to do what I can to make sure there is one less racist in the world. Sometimes, the desire to tell others what to do IS motivated by a desire to control, but I think Lachs makes his case too easy (and weak) by writing as if this desire is always a sort of malevolent desire for control.

Lastly, Lachs doesn't deal much with potential objections. What if (like the case of the person making a financial decision) I have expertise in an area that the other doesn't realize she is missing and needs. If I speak up, I can save her from a bad decision, and she will be free to reject my advice. If I don't say something, it seems likely that she will make a bad choice, one she will likely regret. Why is my deliberately not speaking up a virtue? Is it a great respect to her personhood to not offer up advice when it really seems like I have information that might help her? And what about such recent trends as nudge paternalism (Thaler and Sunstein, Julian LeGrande, etc)? What about government 'nudging' us toward choices that seem objectively good, while still leaving us ultimately free to choose the 'bad' course? For the record, I think nudge paternalism is problematic for several reasons, but Lachs doesn't touch it. That is troubling for a book where the subject is so obviously relevant.

So, 3 of 5. This book gives a lot to think about and offers a fresh (and well-written) perspective/argument that most others have not given. And, yes, contra another reviewer, it is more than an argument against Medicare and other government welfare and regulatory policy. But at 127 pages, I really do think there is a LOT of substance that this book missed.


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