I've been reading (since almost a year, sigh) : STRAW DOGS: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
by John Gray
It's taking me so long cuz I have three other books I'm pretending to read at the same time, a few others I've completed, and at college full-time. Just saying it's taking me a long time, not because it's boring, but life happens.
It's a very interesting book. It posits lots of disagreements with the humanist movement and the "perceived value" of our thinking.
It looks at modern humans primarily as "out of sync" Homo sapiens. I won't do a review since I haven't finished it yet. But one of his focuses is on how we "perceive" that our actions are controlled by our intellect when in fact they're decided at a more primitive level. An example as benign as deciding to turn left or right down a hallway, have gone through the process of that decision before we are even conscious of that making that decision, and way before we moved on that thought.
He also places morality/ethics in a different sphere than most humanists and "do-gooder" atheists, atheists who cry out: "but we are good too... pout". He places morality/ethics squarely on the side of objective justifiability. In other words, the golden rule and silver rule, and all other supposed "rules" only make sense in particular contexts. He argues that they are NOT absolutes of "humanity" as humanists pose.
I tend to agree with him and I very much look forward to finishing the book, as soon as I'm done with my classes, in one month.
Interestingly, this book has haters on both sides, religious people hate it well just because it's anti-religious in nature, but atheist humanists also hate it because it completely negates their fundamental premise of morality existing outside religion.
Concocting secret competitions in supermarket lines, building bus-stop camaraderie, and daydreaming during quotidian tasks are all part of the familiar yet nearly invisible parts of our lives. In The Secret World of Doing Nothing, two professors explore waiting, routine, and daydreaming—three different but intertwined processes we use to control and navigate time. If you’re willing to immerse yourself in the minute and the mundane, suddenly “nothing” becomes “something” significant, unlocking where the mind goes—and why—when the body idles.
From the Inside Flap
"This is one of those rare books that causes you to rethink all your previous understandings of both time and space, to pay attention to what you have hitherto ignored or belittled. Full of fascinating detail, Ehn and Lofgren's work opens up a whole new field of inquiry."--John Gillis, author of Islands of the Mind: How the Human Imagination Created the Atlantic World
"This is a beautifully written and elegant book, deeply thoughtful but accessible to anyone. The Secret World of Doing Nothing is an essential field guide for understanding daily life; a delightful way to find out what is going on in the heads of people waiting, standing in lines, daydreaming and seemingly doing nothing. Ehn and Lofgren open a door into a hitherto hidden world in the mundane details of daily life; they uncover a trove of valuable insight into contemporary society, emotions, and morality. Who would think that looking at nothing could be so enlightening?"--Richard R. Wilk, Indiana University
"Focusing on three seemingly mundane activities--waiting, routines, and daydreaming--Ehn and Lofgren lead us into a rich imaginative world that lies within each of these everyday practices. Far from being trivial, we learn that these practices provide a revealing window into the social constructions of norms and values and moral debates about order and disorder. They provide a whole new level of insight into the collective nature of individual mental meanderings and the human desire to escape boredom and structures of control through the imagination." --Katrina Moore, University of New South Wales
An enormous amount of scientific research compels two fundamental conclusions about the human mind: The mind is the product of evolution; and the mind is shaped by culture. These two perspectives on the human mind are not incompatible, but, until recently, their compatibility has resisted rigorous scholarly inquiry. Evolutionary psychology documents many ways in which genetic adaptations govern the operations of the human mind. But evolutionary inquiries only occasionally grapple seriously with questions about human culture and cross-cultural differences. By contrast, cultural psychology documents many ways in which thought and behavior are shaped by different cultural experiences. But cultural inquires rarely consider evolutionary processes. Even after decades of intensive research, these two perspectives on human psychology have remained largely divorced from each other. But that is now changing - and that is what this book is about.
Evolution, Culture, and the Human Mind is the first scholarly book to integrate evolutionary and cultural perspectives on human psychology. The contributors include world-renowned evolutionary, cultural, social, and cognitive psychologists. These chapters reveal many novel insights linking human evolution to both human cognition and human culture – including the evolutionary origins of cross-cultural differences. The result is a stimulating introduction to an emerging integrative perspective on human nature.
"Written with both clarity and rigor, Thought in a Hostile World is a richly informed and sophisticated account of the evolution of complex cognition. Sterelny's arguments appeal, not so much because they reinforce our preconceptions – on the contrary, we are frequently challenged – but rather because they are informed, well-reasoned, and leave us with plenty to think about. Sterelny's book could aptly be renamed Clear Thought in a Muddled World and evolutionary psychologists, in particular, would benefit from reading it." Kevin N. Laland, University of St. Andrews
Our ability to 'think' is really one of our most puzzling characteristics. What it would be like to be unable to think? What would it be like to lack self-awareness? The complexity of this activity is striking. 'Thinking' involves the interaction of a range of mental processes--attention, emotion, memory, planning, self-consciousness, free will, and language. So where did these processes arise? What evolutionary advantages were bestowed upon those with an ability to deceive, to plan, to empathize, or to understand the intention of others? In this compelling new work, Peter Gardenfors embarks on an evolutionary detective story to try and solve one of the big mysteries surrounding human existence--how has the modern human being's way of thinking come into existence. He starts by taking in turn the more basic cognitive processes, such as attention and memory, then builds upon these to explore more complex behaviors, such as self-consciousness, mindreading, and imitation. Having done this, he examines the consequences of "putting thought into the world" -i.e., using external media like cave paintings, drawings, and writing. Immensely readable and humorous, the book will be valuable for students in psychology and biology, and accessible to readers of popular science.
"Literacy has promoted the subjugation of women by men throughout all but the very recent history of the West," writes Leonard Shlain. "Misogyny and patriarchy rise and fall with the fortunes of the alphabetic written word."
That's a pretty audacious claim, one that The Alphabet Versus the Goddess provides extensive historical and cultural correlations to support. Shlain's thesis takes readers from the evolutionary steps that distinguish the human brain from that of the primates to the development of the Internet. The very act of learning written language, he argues, exercises the human brain's left hemisphere--the half that handles linear, abstract thought--and enforces its dominance over the right hemisphere, which thinks holistically and visually. If you accept the idea that linear abstraction is a masculine trait, and that holistic visualization is feminine, the rest of the theory falls into place. The flip side is that as visual orientation returns to prominence within society through film, television, and cyberspace, the status of women increases, soon to return to the equilibrium of the earliest human cultures. Shlain wisely presents this view of history as plausible rather than definite, but whether you agree with his wide-ranging speculations or not, he provides readers eager to "understand it all" with much to consider.
From Library Journal
The advantages of a literate society are self-evident, but is there a dark side to language? In this extraordinary book, Shlain, a surgeon and the author of Art and Physics (LJ 9/1/91), argues that when cultures acquire literacy, the brain's left hemisphere dominates the right?with enormous consequences. Alphabetic writing, Shlain believes, "subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook" at the expense of feminine values. Focusing on Western cultures, Shlain surveys world history and religion to illustrate how alphabet literacy fosters extremes of intolerance. Indeed, a subtheme of the book is that overreliance on the left hemisphere "initially leads a society through a period of demonstrable madness." Such aberrations as group suicide, religious persecution, and witch-hunting are the result of a dominant linear, reductionist, and abstract method of perception. While admitting that "correlation does not prove causality," Shlain presents a forceful case based on a wealth of circumstantial evidence. An absorbing, provocative, and, ironically, highly literate work that should receive considerable review attention; recommended for most public and academic libraries.