Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Review: To the Far Blue Mountains

To the Far Blue Mountains To the Far Blue Mountains by Louis L'Amour
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio book of Sackett's Land and loved it. I decided to read this the old fashioned way (since I am listening to Einstein on audio already). Overall, I enjoyed it. Barnabas is a great character: he is smart, honorable, swashbuckling, and daring. He is quite philosophical in his pondering of why he is so compelled to push to the next frontier. However, the story sort of petered out at the end. I would have liked to see more of Barnabas and his life in America. Mostly we see the battle scenes, but I would have like more interaction with the Native Americans. We get glimpses, but there were a few too many "my how the time flies" sections to speed through the decades. I will continue to read more in the series. I look forward to seeing how the sons do in beyond the mountains. L'Amour is a master.

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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Review: His Excellency: George Washington

His Excellency: George Washington His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ellis gives us a thoroughly enjoyable, readable, and interesting biography of Washington. It dispels many of the myths and legends, and gives us a more accurate – and thereby more heroic – picture of the truly indispensable man. Of all the founding fathers, Washington is the one who I believe was indispensable. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and others are incredibly important and their contributions crucial to this nation’s founding and its prosperity. But Washington, from his victories on the battlefield to his political leadership, was a major part of things from the beginning to the end of the revolutionary era. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else leading the Continental Army to its improbable victory. It’s also hard to see who else could have led the country in its first eight years: keeping the country out of European wars and focused on its own domestic development into a nation. His deliberate decision to walk away from power not once, not twice, but thrice is beyond historical precedent. Washington was a man of powerful ambitions and a clear vision of what the United States need to become – but he was also a man of deep convictions and virtue and knew when to step aside.

Ellis does a masterful job of showing us Washington’s ineluctable role in the American Revolution and founding. Much of this is familiar to students’ of American History but brought together with Ellis’s straightforward prose and his insight into Washington’s motivations, development, and deliberation bring Washington into view in way that shows him to be more interesting and more important than we might remember from the textbooks.

I knew, as anyone schooled in America should know, that Washington freed his slaves upon his death. Ellis, though, shows how Washington’s views on this troubling aspect of our history evolved from acceptance to ambivalence to abomination. He unfortunately missed a few opportunities to do more to bring about the end of slavery. Washington’s pragmatism and realism prevented him from acting more directly on the matter (believing as he did that such moves would likely break apart the nascent nation), but his desire to see the end of slavery was real and not merely a deathbed after thought.

I did not know anything about Washington’s longstanding efforts to reach an equitable, peaceful, and fair arrangement with the native peoples of America. He clearly had deep respect for the tribes and worked hard to secure their rights to tribal lands. Sadly, his efforts failed—one wonders how different history would have played out had he been successful on this front.

I highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in American History. I have already place Ellis’s author work: Founding Brothers on my to-read list.


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

CFP (Reason Papers): Philosophy of Play

Reason Papers: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies (of which I am a co-editor) is soliciting contributions for a Spring 2016 symposium on normative issues in play. The journal invites submissions that explore the nature of play; its developmental importance; and its role in human lives, values, and societies. We are also interested in explorations of the relationship between play and other human activities (such as other recreational activities, education, or work), structured vs. unstructured play, and children’s play vs. adult play.  Submissions are due by February 1, 2016.

The CFP at Reason Papers.

Information on Submitting.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an intriguing book. I wouldn't say I loved it but I am glad I read it. It is a slow book to get into; it builds as you read it. It is not boring, just takes some getting used to and gets better as you get more familiar with the world and the characters. As my friend Mike put it: it is a slow burn.

 Le Guin has created a unique and alien world. That's what is so intriguing about it, but also what makes it hard to get into. The world-building is subtle and slow; the concepts of this culture and the differences with our world are not baldly stated and taken for granted. They are meted out and hinted it; it takes a bit to get the feel for it. It feels, as it should, somewhat alien. Note: this is not a criticism of the work. Such a manner of storytelling can be quite rewarding. Nevertheless, I think this partially explains the slow-going of the story telling in the first half of the book. Also, the story-telling can be somewhat off putting as the narrative shifts around a bit between characters and between first and third person. It is not always clear, at first, who is talking or from whose point of view the story is being told. Except for the two main characters, there is not much characterization.

The secondary characters are quite sci-fi-y; that is, somewhat stereotypical characters with little eccentricities to serve to distinguish them from the other characters. They appear on the stage when needed and then disappear.

 It deals with some fascinating themes: the most famous is sex and gender and its socio-cultural role. She also plays with how we deal with culturally traditions and taboos. In a deeper way, the book is about the relation of people: friends, family, strangers, races, nations, worlds.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Reason Papers Announcement

As some of my readers are aware, I recently joined Reason Papers as co-editor. I’m very excited about this opportunity!

Here’s a little about the journal from Reason Papers’s website:
Reason Papers is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal appearing online twice a year. It features full-length Articles and Discussion Notes, along with Symposia, Book Reviews, and Review Essays. Our Fall 2011 issue inaugurates a new section of the journal, “Afterwords,” devoted to brief commentaries on contemporary issues, including original translations from non-English sources. 
As a “journal of interdisciplinary normative studies,” Reason Papers publishes work whose content is “normative in the philosophical sense.” As an interdisciplinary journal, Reason Papers’s mission is guided by an ideal of disciplinary integration that extends beyond philosophical reflection on normative concepts. We welcome work in any academic field, as long as it meets the relevant standards of rigor for the fields it discusses, and as long as its normative implications are clear or made explicit.
If you are interested in submitting to the journal, please read the Submissions information: http://reasonpapers.com/submissions/ 

We also have lots of opportunities for book reviews as well. See our list of books for which we are looking for reviewers: http://reasonpapers.com/booksforreview/

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CFP: Studies in Philosophy of Sport

Call for Book Proposals for new series: Studies in Philosophy of Sport

The Studies in Philosophy of Sport series from Lexington Books encourages scholars from all disciplines to inquire into the nature, importance, and qualities of sport and related activities. The series aims to encourage new voices and methods for the philosophic study of sport while also inspiring established scholars to consider new questions and approaches in this field.

The series encourages scholars new to the philosophy of sport to bring their expertise to this growing field. These new voices bring innovative methods and different questions to the standard issues in the philosophy of sport. Well-trodden topics in the literature will be reexamined with fresh takes and new questions and issues will be explored to advance the field beyond traditional positions.

Proposal Information

The series publishes both monographs and edited volumes. The “philosophy of sport” should be construed broadly to include many different methodological approaches, historical traditions, and academic disciplines. I am especially interested in proposals from scholars new to the discipline of philosophy of sport (either because they are from a discipline other than philosophy or they are philosophers new to the study of sport). Click here for proposal guidelines.

If you have an idea for a book but are not ready to submit a complete proposal at this time, please still email me (sportsethicist@gmail.com) to discuss your idea.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Thrown


Thrown
Thrown by Kerry Howley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



I am not sure this book is for everyone, but I found it engaging and thought-provoking. It is a funny and original book that looks at the world of mixed-martial arts fighting. I hesitate to say an insider’s view, since the author is not a fighter. She is what she calls a space-taker: not quite a groupie, not quite an assistant, not quite a beat writer, but some weird mix of all three. She ‘space-takes’ with two fighters making their way through the lower levels of MMA fighting. She follows them because she is obsessed with finding an ecstatic, pure, out-of-body experience induced by the brutality and violence of the fight.

It is beautiful in moments as she captures the sublime aspects of sport and spectatorship. It becomes a little clich├ęd at others times with its disparagement of mundane jobs and boring family life. It is also, at times, a little too impressed with itself and also a bit overwrought in places. But, then, that is part of the point I think: the juxtaposition of philosophical musings about Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and phenomenology with fights in run-down gyms in Iowan backwaters. For the most part this works and is a big part of the draw (especially for a philosopher of sport like myself). But there were times it was a little forced.

These are minor flaws. The book is definitely worth reading if you are interested in sport, spectacle, MMA, or phenomenology.






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Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere


The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere
The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere by Kevin Carey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This was not quite the book I thought it was going to be. It is focused on the history of higher education and not education policy or proposals. It tells the story of the particular circumstances that gave rise to the contemporary hybrid American university (one part research institute, one part liberal arts, one part practical education/training) and shows how those circumstances are changing (mostly due to technology). With these changing conditions, Carey argues, the hybrid model is starting to come a part. Technological advances are exposing the faults and cracks of higher ed and educational entrepreneurs are exploiting those opportunities. Eventually, a critical mass of new models will emerge and college as we know it will end.

What will the future look like? Carey's vision of of the University of Everywhere is aspirational and ideal. He's not offering a proposal or any detail. He sees a future where technology breaks up the hybrid universities. Technology will make what is a scarce resource, widely available and nearly free. What he calls your educational identity will be more under your control and direction (not housed on transcript somewhere in the ivory tower). Education won't be 4 years in one location: it will be lifelong and every where.

Using his experience taking an intro biology course online at MIT edX and interviews with different educational entrepreneurs, Carey presents the bits and pieces that are chipping away at the foundations of the ivory tower (the different ways people are offering online classes, using technology for education, and experimenting with alternative ways of credentialing). Each one of these pieces is exploiting a problem in the hybrid model and as they become more numerous and more successful, the hybrid model is breaking down.

I am glad Carey discusses the credential issue. That is the key to the breakdown of the hybrid model. Once employers and others can make use of credentialing systems that are as good as (even better than) a college diploma, the edifice of much of higher ed will come crashing down. As Carey notes, Harvard and MIT will be just fine. The state universities, community colleges, and small colleges (like Rockford U) that depend so much on (1) current tuition and (2) vast numbers of students whose primary aims are credentials for jobs not education will lose their market and their revenue. Though the disruption will be difficult and scary, and I don't know what will emerge, I think a higher ed system with more models and more competition will lead to a system that is more effective, more accessible, and more affordable. In this respect, I agree with Carey.

I am, though, much more skeptical about the technology; it is earlier than we think. It is hard to see how the intimate seminars of upper-level, advanced classes in most of the liberal arts and sciences can be taught online with the current level of technology. I think there is a lot that can be done and will eventually be done, but the dynamic, face-to-face chewing of ideas in a shared inquiry of a seminar is not (yet) replicable in discussion forums, chat rooms, or google hang outs. An Intro to Bio may work great -- as it seemed to for Carey at MIT edX, but what about a senior level seminar on the economics of Shakespeare's plays?

Though it wasn't what I expected, I learned a lot about the history of education and educational technology. Carey weaves in anecdotes into his history and interviews that make the book interesting and compelling.



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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Review: Moscow Rules


Moscow Rules
Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Another great Allon novel. The twist here is that instead of fighting Islamic terrorists, he goes up against Russian agents and arms dealers.



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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Book: Steve Jobs and Philosophy: For Those Who Think Different

My new book, Steve Jobs and Philosophy: For Those Who Think Different,will be out in late-April. You can pre-order on Amazon.com.

You can read the Preface

Table of Contents:
I. The Crazy One
1. The Reality Distortion Field of Steve Jobs by James Edwin Mahon
2. Counter-Culture Capitalist by Carrie-Ann Biondi
3. The Anti-Social Creator by Terry W. Noel
4. What Pixar Taught Millennials about Personhood by Kyle Munkittrick

II. The Troublemaker
5. How Can We Make Entrepreneurs by Stephen R. C. Hicks
6. The Visionary Entrepreneur by Robert F. Salvino
7. But Steve Jobs Didn't Invent Anything! by Ryan Krause and Owen Parker
8. What Does Market Success Show? by William R Thomas

III. The Rebel
9. Marley and Steve by Jason Walker
10. The Noble Truths of Steve Jobs by Shawn E. Klein and Danielle Fundora
11. Two Sides of Think Different by Robert White
12. The Moral Perfectionist by Jared Meyer
13. Does Apple Know Right from Wrong by Jason Iuliano

IV. The Misfit
14. Close Your Eyes, Hold Your Breath, Jump In by Paul Pardi
15. Does Steve Jobs Live and Work for You? by Alexander R. Cohen
16. Jobs and Heidegger Square Off on Technology by Christopher Ketcham
17. Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication by Dennis Knepp



 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Deflate-Gate Media Appearances

Who knew under-inflated footballs would cause such a stir! Over the last week, I’ve had a number of media appearances related to this issue. I’m trying to get a post out soon (this coincided with the first of class so I’ve had to attend to my ‘real’ job). Here’s the list of my ‘deflate-gate’ appearances (check out SportsEthicist.com for updates to this list):

ESPN The Classroom, Marist College Center for Sports Communication. 1220 ESPN. January 24, 2015. Web (podcast): http://espntheclassroom.podomatic.com/entry/2015-01-24T09_33_16-08_00

Huffpost Live “The Latest on Deflate Gate” January 23, 2015. Web: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/deflate-gate/54bfe93078c90a13b500019f

CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello. January 23, 2015. Transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1501/23/cnr.04.html Video Archive: http://archive.org/details/CNNW_20150123_150000_CNN_Newsroom_With_Carol_Costello#start/2040/end/2100

 Maese, Rick. “Patriots, Bill Belichick walk, sometimes cross, line between competitiveness and cheating” Washington Post, January 22, 2015. Web: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/patriots-bill-belichick-walk-sometimes-cross-line-between-competitiveness-and-cheating/2015/01/22/e4152bf4-a271-11e4-91fc-7dff95a14458_story.html

 Spewak, Danny. “Science Claims Deflategate Was No Accident!” WGRZ, Buffalo, NY. January 22, 2015. Web: http://www.wgrz.com/story/sports/2015/01/22/sports-science-for-the-patriots/22184649/

Alesia, Mark. “Sports ethics experts analyze Belichick, ‘DeflateGate'” Indianapolis Star, January 22, 2105. Print A1; A6. Web: http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nfl/colts/2015/01/22/sports-ethics-deflategate-bill-belichick-new-england-patriots-indianapolis-colts/22153199/

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: The Secret Servant


The Secret Servant
The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Another great Allon novel from Daniel Silva. While the last novel in this series left me wanting a little more, this one hit all the right notes. It had all the usual features of a spy thriller and these were all well executed by Silva. I especially enjoyed the unexpected humor in the denouement. One thing that makes this series so interesting is the way Silva gets into the minds of Allon and his foes. The terrorists are rarely just evil caricatures; Silva gives space for acknowledging that some of their gripes are legitimate—while giving no quarter to their methods. He also shows you the psychic damage to Allon for being like his namesake, the angel of judgment. Killing, even when justified and necessary, leaves a mark. This novel, involving both the Americans and the British, highlights the ineptitude of the West in dealing with Islamic terrorism.

---Spoiler Alert---

Shamron is clearing dying; it'll be interesting to see what Silva does with Allon as he loses this guiding figure in his life. Also, I am curious to see how the marriage with Chiara plays out.



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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Review: The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children


The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children
The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



I was disappointed in this book. I loved the title and the idea of it; it’s been on my ‘to-read’ list for a while. But it wasn’t really what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good and interesting ideas. Mogel connects worthwhile parental advice to Jewish wisdom and teaching. However, this connection seemed somewhat superficial. The parental advice is mostly conventional and typical of parenting books. The Jewish teachings often felt like an afterthought.

Two other aspects of the book led me to an overall negative review. First, Mogel is a clinical psychologist and uses her cases and experiences to illustrate her advice. That is fairly typical for books like this, but nonetheless, it is too anecdotal for me. I would have liked the anecdotes to be more grounded in some data.

Second, the religiousness of the book was surprising and put me off. Now, with a book with a subtitle of “Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children”, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was. As a secular Jew, I see the value of Jewish teachings without a lot of God-talk. I expected something more along the lines of using Talmudic teachings or other forms of Jewish wisdom to illustrate points. Mogel, though, goes beyond this towards advising particular religious practices as part of her parental advice. I don’t want to overplay this. Mogel wasn’t proselytizing or making constant references to God. This aspect was more subtle and something that I was more sensitive too.

There is some very good advice in these pages. In particular, her advice on the need to avoid overindulging and overprotect children is important and she offers some practical tips to help parents on this front. But overall, I am not comfortable recommending this book without the caveats about my concerns raised above.




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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Wool Omnibus


Wool Omnibus
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Wool is a creative and original post-apocalyptic dystopian work that is gripping, unpredictable, and thrilling. The story mainly takes place in the Silo: a self-contained, underground city of 150 stories. As far as the inhabitants know, this is the entirety of existence. Speaking of anything beyond this is prohibited. The why of this taboo and the existence of the Silo is slowly explained through the book's five parts.This mystery and the impact it has on the characters is the driving force of the story.

While there are plenty of ideas in play: freedom vs control; liberty vs security; facing uncomfortable truths vs ignorance is bliss; fate vs choice; justice vs the collective good; and the obvious allusion to Plato's Cave, these don't overpower the characters and the story. Like all great sci-fi, the characters are dealing in world that is in many ways distant from our own but still we know them and their concerns.

Howey is a great story teller; looking forward to reading much more of him.




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