Saturday, November 28, 2015

Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality

Theodore Dalrymple is a British psychiatrist who has spent a lot of time counseling people at the very bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum. He's also a penetrating author with a terrific prose style. He's worth reading for the style alone.

In this book Dalrymple asserts the strong thesis that modern psychiatry is not only largely a waste of time, but actually counterproductive. He's not talking about the cases of obvious pathology, where he is fully willing to concede that psychiatry has made genuine and valuable contributions. He is talking more about psychiatry as it tends to expand into a general philosophy or comprehensive view of human nature in the form of Freudian psychoanalysis, behaviorism, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.  Dalrymple holds that in these forms psychology either teaches things that are trivially true and well-known, or novel ideas that are inherently destructive. Chief among the latter is the idea that some controlling force - be it childhood trauma, our genes, or our conditioning, etc. - dictates our behavior.

Dalyrmple is a master of the pithy phrase. Opening the book at random: "Psychoanalysis, like death, is a bourn from which no traveler returns."

Highly recommended.

Double Fault by Lionel Shriver

I haven't been keeping up with this reading log, although I've been reading. I'll post on the books I can remember I've read over the last few months.

This one is a novel by the same author as We Need To Talk About Kevin. And like that book, it explores a sort of Nietzschean theme of the will to power as fundamental to human relations. Shriver likes to take the most intimate of human relations - in the case of Kevin, that between mother and son - and tell a story of two people attempting to overcome the will to power to know each other. And if you are at all familiar with her work, she's not too optimistic about the outcome.

Double Fault does to marriage what Kevin did to motherhood. Shriver ups the ante by making the marriage partners both struggling professional tennis players. Since competition is at the heart of what they do, there is the danger that the marriage will become a contest as well - and it does.

This book isn't quite as compelling as Kevin, but still a good read.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Badlands by C.J. Box

CJ Box has a new hero in Cassie Dewell, a sheriff's deputy who moves to North Dakota to take a position as chief investigator in the expanding shale oil country. This looks like the beginning of a new series just as good as his Joe Pickett series.

Re-read of An Intellectual History of Liberalism by Pierre Manent

This book, along with Manent's The City of Man, is indispensable for understanding what it means to be modern. And we are all inevitably modern.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Adios America by Ann Coulter

I generally don't read these types of contemporary political books, but my library had this and I gave it a shot. A very easy read and Coulter is actually pretty funny and, unfortunately, right about immigration.

The Enlightenment - Invention of the Modern Self by Leo Damrosch

This is a series of lectures by Prof. Damrosch and produced by the Great Courses. The theme is the development of the "modern self" during the Enlightenment, and touches on Boswell, Rousseau, Hume and others. I listened to this while doing my long runs. It's an excellent series and understanding the Enlightenment is critical to understanding ourselves, as we are all children of the Enlightenment whether we know it or not.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Re-read of The City of Man by Pierre Manent

This is one of my favorite "companion" books and is the most thorough and penetrating analysis of modern thought that I have read. It's always worth re-reading every year or two.