Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Simon Blackburn and Neal Stephenson

       Let me say this: both Simon Blackburn and Neal Stephenson are awesome!  From looking at Truth: A Guide, by Blackburn, the title being a reference to Maimonides(again, see the wonderful wikipedia page), and Snow Crash, by Stephenson, these are the two best books I've looked at so far.  Blackburn is obviously a world-class scholar who has thought very deeply about philosophical issues for his entire career; I can tell I"m going to enjoy reading the book with a sense that he could run philosophical circles around me if he were so inclined.  In contrast to Neuromancer, Snow Crash is light, breezy, but no less profound for that; the world Stephenson paints is anarcho-capitalist and absurd.  The main character, named Hiro Protagonist, is a combination hacker and pizza delivery driver -- well, he loses that job.  Stephenson is having fun at the expense of the dark writing one finds in Neuromancer; this should make this book, though longer, far more readable.

Simon  Blackburn takes on everyone in Truth: A Guide.  He is an analytic philosopher with strong humanistic bona fides -- he protested the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK a little bit ago -- but he takes Nietzsche and the postmodernists head on:

"The urbane eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume seldom put a foot wrong, but he did say that while mistakes in religion are dangerous, generally speaking mistakes in philosophy are merely ridiculous.  I believe he was mistaken about this, as does anyone who supposes that there is something diabolical in the region of relativism, multiculturalism or postmodernism, something which corrupts and corrodes the universities and the public culture, that sweeps away moral standards, lays waste young people's minds, and rots our precious civilization from within.  For the issue is a philosophical one."(pg, xiv)

     Now, I've read most of Nietzsche, but I have to admit, shamefacedly, that I have not read Thus Spake Zarathustra; so I will be reading that as I work through this book.  It presents a side to Nietzsche other than the merely relativistic one; it presents Nietzsche's view of the death of God and his declaration of the ubermensch; I think Nietzsche's "relativism" is inseparable from this because it allows the ubermensch to create their own life freely, as a work of art.  I will also be occasionally reading analytic works alongside the text.  I thnk going through this will take some time, but it is definitely worth it!

      As for Snow Crash, I will be breezing right through that, making occasional comments.  I don't think this will take as long as the Blackburn, but will serve as comic relief from the rather heavy work I will be doing with the Blackburn.  I'm looking forward to both!


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