Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 100s

115: Time by Eva Hoffman

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115: Hoffman, Eva. Time. New York: Picador, 2009. 189 pp. ISBN 978-0-312-42727-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 110: Metaphysics
  • 115: Time

Time is all at once the most universal, the most intangible, and the most misunderstood concept. We make time, take time, keep time, lose time, waste time, borrow time, but never really understand it. Eva Hoffman’s Time takes a look at time from four different vantage points: physiologically, psychologically, culturally, and contemporaneously. And in each perspective, we see time in a whole new light.

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130: Occult America by Mitch Horowitz

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130: Horowitz, Mitch. Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation. New York: Bantam, 2010. 258 pp. ISBN 978-0-553-38515-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 130: Parapsychology and occultism

In 1774, Mother Ann Lee emigrated from England to New York and started a small but important movement in America: the Shakers. Their belief in a more mystical Christian God led to accusations of heresy from mainline believers. From this small band of radical believers sprang pockets on mysticism throughout America over the last 250 years. Mitch Horowitz’s Occult America takes a slightly off-center look at American history through the lens of those who believed, prayed, practiced, and lived a little differently from the rest of us.

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123: As Luck Would Have It by Joshua Piven

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123.3: Piven, Joshua. As Luck Would Have It: Incredible Stories, from Lottery Wins to Lightning Strikes. New York: Villard, 2003. 181 pp. ISBN 1-4000-6055-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 120: Epistemology, causation, and mankind
  • 123: Determinism and indeterminism
  • 3: Chance

In As Luck Would Have It, Joshua Piven investigates nine chance occurrences and how they inform our view of the world and the circumstances of our lives. It’s a quick little book, to say the least. It covers the following stories:

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149: The Rationalists

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149.7: The Rationalists. New York: Anchor, 1960. 471 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 140: Philosophical schools of thought
  • 149: Other philosophical schools and doctrines
  • 149.7: Rationalism and related systems and doctrines

The Rationalists is a collection of philosophical treatises by Rene Descartes, Benedict de Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz. You get Descartes’s Discourse on Method and Meditations, Spinoza’s Ethics, and Leibniz’s Monadology and Discourse on Metaphysics. By the middle of the 17th century, philosophy was finding its way out of the tired debates on religion and started to become a bit more scientific. The natural philosophers of the Renaissance started to place more importance on observable phenomena and experimentation rather than dictated dogma. The three philosophers collected here show how the school of rationalism started, matured, and culminated in an entirely different way of thinking.

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100: The Big Questions by Steven E. Landsburg

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100: Landsburg, Steven E. The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics, and Physics. New York: Free Press, 2009. 248 pp. ISBN 978-1-4391-4821-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 100: General works on philosophy

I’m going to be open-minded here. I will be. First, I will address the book on its style, its writing, and the information presented. Then, there will be a rant and I do not apologize for that.

Steven E. Landsburg’s The Big Questions is an intriguing foray into the use of non-typical sciences to look at macroscopic philosophical questions. The questions in questions range from why is there something rather than nothing, is there a God, is logical disagreement a sign of inherent meaninglessness, can we really know everything, and so on. These are indeed interesting and challenging questions. Looking into philosophy using physics and economics is kind of fun and gets one thinking laterally and not directly, which on the whole is a good skill to have.

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188: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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188: Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. Free Kindle Edition, 2014. 132 pp. ISBN 1-4995-3013-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 180: Ancient, medieval, and Eastern philosophies
  • 188: Stoic philosophy

Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 CE. Considered the last of the Five Good Emperors, he oversaw his empire with stoicism and equality. In his Meditations, written while on a military campaign in the last decade of his life, he sets forth a series of aphorisms, letters, and principles that he tried to live by. As a stoic, he thought that powerful emotions were the cause of errors in life and so sought to live a life of a more moral and intellectual manner.

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191: The Philosophy of Santayana by George Santayana

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191: Santayana, George. The Philosophy of Santayana: Selections from the Works of George Santayana. US: Modern Library, 1936. 595 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Philosophy
  • 191: Modern Western philosophy of the United States and Canada

Let’s start with the basics: George Santayana was born in Madrid in 1863, but was reared in the United States. He was educated at Harvard and eventually taught there. Among his students were the writers T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Gertrude Stein. The great American poet Wallace Stevens counted Santayana among his friends. Much of Santayana’s philosophy pervades modern culture in the form of aphorisms and quick bon-mots. The Philosophy of George Santayana is a dense book filled to the brim with the life’s work of one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious thinkers.

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