Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 100s

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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113: The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos by Brian Swimme

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113: Swimme, Brian. The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996. 112 pp. ISBN 1-57075-281-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 110: Metaphysics
  • 113: Cosmology (Philosophy of nature)

Brian Swimme’s The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time. In one fell swoop, he declares capitalism the new cult of our age and urges parents to replace evangelist doctrine with teachings of astronomy, science, and cosmology. His main invective is against the constant barrage of advertisements, product placement, and consumer behavior that gets ingrained into children, thereby teaching them that the meaning of life is in things and not ideas. While this is not an entirely crazy notion, his hippy-dippy awe of the universe sometime gets in the way of his message.

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140: The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire

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140: Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 3rd Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997. 200 pp. ISBN 0-8308-1849-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 140: Specific philosophical schools and viewpoints

James Sire caught me with my proverbial pants down (so to say) with his Universe Next Door. Ostensibly, it goes through the six to ten (depending on how you count and group them) major philosophical schools and examines each one for strengths and flaws. He indeed covers the whole spectrum, from theism to nihilism to naturalism to existentialism to postmodernism. And his dutiful explanations of each school are decent; I’ll give him that. But sadly, it’s the last chapter that wallops you on the side of the head. After a competent exploration of the world of philosophy, he dumps all but one into a bucket labelled “Not Worth Your Time.” The conclusion he brings the book to is to that to live a “well-examined” life, one must be a Christian theist. That left a sour taste in my mouth. That is not to say that Christian theism isn’t a worthy worldview for some people. But simply dismissing billions of people as not living a good life is both insulting and deflating. If you must read this one, stop just before the end—trust me, you’ll feel a lot better about it.

 

107: Experimental Philosophy by Knobe and Nichols

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107.2: Knobe, Joshua and Shaun Nichols, eds. Experimental Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 239 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-532325-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 107: Education, research, and related topics of philosophy
  • 107.2: Miscellaneous research topics of philosophy

Experimental philosophy is defined as a field of inquiry that uses data gathered through surveys to inform research on philosophical questions. The philosophy we all know and love has traditionally been done behind closed doors: one person puzzling through the questions of the universe and existence. Experimental philosophy uses traditional thought experiments to understand the intents, motivations, consciousness, and origins of certain concepts, but then tries to see if the analysis done by the thinker matches that of the population being studied. In this way, it more closely resembles psychology or sociology. In Experimental Philosophy, Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols bring together eleven different philosophical experiments to show how we can better understand ourselves by asking more people important questions.

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118: The Force of Reason and the Logic of Force by Richard A. Lee

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118: Lee, Richard A., Jr. The Force of Reason and the Logic of Force. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004. 114 pp. ISBN 1-4039-3366-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 110: Metaphysics
  • 118: Force and energy

Richard A. Lee’s The Force of Reason and the Logic of Force is a complex foray into how the concept of force, depicted here as the basis for violence and power, interweaves itself into our realities, thoughts, and cosmologies. At least that’s what I’m pretty sure it’s about. Lee hits fast and hard with complex philosophical arguments right off the bat and never really lets up. It’s a short book, but requires a lot of energy to get through. He examines the history of the concept of force from the ancient Greeks through Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas and then on to Pierre d’Ailly and Thomas Hobbes. He also looks as force from both a human and a natural perspective. Human force gets linked to power and violence pretty easily, but force in nature is linked to simple movement.

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196: Three Spanish Philosophers by Jose Ferrater Mora

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196.1: Ferrater Mora, Jose. Three Spanish Philosophers: Unamuno, Ortega, Ferrater Mora. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2003. 252 pp. ISBN 0-7914-5713-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Western and other non-Eastern philosophy
  • 196: Modern Spanish and Portuguese philosophy
  • 196.1: Modern Spanish philosophy

Jose Ferrater Mora’s Three Spanish Philosophers is a look into the current philosophical work being done by Spanish thinkers. Mora, a philosopher in his own right, tries to interpret, blend, and comment on the works of Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) and Josa Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955). These two analyses form a sort of prelude to his own work, which is presented as the third part of the book. It’s a rather odd situation for this work. Mora died in 1991, and this edition came out in 2003. His widow Priscilla Cohn and fellow philosopher Prof. Josep-Maria Terricabras have curated and updated this edition. Each chapter is from a separate work he wrote, but here they are combined to show a progression in Spanish thought from the beginning of the 20th century to the end.

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182: The Music of Pythagoras by Kitty Ferguson

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182.2: Ferguson, Kitty. The Music of Pythagoras: How an Ancient Brotherhood Cracked the Code of the Universe and Lit the Path from Antiquity to Outer Space. New York: Walker and Company, 2008. 328 pp. ISBN 0-8027-1631-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 180: Ancient, medieval, and Eastern philosophy
  • 182: Pre-Socratic Greek philosophies
  • 182.2: Pythagorean philosophies

All that is left of him is an equation: a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared. Every person going through basic geometry hears it. And yet for its ubiquity and almost-infinite proofs, there is very little known of the man who first discovered it in the Western world (there were earlier proofs in Babylon and India). Pythagoras (ca. 570 BCE – ca. 495 BCE) is a man surrounded by mystery. He formed a philosophical cult, but forbade anyone to write anything down, and yet his theorem survived. Kitty Ferguson’s The Music of Pythagoras attempts to separate fact from fiction on behalf of this ancient Greek thinker.

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