Category Archives: Philosophy

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

Advertisements

Can you Fix a Psychopath?

Fixed in Fear

By T.E. Woods

Review for

NetGalley and Alibi

Now this book set me wondering – psychopaths – are they born or are they made? Can PTSD cause a person to become a psychopath?

And then there is the whole issue of revenge killing. Do we really believe in an eye for an eye? And you kill one of mine and I’ll kill one of yours? If so, then we can expect far more of the scenes such as recently in Paris and the US and even in the London where the cry comes – ‘This is for what you have done in Syria’. With France declaring that they were at war with so-called ISIS as a result of the Paris bombings and shootings.

So I read with great relief and empathy the article by Caitlin Moran in The Times Magazine. She muses on what you tell your children about the terrorist attacks. How you explain what is happening and why. And why we should, here in London at any rate, and in most if not all of the Western World, not be afraid. And why? Because we have lived through worse.

She lived through the IRA bombings as did I in the UK. Where they bombed busy shopping centres, where they bombed Regent’s Street and where there were no waste bins in case they hid a bomb, and where your briefcase or sports bag or even shopping carrier, if left unattended in a train station, was blown up by a nifty robot. As was your car if left in a route of importance –  I remember watching out of our office window as the police did just that when we were expecting the Queen to pass by our block. Even now, we get plenty of warnings about not leaving our baggage unattended or telling staff of a ‘suspicious package’, and even when they regularly stopped trains as someone had done just that – usually a shopping bag someone had forgotten. I remember this on one train when the American tourists in our carriage were having kittens and we were very blasé as it happened so often to us.

This doesn’t change anything. You are far more likely to die on the loo than being killed by a bomb or a bullet even in a country where there are 88.8 guns per 100 people such as in the US. See the table on the most common cause of death.

causes of death

As Caitlin Moran says, there are certain things that cause psychopaths (back t that word) who want to kill: an unhappy combination of humiliation, bereavement, and fear. She believes that terrorists are psychopaths who simply want to kill and their purpose in life is to find a reason that they can use to justify that want.

Fear can be weaponised, she said, some people want us to be afraid and scared and angry and that can turn us into terrorists too.  And so the war continues.

SO I did my research and it seems that there is some conflict as to how you can become psychopath and just what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. psychopathhttp://hubpages.com/education/The-Four-Basic-Pillars-of-A-SociopathPsychopath

diffs psycho

The four Pillars are:

1.People with Anti-social Personality disorder whether psychopath or sociopath have a great deal of pride. They demand respect and they will ensure that they get it, whatever it may take. They believe that they are better than anyone else, and others should treat them as such. Rules of society and norms are not for them to respect. They are above them.

  1. They are spiteful. They have low tolerance and this can lead to outbursts of aggression or violence. They find a little irritation a major nuisance.
  2. These are sex addicts with high levels of testosterone – which also increases aggression. They need the sexual experiences even if they receive little satisfaction from them and cannot have relationships without sexual intimacy.
  3. They are self-centred, self-absorbed, and very selfish. Everything they do has a benefit to them. They lack emotional sensitivity or empathy and always bored and seeking stimulation though risk or excitement. They don’t care about others or what others need.

For a Psychopath all these attributes are very high but pride and lust are the highest with insensitivity to others coming next and anger being the least prevalent in them.

So we come to the book. Is the Fixer either a psychopath or a sociopath?

I noted a number of interesting points in this book and the first the one about body memory. The concept that trauma is retained in muscle memory. The body of an abuse victim will remember to cower or protect itself when triggering circumstances occur. Interesting as I have just started watching Bone and flesh on Amazon and the girl, who is clearly a victim of familial sexual abuse immediately turns and hits a man with a bottle when he touches her without her seeing. An instinctive behaviour or a muscle memory? More likely the latter I should think.  According to http://www.survivormanual.com/ we do indeed have a ‘mind’ in our muscle that retains moves – in my own case I often move into Tai Chi poses because I learnt it for so many hears when undertaking a gym workout. My legs remember this shaping. And n addition we have the idea that instinct tells us to behave in certain ways under certain circumstances. The Police Chief says a running animal always turns right when trying to escape. This is muscle memory. However, it can also be conditioned in by past experience so here I am not sure of the accuracy of this statement. But it is an interesting thought. Turning left requires the instinct to be over-ridden and thus the brain has to come into action was her theory.

I also looked up the village/town that the murders took place – and yes, it is a real place in the States. Enumclaw is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 10,669 at the 2010 census.

The Enumclaw Plateau, on which the city resides, was formed by a volcanic mudflow (lahar) from Mount Rainier approximately 5,700 years ago.

The name Enumclaw is derived from a Salish Native American term that translates as “place of evil spirits”, apparently referring to Enumclaw Mountain, located about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north, and referring either to some evil incident that occurred there or to the frequent powerful windstorms that affect the region. Native American mythology tells the story of two Pacific Northwest Native American brothers – Enumclaw and Kapoonis – whose father turned them into thunder and lightning respectively. The City of Enumclaw says the name means “thundering noise” [Wikipedia]

I was also interested in the idea of each religion have a ritual for forgiveness and the Professor having drawn up a grid. This is just the sort of thing that I would do… as a Jew I like the idea that you only confess sins that have offended God, and that if you have offended a person you confess that to them. This makes society operate well I think. What is also interesting of course, is that the 3 Abrahamic religions have such similarities in their rituals about forgiveness and other religious practices. Which of course, brings us back to why are we fighting each other? Perhaps it is that very similarity that we fight in order to define ourselves as different?

So these are some of the very interesting points that I picked up from the book regardless of the story. The Fixer has come out of her ‘retirement’ and tries to over-ride her innate instinct to act as a psychopath and give an eye for an eye but her instinct to help in circumstance where something unjust has happened still operate.

Is this book as good as the previous ones in the series? I think by a hair margin not quite. It is getting difficult to find a scenario under which she will operate in her role as a Fixer. And so I needed to find interest in elements that were not perhaps as key to the story-line. I will still give it 4 stars though, as I do intend to read the series as it continues. I am not yet bored by her, and the story-telling is good stylistically and contains a lot of interesting ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

Feminist? Humanist? Means to an End?

Just recently, having watched Suffragettes the movie, and been reminded about how long it has taken for so many women to achieve human rights, I was again reminded by an email that starting in November, women worked the rest of the year for nothing. Equal pay has still not been achieved for so many women.

I am also now a member of a Refugee Action Group raising funds and awareness of the plight of refugees both here and abroad and one of the issues we see again here is the plight of many women who are now refugees fleeing from oppression, rape and war.

I also note that rape is not a permitted reason for the Northern Irish woman to ask for an abortion and that this has just been ruled as a breach of their Human  Rights.

So I decided to take myself off to a lecture hosted by the British Humanist Society on Feminism and Humanism at UCL. This was the Bentham Lecture for 2015 and was given by Professor Rae Langton of Cambridge.

Some readers may not be aware of what the British Humanist Society stands for let alone who Bentham was as you may only have come across him if you learnt about British social and political history, so I’ll give some brief introductions to them before going on to talk about the lecture as this helps set the scene.

The British Humanist Society is a charity that works on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They promote Humanism, a secular state, and equal treatment of everyone regardless of religion or belief.

Now, despite what they say, you can also be a humanist if you are religious as the key to being a humanist is that you judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong based on reason and respect for others. You use empathy and compassion to try and improve the world for all.

I will come back to this meaning later as it was a core element in Prof Langton’s speech.

Bentham was a very interesting man. He was a philosopher who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. He was a child prodigy being able to read a history of Britain as a toddler and started learning Latin at 3 years. He went to Oxford at the tender age of 12. He is mainly known for his doctrine which was intended to guide the law, practice and belief – the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

This was very much a utilitarian view of the world and humans – individually we are a means to an end. Also we are motivated by a desire for happiness and to avoid pain. Fundamentally we are only concerned with our own well-being – the community is a fictitious body merely the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.

He was part of a group of philosophers who agreed that many of the social problems of the time were a result of an antiquated legal system and control of land and capital by inheritance and thus the landed gentry.

Professor Rae Langton has been called the 4th most influential women thinker in the world and was listed in Prospect magazine as the 18th most important thinker –  note the difference in numbers here between women and men… which of course is why the lecture was so important. She is considered such an important academic that she has a Wikipedia page.

Most of her work is concerned with speech and pornography etc and she has studied and written extensively about Kant. So I am going to make a short diversion here to also discuss Kant as without Kant her lecture on feminism and humanism could not be understood.

Immanuel Kant is an important philosopher with regard to Humanism. Kant lived in the mid to late 18th century and it is said that he lived a very boring life! He never left his home town and was extremely regular in his behaviour – such that his neighbours literally could set their clocks by him. From Kant we can draw a statement that Humanism is an end in itself and not a means to an end.

Prof Langton took this and other Kantian writings about how we can choose our behaviour and know its causation to mean that we are born with choices, we always have options. There is a wrongness in treating humans as things with no choice. If humans are things then we can oppress them – we can impose a role upon them externally to themselves. Thus we see the role of women being imposed upon them by men or by people being classified as slaves with no rights to their own-selves – they are objects.

The issue is that at times, as philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir say, women may willingly conspire with this role as is easy to live with no choice and to have one’s behaviour and even thoughts dictated to one.

In the lecture it was agreed that one is not born a woman but becomes a woman through behaviour and belief. But if a woman is a thing, an object, one cannot have an authentic relationship with her – the ‘other’ remains alone in this relationship. The ‘other’ is the only human that counts in this relationship. Their will predominates.

Martha Nussman, another female philosopher with a Wikipedia page and to be found discussed in Prospect magazine has come out with 7 features which identify objectivism:

  1. instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes;
  2. denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination;
  3. inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity;
  4. fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects;
  5. violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
  6. ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
  7. denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Rae Langton added three more features to Nussbaum’s list:

  1. reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
  2. reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
  3. silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.

Do you recognise any of these features in the treatment of women? Do you believe that objectification is always bad? How does it link to Feminism? Or Humanism? Or religion for that matter?

All these and more are questions we women of today should be considering. Just what in our familial socialisation makes us a woman? If we are not born one? Is it right and correct that we should be taught a different set of rules according to our gender? And just how do  we know what that gender is? What about transgender people? How would we know whether they are women or men? And remembering that gender is not so black and white but many shades of grey, are we or they, objects or means to end, or ends in themselves?

So look at the TV programme by Tyger Drew-Honey and think on these concepts of gender and wonder again, just what does being a woman mean?

 

 

 

Congregate if you dare

A NetGalley review of

The Congregation

by

Desiree Bombenon.

A congregation of the abused, strong in their determination to channel their emotional hurt into something positive –  for them – but in reality a destructive act of great consequences.

A story of just what lengths people will go when they have been hurt by those they trusted. From the child battered by a parent; to a child abused by a person in a position of trust suh as a priest or social worker; to a wife beaten on a regular absis by her abusive controlling husband; all will go to extreme lengths to demonstrate just how damaged they are by what has happened to them.

The legacy of such tragedy goes on echoing down the generations and the Roman Catholic Church still has not fully answered for its sins – or so those in the Congregation would attest.

In Chicago, there were a number of allegations of sexual and physical abuse in the RC church carried out by priets of varying ranks. So much so that  Andrew Greeley wrote The Priestly Sins (2004), a novel about a young priest from the Plains States who is exiled to an insane asylum and then to an academic life because he reports abuse that he has witnessed.

Fall from Grace is a 1993 novel by Father Greeley. It is a story of sin and corruption in leading Irish Catholic families in Chicago and the cover up of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. [Wikipedia]

It is clear from records now released that the RC church including Jesuits and schools in Chicago hid the behaviour of priests such as  Donald McGuire and Daniel McCormack who are now convicted. So the setting was very important for this novel.

The other issue that drives tis story is the church’s stance on homosexuality. Apparently, it is OK to have such thoughts, but not to act on them.  Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald Cozzens in his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood. This is a higher percentage than in the general population and there has been much speculation that a gay lobby exists within the Vatican power brokers. Nevertheless, being known to be gay in the priesthood, is a recipe for blackmail and so we see in this story also.

These are both very important issues and either would have made for a great thriller by other authors, but this story lacks tension and insufficient complications and mis-directions to provide for a really satisfactory read. Thi is sad as the auhor has picked a great possibility but has not followed through. We found out the perpetrators too early and the hero/heroine had too little to do to unravel the plot.

So this is a light version of a conspiracy novel that would work for those not familiar for the genre and wanting an introduction but for me lacked depth.

 

Bones, Bones, Bones again, and then more Bones!

NOT (!) a NetGalley Review but just book reviews for Kathy Reichs

Yes, I’ve just had a four-fold fest of Kathy Reichs.

I haven’t read her for a while and when I found a great second-hand bookshop and one of her books, I started reading paperbacks again…

I have read every Kathy Reichs book in sequence and was very glad to find that the paperback I had picked up was the next one on for me to read (even though I was now 4 behind!). I have never yet failed to be fascinated with Tempe  Brennan and her complicated emotional life, and horrified by her job and the dreadful crimes that are committed in these books.

Once I started with ‘Bones of the Lost’ I was hooked again and remembered why her books were best sellers (the TV series is not really related at all and I have given up thinking it ever might be). However I do have a very philosophical question to ask of the world of books – ‘Why, whenever I read a crime novel over my cereal in the morning, do I always come to the section about the grisly murder, horrible torture or morgue scenes, especially autopsies or dissections or descriptions of body parts found scattered and how the brain matter is splattered across walls?’  With all the gory details included and spelled out in full? Especially for a person such as me who hides their eyes when surgery comes on TV?

Watch Dem Bones on YouTube:

I loved all four of these books equally but the last book – Speaking in Bones –  is perhaps not as new in its ‘crime’ as the others. The outlawed priest and exorcisms and the ghastly outcomes are perhaps old territory as is the psychological illness of one of the main characters (I won’t say who,  as this will spoil it for you) and what happens as a result is again not new. I felt that this last read book lacked some of the tension of the previous ones and I did get rather annoyed with Tempe and her emotions and impulsive behaviour which, having lived through all that she had, you would have thought she had grown out of. Rather childish in many ways and her agonising got on my nerves a bit… but all’s well that ends well and she did survive for another story to be written about her!

So 4 star for all books again.

I look forward to the next one – perhaps next year?

 

Can you remember?

Smart but dead

By Nancy G. West

A NetGalley Review

Telomerase – also called telomere terminal transferase – is a ribonucleoprotein – and if you know what that means you’re clearly a scientist with a degree in biology and working on cancer drugs or anti-ageing.telemorase

Well in this book it is all about anti-ageing and age-related diseases.

In Faust the Devil suggests that the best way to stay young(er) is to:

Seek out a life of moderation, stop being lazy, exercise regularly and avoid unhealthy foods! But Faust prefers the magic pill / potion, and so too do many people – after all living a healthy life is just too much work! We don’t want to gradually lose our memories – forgetting where the car key is – the name of the flower – who that celebrity is – nor do we want to get flabby and lose muscle tone – those batwings are not attractive! So we all look for the magic potion as mentioned in the press that will stop the decline – eat blueberries, or flax seed, or drink kale smoothies, or, or… or just maybe there is something else that we can take – a medicine – perhaps related to telomeres that will do the job without us having to lift a finger.

For the scientist who can market an anti-ageing pill that really work on the cellular level – that actually prevents cells from ageing, there is a fortune waiting to be made. A similar pill could be adapted to prevent cancer or to heal and reverse it, and as it is estimated that 1 in 3 of have some form of cancer before we die, just think how much money could be involved.

“Where does this interaction of telomere-dependent and telomere-independent aging pathways as well as the influence of known (and many unknown) stressors leave us? The molecular understanding of cellular aging is progressing steadily, but the complexity of cellular aging and the even more complex question of how organs such as the brain and heart age requires a lot more work. There will be no single molecular switch which can reverse or halt aging and triple our lifespan, but most aging researchers do not this as their goal. Understanding specific aging pathways, as well as the genes and stressors which activate them, will allow us to prevent and treat age-related diseases as well as one day be able to provide personalized advice to individuals on how to maximize their “healthspan”.

Originally published as “The Stress of Aging” in the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting blog.”

For now, we can stick to some of the broad lifestyle interventions which were recommended by Mephistopheles: exercise and a healthy diet.

So from all of this we can conclude that if someone could find the way to maximum life span then there is a lot of money to be made and it would be worth killing for .

In this book I learn quite a lot of science about ageing – I learn that the APOE genes are implicated in 20-25% of Alzheimer cases; this gene is found on chromosome 19 and has 3 variants – depending on which of the 3  you have, your risk of Alzheimer’s is increased or reduced, but there is also Vascular dementia, Frontal-temporal dementia which also runs in families and other ways to lose your memory as you get older – over 65 (Oh dear, I’m now 65!).

So it seems that 35% of the individual differences in ageing are inherited and that lifestyle can change the length of your telemeres. If you do as the Devil recommends.

I learnt all of these facts (with the addition of what I looked up) in the first 50% of the book but as the storyline didn’t explore much further I gave up. it was a very thin story-line indeed and it seems to me that I never found out enough about the heroine – she wasn’t young that was clear from her interest in the genetics of ageing; and she seemed to lust after the detective. In her role as detective (very privately) she seemed rather inept even if it was a sideline. I felt that the story was just a way of getting across the science of ageing in a very lightweight way without exploring the issues connected – included just what a drug company would do to get their hands on a wonder drug!

This is the 3rd book in this series and to me it was just one of those series that seems to tail off as more is written. Other reviewers have called this series ‘cozy’ or ‘lighter reading’ and I do agree and thus it is not for me.

3 *

 

Margate by the Sea: an unexpected delight

We went to Margate to visit the new(ish, 2011) Turner Art Gallery and the Grayson Perry exhibition.

We were slightly disappointed by its architecture – not the shape but the colour – dull grey. Apparently when opened it was coloured by banners but not now and whilst the sun was shining – quite remarkable for this end of summer this year, we could envisage it being very dull indeed on a wet grey day by the sea.85-turner-contemporary

It is positioned right at one end of the huge series of bays that form the Margate sea front. By the harbour wall of what was once Meregate a small fishing village . it has been inhabited since probably pre-historic times and certainly the Romans lived there but constant invasions made life difficult during the 8th, 9th and 10th century.

Margate is situated on the coast of the Isle of Thanet, which of course, hasn’t been an island for a long time. But it was still an island when the Romans lived there and a bridge wasn’t built until the 1400s. In the 1700s you could still reach it by ferry, but the channel silted up and Reculver is now on dry(ish) land. The land still needs to be defended against the sea trying to gain its channel back and so there are sea defences all along the coastline.

Margate – which is on the outer edge and thus faces the English Channel, was part of the Cinque Ports through the control of Dover, but became independent from their control in 1857.

It is claimed to be one of, if not the first, coastal resort for sea bathing which greatly changed its status from a fishing (smuggling) harbour to a fashionable bathing town bringing with it not only boats carrying traffic down river from London but eventually also the railway. Turner lived in Margate for some years coming down by boat from London and then leaving by boat to cross the channel from there. Very convenient – and thus the Turner Gallery was built here.isle of thanet

However, after the flush of post war holidays in seaside resorts within Britain and then the holiday camps of Butlins  and Pontins etc decline in the 1970s, when cheap Spanish holidays came in for the masses, Margate declined.

I went to this area of coastline often as a child staying at Broadstairs, just along from Margate in a bed and breakfast establishment of which there were huge numbers. These high terraced houses are now in sad repair but, since 2011 and the Turner Gallery, some are being bought up and refurbished and becoming boutique hotels such as the Crescent Victoria where we stayed, just along from the Gallery.

The Isle of Thanet has a most amazing coastline. It is really all sand and yet more sand. Great depth of beaches that are shallow in slope so good for kiddie play which is why the area was so popular when I was a child. And now there is a seawater pool in the middle of one beach for safe swimming.

Margate is tatty round the edges but has some interesting areas around the Old Town where they seem to specialise in vintage clothes and furniture. We found two really nice places to eat – Harbour Café which did the most amazing chips; and the Ambrette which is a modern Indian – even does roast Sunday lunches with venison and other exotic meats. However, rather lacking in vegetarian food which was a shame. Still good reviews from the meat eaters – even some suggesting it is worth a Michelin Star!

And then of course there is the Shell Grotto. No visit to Margate is complete without a visit to this very interesting but unexplained and without know history, underground cavern.shell-grotto

Stories about when it was created range from the Phonoecians in very early history (yes they did trade with the UK) as a religious place – with an altar at the far end of these underground passageways. Or a Folly of course. Or something else entirely.

What is certain is that all the shells apart from 4 are English, it has been around a few hundred years and has been open since the 19th century to the public, and the shells have been added, altered etc at different times but some are clearly very old. Many of the patterns are symbolic eg A Tree of Life; A Corn Goddess; A Ganesha; A skeleton; A Perseus and so on….

Spooky as it is all underground and quite large – 104 feet.

What is a really nice thing to have is the Viking Trail. This is coastal path for bikes and pedestrians which is very smooth and wide and goes all around the island’s coast passing through Ramsgate and Broadstairs and Reculver too. It is 25 miles in length so you can run a marathon if you wish – but the one running when we were there did a figure of 8 and came back to its start!viking trail