Nominate books to be a philosophy book of the month

We choose one philosophical book per month to read. Then we discuss it as a group.

Nominate books to be philosophy book of the month.


UPCOMING BOOK

June 2017: The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus


Nominate books to be a philosophy book of the month

Post Number:#1  Postby Scott » November 8th, 2008, 5:15 pm

Please use this thread to nominate books to be a philosophy book of the month. Feel free to re-nominate a book that has not been nominated in over a month.

Each poster can only post one nomination per month.

Books should be very philosophy-related or should otherwise be of particular interest to people interested in philosophy.

When making nominations, please try to think of books that the entire group will enjoy reading and discussing rather than just choosing the book you personally would most like to read. Also, keep in mind this is a philosophy-themed group, so keep in mind not only the relevance of the book to philosophy or topics of particular interest to philosophy but also the credentials of the author. While those who have a degree -- or at least some special background -- specifically in philosophy might be most preferred, we also have had some great success with books by accredited scientists or other professors whose main field isn't philosophy.

The nominations made by posters who participate in previous book of the month discussions may be given preference.

If you participate regularly in the book of the month or if you honestly intend on reading the next book of the month and participating in the discussion, then please comment on which nominated books you would most like to read and discuss as a group. That will help me figure out which books are best for the group as a whole.

BOTM Schedule: Usually, I will start a 10-day poll topic on the first of the month prior for everyone to cast their vote for which book they want to be book of the month. For instance, on June 1st the poll for the July book of the month was started. If there is not enough nominations to have a poll, I will either start a poll that also has my own nominations usually collected from new releases in philosophy books, old runner-ups in votes or philosophy books I was planning to read anyway, or I will just declare a book of the month which I will try to do within the same 10 day period. Thus, the book of the month for any given month will usually be determined on the 11th or so of the month prior. This leaves everyone nearly 3 weeks to get the book and read it to prepare for the discussion, which will start on the first of the month, but anyone can feel free to join after the fact as these discussions go on indefinitely. Since most philosophy books are non-fiction, you may feel free to join the discussion while in the middle of reading the book if you don't feel there is a risk of spoilers.

Thanks, Scott

***

Added on edit: From now on, only non-fiction nominations will be accepted.
Last edited by Scott on July 13th, 2011, 9:15 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Post Number:#2  Postby Scott » November 8th, 2008, 5:52 pm

The November book of the month is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Once you have read it, you can discuss it in this thread.

If you have not read Atlas Shrugged yet, please do. If you do not have it, buy it here.
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Book of the month

Post Number:#3  Postby johnny rocket » November 8th, 2008, 6:19 pm

My pick for book of the month is...

What has ultimate relevance?

[Moderation note: Link changed to Amazon.]
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Post Number:#4  Postby Scott » November 15th, 2008, 8:35 pm

The December book of the month will be Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.
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Post Number:#5  Postby Grim » January 20th, 2009, 7:12 pm

How about a book for February?
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Post Number:#6  Postby whitetrshsoldier » April 22nd, 2009, 7:42 pm

I nominate Liberty and Tyranny, by Mark Levin.

This is the best-seller on the New York Times list, and addresses many of the issues that have driven protestors across the United States in the past several weeks.

I think it would make for an intersting discussion, especially given the current economic situation across the globe. Is furthering economic freedom (via capitalism and de-regulation) the solution to the problem? Or, as many have argued, has it caused the current crisis we're in.

I invite everybody to take a look at the book and see what they think.
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Post Number:#7  Postby Scott » May 2nd, 2009, 12:44 pm

We're going to do Stumbling on Happiness for May's book of the month since we never got around to it in December. I'll make a post about it next week.
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Post Number:#8  Postby Scott » May 12th, 2009, 12:28 am

whitetrshsoldier wrote:I nominate Liberty and Tyranny, by Mark Levin

Have you already read it?

I just looked at Amazon's description of Liberty and Tyranny. The book seems very politically conservative.

Whitetrshsoldier, I will read Liberty and Tyranny and make it the June book of the month if you agree to read my favorite contemporary non-fiction political book, Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World and we'll make it the July book of the month. What do you say? Is it a deal?
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Post Number:#9  Postby whitetrshsoldier » May 12th, 2009, 2:17 am

No, I've been dying to read it but haven't had the time yet. I'll take your deal. Do you think it'll be a challenge for me to read your recommended book?

Liberty and Tyranny, from what I understand, is more "traditionally conservative" (as in less application of government) than modern conservative (as in God, guns, and religion).

But I think June and July would be a good time for politicaly-themed books 8)
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Post Number:#10  Postby Scott » May 12th, 2009, 7:29 pm

Awesome. I'm excited. :)

So it's official. The June book of the month is Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, and the July book of the month is Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World.
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Post Number:#11  Postby MarkLint » June 26th, 2009, 1:47 pm

I'd like to nominate "On Being Free" by Frithjof Bergmann.
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Post Number:#12  Postby ontologic_conceptualist » June 26th, 2009, 2:09 pm

An old favorite, 'A Book of Five Rings' it was not just a teaching of strategies as most americans inaccurately see it, but a very compelling philosophical renderings of Musashi Miyamoto, it is often used by teachers of oriental business as well.

another book also used by oriental business men...
Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War' was much the same, philosophical strategies of life & death.
Who I Am Is What I Am
What I Am Is Why I Am
Why I Am IS Who I Am...

The question you should be asking is...who are you?
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Post Number:#13  Postby Epicurus » July 1st, 2009, 6:04 am

I nominate Brook Ziporyn's Being and Ambiguity.

I believe it will stimulate some interesting discussion, and I for one would like to gain a better understanding of it.
Here is a recent review of the book, from "Dao: A Journal in Comparative Philosophy":


BOOK REVIEW
Ziporyn, Brook, Being and Ambiguity:
Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism
Chicago and LaSalle: Open Court, 2004, xi-xxi +452 pp.
Alan Dagovitz
# Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009
Being and Ambiguity is quite possibly a revolutionary book, and consequently I write this
review with great trepidation. As anyone reading these words well knows, you cannot
escape an academic journal without hearing about some "remarkable treatise that ranks
among the most significant and impressive works of modern philosophy of language," or
another "outstanding contribution with major implications for the field of comparative
ethics." With every tempting accolade I run the risk of making this book sound like one
more skillfully executed scholarly study, and that is precisely what it is not.
Of course, like all philosophical innovation, Being and Ambiguity grows out of rigorous
scholarship, to which the Introduction is a testament. Essentially a usefully condensed
version of Ziporyn's previous book (Evil and/or/as the Good: Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity,
and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 2000), it provides a thirty-five page crash course in Tiantai Buddhist thought, as
expressed definitively in the works of Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili. A brief exposition of early
Buddhist philosophical concepts yields to a detailed examination of Nagarjuna and the Two
Truths. On Ziporyn's reading, Tiantai Buddhism offers a desirable alternative to traditional
theories of conventional and ultimate truth. By filtering the Lotus Sutra through
Nagarjuna's category of Emptiness, Tiantai arrives at a new set of Three Truths: Emptiness
(which corresponds to ultimate truth), Provisional Positing (conventional truth), and
Centrality (a new Tiantai category). Previous Buddhist thinkers, Nagarjuna among them,
assert the superiority of ultimate truth to the conventional variety. Tiantai Buddhism
postulates that the Two Truths "are exactly equivalent in value and ultimacy," and this
equivalence entails the third Truth, namely that all Truths are part of an endless continuum
of reversible, interfused, and ultimately equivalent possibilities.
For those unfamiliar with Buddhist thought, this section might prove somewhat difficult.
Tiantai doctrine is filled with apparent paradoxes and intricate philosophical maneuvers; to
offer a unique reading of it in so short a space will inevitably leave some struggling to get
their bearings. Fortunately, as Ziporyn points out in his Preface, the introduction serves as
an acknowledgement more than a foundation. While the remaining four hundred pages are
Dao
DOI 10.1007/s11712-009-9124-y
Alan Dagovitz (*)
The University of Chicago Divinity School, 1025 E. 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
e-mail: aldagchina@yahoo.com
indebted to Tiantai Buddhist thought, the arguments by no means depend upon it. Indeed,
what follows takes Ziporyn's book well beyond the realm of expository writing and into
new philosophical territory, or rather, a new system of mapping the only territory that
exists. In "Part One: Neo-Tiantai Basics," Tiantai tradition is transformed into a remarkable
stand-alone set of conceptual categories, adapted to address questions commonly posed by
modern western philosophy. The exploration of desire, identity, being, and time covers
issues that were never explicitly Tiantai concerns, and though the locution "Neo-Tiantai" is
a helpful genealogical signpost, it should be clear that the framework presented here owes
more to Ziporyn's creative thinking than it does to the monks who inspired it.
Paradigm shifts in metaphysics profit from new vocabulary, and accordingly Ziporyn rechristens
the three Tiantai truths, inaugurating the metamorphosis of traditional Buddhist
thought into a powerful contemporary philosophical apparatus. Emptiness becomes "Global
Incoherence," a peculiar breed of ambiguity. Provisional Positing becomes "Local
Coherence," which means any distinct moment of meaning or identity. Centrality becomes
"Intersubsumption," or the ability of all things that have being to be manifest as anything or
everything else. And the resultant Neo-Tiantai theory of the universe is that everything is an
"omnicentric whole."
Omnicentric holism has a number of consequences for how one may view reality. One of
the most significant, on my reading, is the positing of "setup" and "punch line" as the basic
categories of all possible experience. According to Neo-Tiantai thought, the relationship of
provisional to ultimate truth is like the relationship of setup to punch line in a joke.
Enlightenment is equal to humorousness, delusion to seriousness. The whole setup of the
joke is experienced as serious until the punch line appears. Suddenly, the entire setup is
seen to also have been "funny." One does not say, for instance, "The punch line is funny,
but the joke as a whole is not." The whole joke is funny, including the seriousness of the
setup. Every atom of the setup is thus understood to have also been funny. But this does not
mean that you were laughing during the setup. On the contrary, the punch line will only
succeed if the setup has been temporarily, "provisionally," taken seriously. It is precisely
the contrast between the solemnity of the setup and the absurdity of the punch line that
constitutes the humor of the latter and, thereby, of the entire joke, including the serious
setup. In this way we can see how the setup can be simultaneously "serious" and "funny,"
and how these two are identical to one another, and yet exist in a necessary conflict and
contrast (97).
The punch line, to clarify by introducing another important Neo-Tiantai locution, acts as
a "transformative recontexualization" of the setup. The setup changes the punch line by
putting it in a new context-the context of a joke in which what was once serious is now
funny. In that manner the setup is transformed; it becomes funny. But in an important sense
it has remained completely the same, for if the setup is not serious, then the punch line will
not be funny, and the setup cannot be transformed from serious to funny. This
transformation, while remaining the same, is an essential part of the experiment that
Ziporyn proposes.
One way to understand the setup/punch line hermeneutic is by using it to re-read the
Aristotelian notion of the good life. For Aristotle, a person cannot know whether she has
lived a good life until her years are over: "One swallow does not make a spring, nor does
one sunny day; similarly, 1 day or a short time does not make a man blessed and happy"
(Ethics 1098a17-19). Only in the context of a full life can we pronounce someone happy
and blessed. Neo-Tiantai thought concurs to the extreme: only in the context of the
complete joke can we pronounce it failed or successful. A setup full of suffering might lead
to a glorious moment of redemption, one that transforms the entire life into a good one.
Alan Dagovitz
Similarly, a lifetime of privilege and pleasure might build to a tragic climax, where the
depth and magnitude of the despair is possible only because such happy heights were
previously reached and sustained. Everything is reversible and thus both is and is not what
it seems.
Philosophical systems do not escape the curse, or blessing, of reversibility. At some
point, every serious idea reveals itself to be nothing more than the set-up for a powerful
punch-line. This awareness builds humility into Neo-Tiantai theory, and that is one of its
greatest strengths. In good Socratic form, it is deathly serious about not taking itself, or
anyone else, so seriously. To use Ziporyn's words: "for me all coherences, including those
experienced by the insane and stupid, have equal validity and equal being" (213). Or again
during his explanation of Tiantai Buddhism: "This means the differentiations between
things, their conventional designations, as well as any cockamamie philosophical or
religious theory or personal illusion about them, are just as ultimately true and untrue as
their Emptiness or their beyond-conceptualization Suchness" (16, author's emphasis).
There can be no doubt that Neo-Tiantai implicates itself as one of those cockamamie
philosophical illusions.
Such thinking necessarily veers into satire. Any philosophical theory that seriously poses
a joke as the fundamental model for understanding the essence of being is bound, at times,
to be ironic. It is a peculiar quality of Being and Ambiguity that the more one thinks its
arguments are true and improve upon those of the luminaries that grace its pages (Spinoza,
Kant, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Whitehead, Merleau-Ponty, and Žižek feature prominently),
then the more the arguments appear to be false, and the improvements mere illusion. To
confirm this conclusion one need go no further than the penultimate chapter title: "Proof
that All Previous Errors Have Spoken this Truth, and Vice Versa; Or: How to Believe
Everything You Read." Here Ziporyn argues, quite seriously, that the ideas developed in the
previous four hundred pages are already entailed by every other system of thought.
Platonism, Christianity, Fideism, and Commonsense Materialism are each treated as
examples of alternative views of the universe that actually come to nothing more than Neo-
Tiantai philosophy, and Neo-Tiantai philosophy is no better or worse than any of them.
I must emphasize, however, that the book is not traditionally satirical, insofar as Ziporyn
stands sincerely behind all of his philosophical claims. This is a synthetic project, engaging
a great breadth of modern Western thought, both continental and analytic, in an earnest
attempt to improve upon it all. No doubt some experts on the philosophers who appear will
be disappointed with aspects of Ziporyn's treatment, since, like every wide-reaching book,
it is hampered by the unfortunate necessity of brevity in treating individual thinkers.
Whitehead's process philosophy, for instance, is notoriously complicated and disputed, so
to treat even a few key concepts in the space of thirty pages will necessarily be reductive.
Nevertheless, the chapter entitled "Atomicity, Otherness, and Violence: Co-starring
Whitehead, Levinas, and God" manages to provide a fresh and original comparative
approach to Whitehead, grounded in responsible scholarship on the Western and Eastern
sides. Other engagements with Kant, Hegel, and Wittgenstein, not to mention Bob Dylan
and Woody Allen, prove equally rewarding despite their conciseness.
Nearing the end, I find myself tempted again by those accolades that reviewers so often
bestow. Instead of succumbing to temptation, I will quote Buddhist scholar Robert
Magliola, who writes the following in a separate review: "Ziporyn's text is `living
philosophy,' a brilliant example of the genre. It does philosophy. The counterpoints of
Hegel and Lennon, etc., of classical elenchus and double-entendre, etc., `act out,'
theatricalize, Neo-Tiantai's principle of Intersubsumption. That is, the text does the
philosophy" (see http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=12697, originally reviewed
Review of Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism
on H-Buddhism, January 2007). Magliola is absolutely right. Ultimately, Being and
Ambiguity is not a book at all so much as philosophical incitement to a genre experiment,
poised between humor and seriousness, East and West, imagination and reality,
programmed to propagate itself long after the reader has put it down. Imagine, for
example, that after finishing this book review you decide to visit the library and read some
of Being and Ambiguity. You find it to be tremendously convincing and insightful. At this
point, the experience of reading the book is positive. Insight has been achieved; the
arguments were persuasive and illuminating. Returning from the library, you find the book
was so good that you cannot stop thinking about it. "My goodness," you keep saying to
yourself, "everything is so clear now!" You cannot get sleep, you cannot work, and
eventually you lose your job, since you are constantly thinking about these beautiful
philosophical conclusions. The book, in other words, is so good that it is bad.
Suddenly, the reading of the book has been transformatively recontextualized by an ugly
punch line. The experience of reading goes from being illuminating to destructive. In fact,
its very illuminative capacities are present in its destructiveness. It becomes a pathology, or
a neurosis. But imagine further that losing your job allows you time to write the novel you
have always been tempted to write. Pouring your obsession into your work, you produce a
brilliant masterpiece that channels your neurosis in a positive way and establishes you as a
leading light of American letters. A new punch line for the previous one; reality has been
transformatively recontextualized yet again. Now it is the depth of the badness of the
obsession that is a necessary part of its goodness-had it been any less severe the results
would not have been so spectacular. In the Neo-Tiantai universe, setup becomes punch line
becomes setup once again. These theoretical insights need not be relegated to a thought
experiment-they apply equally to actual events of daily life. Something negative is always
the potential setup for a positive punch line, and vice versa. Once that is understood, in
Neo-Tiantai terms, nothing looks quite the same again. My parking ticket becomes the
catalyst for reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to afford an automobile at all. The
rejection of my article from yet another journal is actually another crucial step on my road
to extraordinary posthumous fame. And reading another boring book review is the impetus
to go check out a new philosophy that could change the very fabric of your reality.
Alan Dagovitz
Edit your post:
Someone raved to me about this book, saying it was the next step on in the trajectory from Spinoza to Hegel to Whitehead. This review (below, from "Dao: A Journal in Comaprative Philosophy") seems to concur. Can anyone tell me more about this system of thought? BOOK REVIEW Ziporyn, Brook, Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism Chicago and LaSalle: Open Court, 2004, xi-xxi +452 pp. Alan Dagovitz # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009 Being and Ambiguity is quite possibly a revolutionary book, and consequently I write this review with great trepidation. As anyone reading these words well knows, you cannot escape an academic journal without hearing about some "remarkable treatise that ranks among the most significant and impressive works of modern philosophy of language," or another "outstanding contribution with major implications for the field of comparative ethics." With every tempting accolade I run the risk of making this book sound like one more skillfully executed scholarly study, and that is precisely what it is not. Of course, like all philosophical innovation, Being and Ambiguity grows out of rigorous scholarship, to which the Introduction is a testament. Essentially a usefully condensed version of Ziporyn's previous book (Evil and/or/as the Good: Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), it provides a thirty-five page crash course in Tiantai Buddhist thought, as expressed definitively in the works of Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili. A brief exposition of early Buddhist philosophical concepts yields to a detailed examination of Nagarjuna and the Two Truths. On Ziporyn's reading, Tiantai Buddhism offers a desirable alternative to traditional theories of conventional and ultimate truth. By filtering the Lotus Sutra through Nagarjuna's category of Emptiness, Tiantai arrives at a new set of Three Truths: Emptiness (which corresponds to ultimate truth), Provisional Positing (conventional truth), and Centrality (a new Tiantai category). Previous Buddhist thinkers, Nagarjuna among them, assert the superiority of ultimate truth to the conventional variety. Tiantai Buddhism postulates that the Two Truths "are exactly equivalent in value and ultimacy," and this equivalence entails the third Truth, namely that all Truths are part of an endless continuum of reversible, interfused, and ultimately equivalent possibilities. For those unfamiliar with Buddhist thought, this section might prove somewhat difficult. Tiantai doctrine is filled with apparent paradoxes and intricate philosophical maneuvers; to offer a unique reading of it in so short a space will inevitably leave some struggling to get their bearings. Fortunately, as Ziporyn points out in his Preface, the introduction serves as an acknowledgement more than a foundation. While the remaining four hundred pages are Dao DOI 10.1007/s11712-009-9124-y Alan Dagovitz (*) The University of Chicago Divinity School, 1025 E. 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA e-mail: aldagchina@yahoo.com indebted to Tiantai Buddhist thought, the arguments by no means depend upon it. Indeed, what follows takes Ziporyn's book well beyond the realm of expository writing and into new philosophical territory, or rather, a new system of mapping the only territory that exists. In "Part One: Neo-Tiantai Basics," Tiantai tradition is transformed into a remarkable stand-alone set of conceptual categories, adapted to address questions commonly posed by modern western philosophy. The exploration of desire, identity, being, and time covers issues that were never explicitly Tiantai concerns, and though the locution "Neo-Tiantai" is a helpful genealogical signpost, it should be clear that the framework presented here owes more to Ziporyn's creative thinking than it does to the monks who inspired it. Paradigm shifts in metaphysics profit from new vocabulary, and accordingly Ziporyn rechristens the three Tiantai truths, inaugurating the metamorphosis of traditional Buddhist thought into a powerful contemporary philosophical apparatus. Emptiness becomes "Global Incoherence," a peculiar breed of ambiguity. Provisional Positing becomes "Local Coherence," which means any distinct moment of meaning or identity. Centrality becomes "Intersubsumption," or the ability of all things that have being to be manifest as anything or everything else. And the resultant Neo-Tiantai theory of the universe is that everything is an "omnicentric whole." Omnicentric holism has a number of consequences for how one may view reality. One of the most significant, on my reading, is the positing of "setup" and "punch line" as the basic categories of all possible experience. According to Neo-Tiantai thought, the relationship of provisional to ultimate truth is like the relationship of setup to punch line in a joke. Enlightenment is equal to humorousness, delusion to seriousness. The whole setup of the joke is experienced as serious until the punch line appears. Suddenly, the entire setup is seen to also have been "funny." One does not say, for instance, "The punch line is funny, but the joke as a whole is not." The whole joke is funny, including the seriousness of the setup. Every atom of the setup is thus understood to have also been funny. But this does not mean that you were laughing during the setup. On the contrary, the punch line will only succeed if the setup has been temporarily, "provisionally," taken seriously. It is precisely the contrast between the solemnity of the setup and the absurdity of the punch line that constitutes the humor of the latter and, thereby, of the entire joke, including the serious setup. In this way we can see how the setup can be simultaneously "serious" and "funny," and how these two are identical to one another, and yet exist in a necessary conflict and contrast (97). The punch line, to clarify by introducing another important Neo-Tiantai locution, acts as a "transformative recontexualization" of the setup. The setup changes the punch line by putting it in a new context-the context of a joke in which what was once serious is now funny. In that manner the setup is transformed; it becomes funny. But in an important sense it has remained completely the same, for if the setup is not serious, then the punch line will not be funny, and the setup cannot be transformed from serious to funny. This transformation, while remaining the same, is an essential part of the experiment that Ziporyn proposes. One way to understand the setup/punch line hermeneutic is by using it to re-read the Aristotelian notion of the good life. For Aristotle, a person cannot know whether she has lived a good life until her years are over: "One swallow does not make a spring, nor does one sunny day; similarly, 1 day or a short time does not make a man blessed and happy" (Ethics 1098a17-19). Only in the context of a full life can we pronounce someone happy and blessed. Neo-Tiantai thought concurs to the extreme: only in the context of the complete joke can we pronounce it failed or successful. A setup full of suffering might lead to a glorious moment of redemption, one that transforms the entire life into a good one. Alan Dagovitz Similarly, a lifetime of privilege and pleasure might build to a tragic climax, where the depth and magnitude of the despair is possible only because such happy heights were previously reached and sustained. Everything is reversible and thus both is and is not what it seems. Philosophical systems do not escape the curse, or blessing, of reversibility. At some point, every serious idea reveals itself to be nothing more than the set-up for a powerful punch-line. This awareness builds humility into Neo-Tiantai theory, and that is one of its greatest strengths. In good Socratic form, it is deathly serious about not taking itself, or anyone else, so seriously. To use Ziporyn's words: "for me all coherences, including those experienced by the insane and stupid, have equal validity and equal being" (213). Or again during his explanation of Tiantai Buddhism: "This means the differentiations between things, their conventional designations, as well as any cockamamie philosophical or religious theory or personal illusion about them, are just as ultimately true and untrue as their Emptiness or their beyond-conceptualization Suchness" (16, author's emphasis). There can be no doubt that Neo-Tiantai implicates itself as one of those cockamamie philosophical illusions. Such thinking necessarily veers into satire. Any philosophical theory that seriously poses a joke as the fundamental model for understanding the essence of being is bound, at times, to be ironic. It is a peculiar quality of Being and Ambiguity that the more one thinks its arguments are true and improve upon those of the luminaries that grace its pages (Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Whitehead, Merleau-Ponty, and Žižek feature prominently), then the more the arguments appear to be false, and the improvements mere illusion. To confirm this conclusion one need go no further than the penultimate chapter title: "Proof that All Previous Errors Have Spoken this Truth, and Vice Versa; Or: How to Believe Everything You Read." Here Ziporyn argues, quite seriously, that the ideas developed in the previous four hundred pages are already entailed by every other system of thought. Platonism, Christianity, Fideism, and Commonsense Materialism are each treated as examples of alternative views of the universe that actually come to nothing more than Neo- Tiantai philosophy, and Neo-Tiantai philosophy is no better or worse than any of them. I must emphasize, however, that the book is not traditionally satirical, insofar as Ziporyn stands sincerely behind all of his philosophical claims. This is a synthetic project, engaging a great breadth of modern Western thought, both continental and analytic, in an earnest attempt to improve upon it all. No doubt some experts on the philosophers who appear will be disappointed with aspects of Ziporyn's treatment, since, like every wide-reaching book, it is hampered by the unfortunate necessity of brevity in treating individual thinkers. Whitehead's process philosophy, for instance, is notoriously complicated and disputed, so to treat even a few key concepts in the space of thirty pages will necessarily be reductive. Nevertheless, the chapter entitled "Atomicity, Otherness, and Violence: Co-starring Whitehead, Levinas, and God" manages to provide a fresh and original comparative approach to Whitehead, grounded in responsible scholarship on the Western and Eastern sides. Other engagements with Kant, Hegel, and Wittgenstein, not to mention Bob Dylan and Woody Allen, prove equally rewarding despite their conciseness. Nearing the end, I find myself tempted again by those accolades that reviewers so often bestow. Instead of succumbing to temptation, I will quote Buddhist scholar Robert Magliola, who writes the following in a separate review: "Ziporyn's text is `living philosophy,' a brilliant example of the genre. It does philosophy. The counterpoints of Hegel and Lennon, etc., of classical elenchus and double-entendre, etc., `act out,' theatricalize, Neo-Tiantai's principle of Intersubsumption. That is, the text does the philosophy" (see http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=12697, originally reviewed Review of Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism on H-Buddhism, January 2007). Magliola is absolutely right. Ultimately, Being and Ambiguity is not a book at all so much as philosophical incitement to a genre experiment, poised between humor and seriousness, East and West, imagination and reality, programmed to propagate itself long after the reader has put it down. Imagine, for example, that after finishing this book review you decide to visit the library and read some of Being and Ambiguity. You find it to be tremendously convincing and insightful. At this point, the experience of reading the book is positive. Insight has been achieved; the arguments were persuasive and illuminating. Returning from the library, you find the book was so good that you cannot stop thinking about it. "My goodness," you keep saying to yourself, "everything is so clear now!" You cannot get sleep, you cannot work, and eventually you lose your job, since you are constantly thinking about these beautiful philosophical conclusions. The book, in other words, is so good that it is bad. Suddenly, the reading of the book has been transformatively recontextualized by an ugly punch line. The experience of reading goes from being illuminating to destructive. In fact, its very illuminative capacities are present in its destructiveness. It becomes a pathology, or a neurosis. But imagine further that losing your job allows you time to write the novel you have always been tempted to write. Pouring your obsession into your work, you produce a brilliant masterpiece that channels your neurosis in a positive way and establishes you as a leading light of American letters. A new punch line for the previous one; reality has been transformatively recontextualized yet again. Now it is the depth of the badness of the obsession that is a necessary part of its goodness-had it been any less severe the results would not have been so spectacular. In the Neo-Tiantai universe, setup becomes punch line becomes setup once again. These theoretical insights need not be relegated to a thought experiment-they apply equally to actual events of daily life. Something negative is always the potential setup for a positive punch line, and vice versa. Once that is understood, in Neo-Tiantai terms, nothing looks quite the same again. My parking ticket becomes the catalyst for reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to afford an automobile at all. The rejection of my article from yet another journal is actually another crucial step on my road to extraordinary posthumous fame. And reading another boring book review is the impetus to go check out a new philosophy that could change the very fabric of your reality.

Alan Dagovitz
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Post Number:#14  Postby ontologic_conceptualist » July 1st, 2009, 8:52 am

You are supposed to NOMINATE a book, not reproduce it here LOL !!! :lol:
Who I Am Is What I Am
What I Am Is Why I Am
Why I Am IS Who I Am...

The question you should be asking is...who are you?
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Post Number:#15  Postby Epicurus » July 1st, 2009, 8:52 pm

:lol: Sorry! But that's just the tip of the iceberg--the actual book is about 450 pages long (though funny)!
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