January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt
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What do you think of this book? Did you enjoy reading it? Would you recommend it?
I like this book a lot. It is a short book. And I like when I think I get more out of reading a short book than I would out of spending even more time reading a longer book.
The narration style seems very matter-of-fact, which makes it interesting, in my opinion, in light of many of the major events being told.
I think the story highlights the foolishness in trusting governments or mobs of men with the power of capital punishment. When alternative means such as life in prison would provide equal protection to society from criminals, I think those who support execution are being too trusting of governments, bureaucracies and mobs of men too not misuse the power either out of corruption or foolishness. I think this story is an example of that. In fact, the story almost reminds me of South Park in the way it so vividly mocks confidence in the institutions of society and confidence in the judgment of governments, bureaucracies and mobs of men.
I also like the demeanor of the main character. It seems almost like an indifferent observer rather than a participant in the events unfolding before him. I find it appealing.
What do you think?
Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
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What truly makes Meursault an outsider is his indifference. He has little patience for the concerns of the society in the time and place in which he lives, and this shocks the authorities and the public (ironically, more than the killing itself). He is thus on trial not for murder, but ultimately for the lack of emotion he shows at his mother's death. Meursault simply cannot fake feelings he does not have, even knowing that it will cost him his life. Authenticity is a key concept in existentialist writing; another common theme is execution and the notion of being condemned to death, because it provides a potent metaphor for awareness of our own mortality.
I will have to read The Outsider again. It is one of my favourite books, and one which I think everyone should read in their lifetime. It is certainly short enough and concisely written enough for anyone to read. The accompanying essay, the Myth of Sisyphus, is harder to penetrate but is well worth the time if you want to further understand the philosophy Camus outlines in the character of Meursault. It is positive and life-affirming, but ultimately realistic, which is not the same as being depressing. aplasticfeast could not be more wrong about this book.
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UNPRECEDENTED DIGNITY AND EASE
It is by a continual effort that I can create....My deepest, most certain leaning is toward silence and everyday activity. It has taken me years of perseverance to escape from distractions....It is how I despair and how I cure myself of despair.-Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, Penguin, 1970, p.276.
I tend toward ‘the work’ every minute
and can sit vacant staring at the garden
or some inane bit of TV or some vacuous
act for only so long without a feeling of
great emptiness invading which I must fill
with my ‘planned program’.* If this cannot
be done, I fill my own mind with my own
thoughts or some Passage. But, generally,
in a chaos of reading, silence and creation
I keep out a distracted, frenetic passivity
and a mountainous world of trivia as far
away as I can until necessity intervenes.
And then, then.... some holy simplicity,
some rest, plain mysterium, a feeling of
the numinous, a nothingness, an idiosyncratic
something that is incommunicable, gliding on
a sea of faith with reason resting in the wings,
the burning desire to seek enjoying a low
flame, quietly flickering, in a free zone
of some unprecedented dignity and ease.
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(it's been a while since I've read it) but (I believe) the main character of the book disarms a friend by pleading for the weapon the friend has aimed at one of two Arab men who stabbed him. The "hero" gets the gun and conceals it in his pocket.
He and his injured friend return to a shore house where thet're girlfriends are. After resting,(I think) the "hero" wakes up and heads outside, tired, and wearing his jacket. The water on the ocean captures his attention and he notices someone stretched out on the beach, holding his body up by his arms. The "hero" begins to approach the figure, hypnotised by the sun-light dancing on the rises of the water. He gets close enough to the figure to be able to notice that it is one of the two men who had attacked him and is friend a little while ago. The Arab man is smiling at him. Feeling in his jacket pockets, the "hero" (protagonist) feels the barrel of the gun he had confiscated from his bleeding friend earlier. The "hero" pulls the gun and lets several shots rip through the air toward the ocean reflecting the sun.
The first half of The Stranger is meant to present the protagonist as an every day kinda person who may or may not have been in a state of depression after losing his mother. He has a girlfriend, so he's not a lonely psychopath.
The books purpose is to illustrate how unstable society can be at any moment, and how those around you are only as they are to you so long as nothing unusual or scandalous is known about your conduct.
A few hours before the murder, the killer wrestles the idea of using the gun on one of the Arab men from his friends mind. Then, just after waking and in a sleepy state (maybe half-asleep, possibly with the threatingly strange occurrence still running through his mind) he walks outside, recognizes the previous threat which he and his friend faced smiling at him, the "hero" shoots at the ocean, passing through the darker man in front of his veiw.
The second half of the book shows that after one solitary event, committed in a possible state of delerium, life can change unalterably into a state of ruin due to circumstances which may or may not have been the perpetrator's complete fault. (He really could have been delirious at the time. Look at his actions when clear headed, taking the gun from his friend.)
The people who he thought were somewhat close to him began to distance themselves. Society as a whole was now his enemy. He was now a complete stranger from what he had been to life and others. The feeling of complete powerlessnes, which the "hero" chooses to ignore eventually, surrounds the "hero's" mind, all the way to his stunning pronouncement of execution. This was after his lawyer assured the "hero" that the case would be more lenient then first anticipated.
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Meursault's actions in not expressing the "appropriate" emotions at his mother's funeral, as well as not showing the appropriate amount of remorse for the accidental murder of the Arab men were seen to be appalling. It was his reaction of indifference rather than the act of murder itself which was viewed in disgust in light of society's view of what constitutes morality. He was harshly condemned for it, and his indifference silently mocks society's hypocrisy.