Well, fuck and piss and vinegar!
To tell you the truth, I am having a lot of trouble with this review. Normally it is very easy for me to absorb, process, synthesize, and find fault with a collection of someone else’s personal idea of what makes for compelling writing. But this blog, Love of All Wisdom, penned by Professor of Philosophy Amod Lele, is somewhat more challenging to me. And here’s why: I don’t know if I can tell for sure whether he is doing a good job or not. Depends on what you mean by “good” or “job.” He comes across as intelligent. Deep. Consistent. True to his stated goal.
But it reads like a text book. And uses a lot of terms that are not familiar to the lay reader, which may be fine, as the lay reader may not be who this feller wants to talk to. I know for a fact that he does not intend for this to be a personal blog about who he’s dating, or how he feels about things, or any of the kinds of things that most people are polluting the Internet with. (You’ll notice, I deliberately left the “s” off the end of that term, as I have come to the conclusion that using the term “Internets” is an affectation. You may disagree. Discuss among yourselves. Just, if you are going to do so, do it over there where I can’t reach you with my taser.)
As an armchair philosopher who has grappled with concepts of morality, ‘God’/gods, ethics, etc., I found this to be a very compelling and very dense read. I want to read more. Then again, I want to read all the shit on my bookshelf that I bought because that’s what I thought educated, intelligent people should do – books like War and Peace, The Age of Reason, Ulysses… That doesn't mean that I have a hope in hell of ever doing so.
My biggest complaint is that in order to do a fair review, in order to fully process everything that he has written, about 20% of the content requires me to do ancillary research at Wikipedia or by buying and reading books I don’t intend to read because it assumes a prior knowledge that I just don’t possess. And I just don’t have enough hours in a day. As an example, here is a brief excerpt:
“This question of technique came up at least three times at the SACP. Peimin Ni – next year’s SACP president – argued that Mencius’s metaphysical theory of human nature is there not to justify his ethics, but to help provide practical guidance in shaping human conduct.”
This assumes that I know who Mencius is and what his/her metaphysical theory of human nature is. And that I know (clearly) what metaphysics is. And what is meant, philosophically, by the term “ethics.” Even the use of the word “technique” was a bit context-less for me until later on, when a context sort of grew up around the rest of the concepts being discussed.
My slightly smaller complaint is the template. Little white text on a black background. After reading for about an hour one day, I stepped away from the screen and my entire world had light and dark horizontal stripes running across it until my rods and cones in my eyes re-acclimated. This was a severe annoyance to me. My world should not be a zebra, even if just temporarily.
My smallest complaint is not really a complaint at all rather than an observation. In many cases, I just flat disagreed with him. And the beauty part is – in a philosophical discussion, we can disagree 100% and both be 100% right. For example:
“What a dream is, is an interior state. Of course physical changes occur in the brain when we dream; but a dream is necessarily more than that.” (emphasis mine)
(Really? Necessarily!? Not the way I understand the physiology of the brain, and memory, and consciousness.)
“To say a dream is nothing but those physical changes is to say not merely that the things we dream about do not exist, but even that the fact that we dreamt about them did not exist.” (emphasis his)
(The things we dream about MAY exist, but being in a dream doesn't make them so. I can dream of a rainbow colored unicorn, which may be simply automatic firing of certain memory and creative centers of my brain, but that doesn't make such a unicorn exist in the world of protoplasm. And I do not follow the logic that is employed to determine that this somehow makes the fact of the dream not exist. You've lost your firm footing here.)
He makes certain statements that I feel are unfounded. But, shit, he’s got a PhD in Philosophy (from Harvard! Oooooh!) – I took an Intro to Philosophy course in the 1980’s from a textbook that had been out of print for twenty years (yet had been written by the professor teaching the course, so of course, we had to use his text). And I feel more than a little bit intimidated by his assured tone and his credentials.
Still, one does not need an alphabet soup after one’s name to be able to apply logic. And I think that may be one of my biggest beefs with him – it seems he values intuition too much over logic (a deeper and more protracted read may prove this to be false), and I distrust intuition. I think that intuition can, and does, lie to you. It stands to reason that this may be one of the biggest separators of Eastern and Western philosophical approaches, and that I may simply not be “eastern” enough.
I don’t know.
What I do know is that this blog is an acquired taste. And won’t be to everyone’s liking. I also know that his template looks cool as shit until you have to start reading things. If you want to read him regularly, use a reader. His categorization is helpful, but only if you understand his classification system. Which I don’t know that I do. His writing is factual and unemotional, and will generally only appeal to philosophy dorks like me, but it is clear and well-edited.
Overall, I think that he is doing what he set out to do. I don't know why he submitted for a review here, but he did. So I have to give him a meaningful rating. Since he accomplishes that which he seems to set out to do, I'm giving him two stars.
But because he's unapproachable as hell and is flat out wrong in my opinion on occasion, I am also giving him a single flaming finger.
And finally, because his template made me see zebra stripes repeatedly, I am giving him two more flaming fingers.