Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another book sale

This one must have set me back, oh, five bucks at least (hee hee!). Read and marvel.

1. Baird & Kaufmann, ed. – Philosophic Classics, Volume II: Medieval Philosophy

I used vol. I of this series when I taught ancient philosophy. It's primary sources with limited commentary, which is both good and bad. Vol. II has many short snippets from the usual suspects as well as some more obscure but still important names (Origen, Pseudo-Dionysus, Nicholas Cusanus). Interestingly, right after I bought this (the fourth edition) I got another copy in the mail! The publisher, thinking I might be teaching the course again (not likely), and thinking that we might use vol. II as well (they usually do, actually), sent me the fifth edition. The only difference I can see is that they dropped the New Testament readings at the beginning in favor of Machiavelli and Montaigne at the end, I imagine because the former are fairly easily available elsewhere and the latter are not. Oops, they spelled it "Montiagne." Better bring out a sixth edition!

2. Bohannan and Glazer, ed. – High Points in Anthropology (1973)

They're not kidding; I don't know much about anthropology and I've heard of two-thirds of these people: Boas, Kroeber, Sapir, Whorf, Kardiner, Durkheim, Malinowski, Levi-Strauss, Marshall Sahlins. Hot stuff.

3. Gary Witherspoon – Language and Art in the Navajo Universe (1977)

This book is mostly about categorization and concepts in the Navajo language, so it's very relevant to my interest in interpretation/hermeneutics. Foreword by Clifford Geertz. Cool 70's cover, like the preceding book.

4. Joseph Fletcher – Situation Ethics: The New Morality (1st pub. 1966)

I used to think that when right-wingers complained about "situational ethics" they just meant "moral relativism" – you know, the outrageous doctrine that there are no "moral absolutes." But then I learned that there actually is a doctrine by that name, which I take to be some sort of contextualism (or maybe it is relativism – who knows). This book, which seems to have started it all off, is decidedly theological in orientation: it's part of the Westminster John Knox Press Library of Theological Ethics series, and six of the ten chapter titles begin with the word "love" (so, not exactly Gilbert Harman). I may rue the lack of philosophical, um, dare I say "rigor"? Here are the first sentences of the first chapter: "There are at bottom only three alternative routes or approaches to follow in making moral decisions. They are: (1) the legalistic; (2) the antinomian, the opposite extreme—i.e. a lawless or unprincipled approach; and (3) the situational." Phew – stack the deck like that and of course you win; but your victory will be hollow if that's all you've got (was there really no virtue ethics before MacIntyre?). It looks pretty clearly written and jargon-free, though, so that's good.

5, 6. R. G. Collingwood – The Idea of History (first pub. 1946) and The Principles of Art (first pub. 1938)

When I saw these I was pretty sure I already had one of them, and even that I had gotten it at a previous book sale in that very locale. Turns out I have both of them. If only that made me twice as likely to read them. Mark my words, philosophy of history is going to get very hot someday (maybe even Collingwood himself). Then I'll sell my extra copy of The Idea of History and retire to the Bahamas. With the other one.

7. Edith Kern, ed. – Sartre: A Collection of Critical Essays (1962)

This series ("Twentieth Century Views") is more literary than philosophical in focus (there's a Camus one too, I know, but I forget what others), but there's a section in this book on philosophy too. Includes essays by René Girard, Fredric Jameson, Edmund Wilson, and Hazel Barnes.

8. Jacob Burckhardt – The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Volume II (original German edition 1860-something)

As you may know, Burckhardt was the inspiration for the character of Herr Naphtha in The Magic Mountain. At the time I read the book I was more of a Herr Settembrini man, but I imagine I would feel differently now. This book is much shorter than The Magic Mountain. My guess is I can skip vol. 1 and still pick up the plot quickly enough. Should I ever get to it, that is.

9. Max Weber – The Sociology of Religion (first pub. 1922)

There isn't a philosophy section at the book sale, so a lot of the good stuff ends up in the religion section (along with stuff like Embraced by the Light and whatnot). I once again passed over a collection of Aristotle (even though it probably has something Ackrill doesn't). I did get a bunch of other things though. This looks pretty heavy-duty. It is, apparently, a selection from a vast systemization of his work that Weber left unfinished at his death. As the editor tells us, "this great work has been rent into segments and even now, after the appearance of the present volume, some sections of the huge treatise [Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft] will remain untranslated." Talcott Parsons likes it, according to the blurb on the back (he would, though).

10. R. K. Narayan, tr. – The Ramayana (this Penguin edition 1972)

I used to get this mixed up with the Mahabharata, but finally I read a much abridged version of the latter. When I did I found out that on the day before the climactic battle, Lord Krishna sits the great warrior Arjuna down and says to him: "Well, Arjuna, [the entire Bhagavad-Gita]." (Oh, now you tell me!) Now if I read this I'll get them mixed up again (because it will no longer be the one I haven't read). This too is an abridged version (167pp.).

11. R. C. Zaehner – Hinduism (2nd ed. first pub. 1966)

Short basic intro, probably owned (if the pink highlighting is any clue) by the same person as the previous book. Looks good.

12. William James – The Will to Believe and other essays in popular philosophy and Human Immortality

A Dover Edition designed for years of use! The former book contains the famous title essay and nine others I have never heard of. It is dedicated to "My Old Friend, Charles Sanders Peirce" – who as we know was not particularly pleased by James's use of the term "pragmatism," which motivated him to rename his own doctrine "pragmaticism" – a name "ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers" (heh heh). The latter book is a single lecture, an Ingersoll Lecture in fact, and thus required to address the title subject. James uses the preface to the second edition to address a particular objection to the "'transmission-theory' of cerebral action" defended in the text: "If our finite personality here below, the objectors say, be due to the transmission through the brain of portions of a preëxisting larger consciousness, all that can remain after the brain expires is the larger consciousness itself as such, with which we should thenceforth be perforce reconfounded, the only means of our existence in finite personal form having ceased. But this, the critics continue, is the pantheistic idea of immortality, survival, namely, in the soul of the world; not the Christian idea of immortality, which means survival in strictly personal form." I do not reveal Prof. James's response to this objection (that would be telling).

13. Trevor Leggett, ed. and tr. – A First Zen Reader (1960)

Mr Leggett, the cover text informs us, "is an Englishman who has lived in Japan both before and after World War II. He holds the grades of sixth dan (a senior teacher's rank) in judo and of fifth dan in Japanese chess." The selections range from the 10th century to the (then) present, two-thirds of the text being taken up by a 20th-century commentary on Hakuin's 18th-century "Song of Meditation." Yow.

14. Eric Weisbard and Craig Marks, ed. – SPIN Alternative Record Guide (1995)

I love record guides with rankings, as most of the fun is agreeing and disagreeing. This is clearly a collaborative effort, given the not simply eclectic but seemingly self-contradictory aesthetic manifested herein. I think I'll leave the details for another post (and no, I haven't forgotten about the other, other post I owe from the last book sale, or was it the one before that).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence -- I just recently read James' "Human Immortality" essay. Damn, I wish it could be true. But on his theory, every chimpanzee, every house cat, every sparrow that falls out of the nest and dies the day after it hatched ... they all get immortality. He himself sees this problem, and his only answer is, "Well, why not?"

No, it's too much. Guess I'm not immortal. Sucks for me.