Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
Carrier might well be congratulated for offering a comprehensive and systematic account of his personal worldview: an ambitious book that is, on the whole, lively and comprehensible. Indeed, such a production is no small achievement. But while the system Carrier lays out is (presumably) satisfying to him, the extent to which it would satisfy anyone not already disposed to agree with him is another question altogether. Perhaps the fact that this book is self-published, and receives its reception and acclamation from the diffusive atheistic humanist community of "infidels.org" rather than an established channel of research, review, and reflection, offers some indication. Carrier's project rests, somewhat comically, on a giant circular argument: assuming both (1) a universe utterly free of any supernatural substance of any kind and (2) the intrinsic meaningfulness of such a universe, Carrier goes on to defend these propositions by ... well, he doesn't defend them, actually, he just lays them out with bravado, and unshakable confidence that any other way of approaching the questions is either inferior to his own, or irrelevant to the conversation. Carrier might be forgiven for this: certainly, to some extent, most worldviews can be reduced to hermeneutical circles of this sort. But the concurrent assertion that he and his small band of atheist friends have alone mounted on the wings of Reason to arrive at Ultimate Truth reflects a rather staggering hubris, and leaves little wonder as to why atheists are often regarded as among the most aggravating and antisocial of subcultures. The tone, indeed, is reminiscent of the apologist who comforts the faithful by patiently explaining how the apparent contradictions within their Scriptures are not, in fact, contradictory. While such arguments have a place within the community, they are not especially impressive to those outside of it. Such failings are, perhaps, to be expected. Without question (and by his own admission, no less) Carrier is a True Believer -- he is determined to believe only that which is True (with a capital "T.") Within this pursuit, he is utterly untroubled by any doubt as to whether there is such a thing as Truth, nor does not give a thorough contemplation of the limitations on the human mind that would reach out for it. The end result may work as a catechism for modern atheists -- and it seems, generally, to be representative of the movement -- but in broader perspective, the work is more sophomoric than philosophical. Carrier evidently loves to read and argue and think, but he has not yet had an encounter the kind of careful, disciplined, sustained criticism that could help him name and question some of his own driving assumptions. For these reasons, it may be advisable even for the confirmed atheist to pass on Carrier, and look for a work that is more carefully wrought, deeply thought, and characterized by epistemic humility rather than Carrier's insuperable swagger. Still, the breadth and brevity of "Sense & Goodness" is not without is commendable qualities, and those attracted to (rather than repulsed by) the Carrier's sweeping approach and the pugnaciousness of his brand of atheism may find plenty to admire in its pages.

Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
Methodologically and historically thought-provoking -- and of intrinsic interest to our region -- Morrissey's book lacks a clear structure and compelling argument. Moreover, the library copy has been very heavily annotated in sections, making it less than compelling as a reading experience. If worthy of thoughtful perusal, then, a better presentation of the subject remains a desiderium.

Lud-In-The-Mist

Review by Aidan Fay
Neil Gaiman called this "the single most beautiful, solid, unearthly and unjustifiably forgotten novel of the 20th century." I donated this so I'm biased but I like it so much that the act of merely donating it made me excited. It's about a wealthy town with an unhappy mayor who yearns for something exciting in life which comes when his son eats illegal fruit from Faeryland, the country bordering his own but never spoken about in polite society. This was written in the 1920s and was republished in the 1960s in The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, which also re-popularized books like 'Gormenghast' by Mervyn Peake and 'The Lord of the Rings' for the hippy era. And its editions have incredible cover art. If you wanna see some cool shit look up Bob Pepper.

To the Indomitable Hearts: The Prison Letters of Luciano

Review by Meg Duke
Absolutely incendiary. Tortuga's letters ignite the fire within and remind us why we fight; letters to Tortuga and a compilation of subsequent anarchist actions weave a web of solidarity that defies the isolation of our age and unites international struggles for freedom against systemic oppression.

The Real Work: Interviews & Talks, 1964-1979 Paperback

Review by Bill Svoboda
It is both amazing and heartbreaking that practically all of this is so completely current. Highly recommended.

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

Review by Bill Svoboda
Reviewing a book about porn is safe and easy compared to reviewing a book about food & dietary habits. This book is a fierce crusade against vegetarianism in general and especially veganism. In my case, Lierre Keith was pretty much preaching to the choir- and NOT to the audience she's especially trying to reach (girls up to their middle teens). Even so, I felt she went overboard with some of her arguments -especially in the "Nutritional Vegetarian" section-I almost expected to look out my window and see malnourished, dead and dying vegetarian/vegans littering the landscape. The Vegetarian Myth is full of passionate and/or well documented arguments- but I'm not certain how effective arguments are against Myths-or if the way to a better world is through denouncing what others do or don't eat.

We Did Porn

Review by Bill Svoboda
Another "three and a half stars", actually. If you skim this, it might seem like a combination of Thomas Pynchon, Hunter S. Thompson, and Susie Bright- and you'll be impressed by what a perceptive and insightful guy Zak Smith is. If you read it word by word, sentence by sentence, it becomes tedious- I started wondering who the editor was-or if there WAS an editor. In case you're wondering- much (most?) of both text and illustrations aren't especially sexually explicit and /or "pornographic"-most of the latter ARE however very punk-often with obsessive/surrealistic/psychedelic elements as well. The best part of We Did Porn is the "we" part- the stories of & about the people in the porn industry- too often the book was "I Did Porn".

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers

Review by Meg Duke
Current and culturally relevant, this collection of Passmore's short comix is simultaneously hilarious and wicked serious. You'll be laughing... with furrowed brow... Recommend.

Vile and Miserable

Review by Meg Duke
2.5 stars. The title had me in a second -- as did a freaky dream scene I had glimpsed while flipping through the pages. Upon finishing, I can say I was a little bummed out; the concept of a demon with deep-seated sex problems running a used bookstore in a car dealership tickled me, but the overall plot arc was disappointing.

Everything is Illuminated

Review by N8R Witham
HELLA REVIEW

Black Hole

Review by Sana Witham
once you go in there’s no going back

The Dispossessed

Review by Kyle Chastain
Fucking epic. There's so much cool shit in here: descriptions of an anarcho-syndicalist world in a scarce environment, conflict and questions over the nature and definition of freedom, existential dread, romance and interesting thought experiments around romantic relationship dynamics on an anarchist world, all in all just a fantastic story.

Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
Deloria is well regarded as one the great pioneers in giving the indigenous voice credibility, and this book -- which he identifies as one of his most enjoyable to write -- certainly does not disappoint as a classic example of his thought and method. Throughout critical of the modern western institutions of religion, law, education, politics, and science, Deloria in this volume takes particular aim at scientistic narratives, uncovering some of the tacitly racist motivations in the formulation of evolutionary theories, and anthropological theses regarding the population of the Americas, but throughout he traces the interweaving of different techniques of dominating power woven through the dogmatic articulation of modern common sense. Ever the iconoclast, Deloria proposes that common truths are not, by virtue of being commonly held, therefore true, and challenges the hegemonic systems of contemporary knowledge to make way for additional ways of being and knowing. In all, it is a lively and enjoyable read; although his argument might have been strengthened by being more reflexively self-aware -- viz., tracing the parallel with other liberationist moving, and asking the question whether the convergence of liberationist voices might itself be a shadow of the dominant systems in need of an alternative.

The Cloud of Unknowing

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
This short and powerful 14th C text is one of the foundational classics of medieval English spirituality. Drawing on the tradition of symbolic and apophatic theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, the Cloud brings into the English language and idiom the deep riches of the Eastern Christian mysticism of late antiquity.

Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History

Review by Bill Svoboda
An Anarchist and a Communist are in the same car together. Who is driving? (Answer at the end of this review!) For me, this book was most valuable as a kind of "political autobiography" of Staughton Lynd. He is not exactly a "typical" Marxist- really he's more of a leftist Saint (along the lines of Eugene Debs). This book was published ten years ago-during happier times. While there was and still is much to be learned from both Wobblies and Zapatistas, there are serious problems toward adopting either one as a blueprint for success in today's USA. Answer: A cop.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One)

Review by Madeline Moulton
This is the one, it's it it's it it's it! Heavily imbued with natural imagery, magic that is Classical, specific Rothfuss-brand, and no-fuss ref/reverential towards global histories, Patrick has really done it. Some cool context: this one was 15 years in the making, and boiz does it show. Extremely thoughtful and endearing, the cheesiness is a welcome reprieve from the (at times) sad plot. But tragedy or travesty or comic or simply fiction, fear not - worth the emotional roller coaster to the max. The Name of the Wind remains secretive and elusive, but it's also accessible as all heck. (As far as a super long, super fantasy fantasy goes). hella dank.

Promethea Vol. 1

Review by Alexander Chadsey
This series was amazing! It starts off a little slow, somewhat resembling the standard ‘super-person’ comic ( this was nearly enough to make me quit it halfway through the first volume), but makes up for it with a literally mind-warping journey of the consiousness, soul, and spirit realm(s). If you’re interested in the Tarot, Kaballah, Alleister Crowley, synchronisities, and how to manifest your reality, then this series is for you! It pretty much reads as a beautifully trippy illustrated guide to the above!

The Wretched of the Earth

Review by Madeline Moulton
Frantz Fanon left a mark on our world with this one. Psychiatry be damned, this doctor had ideas, and he had the where with all to say 'screw the system', something here seems wrong, and Algeria is my passion. Or some such histoire, non? Either way, worth a read any time of the eon. RIP Stuart Hall, and long live la revolucion.

War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

Review by Bill Svoboda
Definitely a catchy title! This is another "half star" book-as in "three and a half stars". Lots of "good" (i.e. horrific) stuff here. Trying to give a larger overview leads to a lack of focus- by far the most moving parts of this are Chris Hedges own experiences,thoughts and emotions- this book would be so much more effective if it were even more personal/autobiographical. I know from other reading what a fan Hedges is of a classically "humanist" education-but to properly analyze war throughout the ages requires science as well (sorry, but the various Shakespeare quotes did absolutely nothing for me-especially when juxtaposed with real and recent events).

The Life of Graham

Review by Bill Svoboda
"A bit lumpy" (as I can imagine one of The Pythons saying)-as in, there's a great big lump of all one thing, followed eventually by a great big lump of something else. But it does seem to be pretty honest- and the very beginning of the book is great. If you're a much bigger Monty Python fan than me (meaning seriously fanatical) you might want to give this 4 stars. If you don't like Monty Python, you'd probably give it 2.

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