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Also recommended: PENTATONIC SCALES FOR THE JAZZ-ROCK KEYBOARDIST by Jeff Burns.
Smith takes our moral nature as a given. Humans are born with an innate capacity for sympathy. We identify others as like ourselves and unless otherwise provoked, do not want to hurt others. We also have an innate desire for esteem. We learn early that treating others kindly gains us admiration in the same way that we naturally admire kind people. This is the core of Smiths thesis and from here he puts examines these principles across an array of human behaviors. Why do we tell truths when we could tell undetected lies? Why would we do kindly to others even if esteem of peers is not gauranteed? Why would some die for their family members or their country?
Probably the trait Smith admires most is prudence; the art of knowing what is and is not appropriate action both in our subjective judgement and that of an imagined 'impartial spectator.' The prudent person is able and willing to put herself in the context of other people. 'Although an action seems justified to me, would others see it that way?' 'Would satisfying small desire X of mine be an obstacle to other's fulfillment of larger desires?'
It goes on from there. Smith puts these ideas well to the test going through scenario after scenario. Because of this, I would say this book should be shelved in psychology, not philosophy as it simply tries to give an account of the way we think. Thus the philosopher looking for a forcefully stated, internally consistent and completely reasoned 'moral system' will not find it in these pages. Smith takes us only so far but when asked 'Why do we have these inclinations to be moral and gain esteem,' he simply answers that it is in our nature. This may be the best answer we can hope for, but it will leave some philosophers unsatisfied.
Regarding the length, IT IS TOO LONG!! With a good editor, 200 pages could've easily been cut. I would even say that the last section, examining flaws in existing moral systems is not necessary and can be skipped. Aside from length, it is a joyful read, though. Smith is an excellent writer and certainly better than Hume, Locke and others of the day. As a conclusion, those looking to bridge the chasm in the 'Wealth of Nations' between Smiths simultaneous advocation of free trade and his disdain for unchecked greed in all it's forms...look no further than "Theory of Moral Sentiments."
Smith's first section deals with the "Propriety of Action". The very first chapter of the book is entitled "Of Sympathy". This is very telling of Smith's view of life, and his approach to how men should conduct their lives. "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it." (p 1:1). Later Smith asserts that this "sympathy, however, cannot, in any sense, be regarded as a selfish principle." (p 2:178)
This propriety of conduct undergirds all social, political and economic activities, private and public. When Smith observes that "hatred and anger are the greatest poisons to the happiness of a good mind" (p 1:44) he is speaking not only of interpersonal relationships but of its moral extensions in the community and world. Smith treats the passions of men with clinical precision, identifying a gamut of passions like selfishness, ambition and the distinction of ranks, vanity, intimidation, drawing examples from history and various schools of philosophy. He extols such quiet virtues as politeness, modesty and plainness, probity and prudence, generosity and frankness -- certainly not the qualities of the sterotypical cartoon of a capitalist robber-baron. Indeed Smith is contemptuous of the double standards employed by cults of celebrity: "The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers...of wealth and greatness" paying lip-service to wisdom and virtue, yet Smith oserves, "there is scarce any man who does not respect more the rich and the great, than the poor and the humble. With most men the presumption and vanity of the former are much more admired, than the real and solid merit of the latter. It is scarce agreeable to good morals or even good language...that mere wealth and greatness, abstracted from merit and virtue, deserve our respect." (p 1:79) Tragically, the wealthy celebrity foists a dangerous pattern upon the public, "even their vices and follies are fashionable;and the greater part of men are proud to imitate and resemble them in the very qualities which dishonour and degrade them." (pp 1:81-82) For Smith, wealth is not the criteria of real success. He laments the political-correctness of his day: "Vain men often give themselves airs...which in their hearts they do not approve of, and of which, perhaps, they are not really guilty. They desire to be praised for what they themselves do not think praiseworthy, and are ashamed of unfashionable virtues....There are hypocrites of wealth and greatness, as well as of religion and virtue; and a vain man is as apt to pretend to be what he is not, in the one way, as a cunning man is in the other." (p 1:82) Smith, the moralist also warns that taken too far such trendy fashions of political-correctness can wreck havoc on society: "In many governments the candidates for the highest stations are above the law; and, if they can attain the object of their ambition, they have no fear of being called to account for the means by which they acquired it. They often endeavor, therefore, not only by fraud and falsehood, the ordinary and vulgar arts of intrigue and cabal; but sometimes by the perpetration of the most enormous crimes...to supplant and destroy those who oppose or stand in the way of their [supposed] greatness." (p 1:83)
With such salient observations Smith embarks in a survey of vices to avoid and passions to govern. He describes virtues to cultivate in order to master one's self as well as the power of wealth. These include courage, duty, benevolence, propriety, prudence and self-love [or as we would say, self-respect]. He develops a powerful doctrine of "moral duty" based upon "the rules of justice", "the rules of chastity", and "the rules of veracity" that decries cowardice, treachery, and falsity. The would-be-Capitalist or pretended-Capitalist who violates any of the rules of moral duty in the accumulation of wealth and power in or out of the marketplace is a misanthrope who may dangerously abuse the wealth and position he acquires. Smith describes a moral base rooted in sympathy not selfishness as the basis for an economic system which has been labeled Capitalism. The real Capitalist operates without purposely harming other men, beasts or nature; in this sense capitalism is more a stewardship than an insensitive, mechanistic mercantilism or a crass commercialism. This book is a vital component to any reading of "The Wealth of Nations". "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" is the life-blood or soul of "The Wealth of Nations". Without "Moral Sentiments" one is left with an empty, even soulless, economic theory that can be construed as greedy and grasping no matter how much wealth may be acquired.
This is an outstanding book, full of magnificent observations about human life and values. Smith provides the theoretical underpinnings for the workings of a capitalist system by rejecting the idea that selfishness and self-interest are synonymous. For Smith's ideal to exist, humans would have to pay attention to the development of moral conscience. It is a startling conclusion, and allows us to comprehend more fully Smith's other great work, The Wealth of Nations. If the Amazon.com rankings allowed a ten, this would be a ten!
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Heaven" is one of those that tips the reader into a place and
people that changes the light with which the world is seen.
The Greenland that Gretel Ehrlich describes will never
be experienced by the vast number of us
(thankfully so, for its own sake), but no reader will ever
doubt the impact of the beauty and harshness of the
Arctic environment on those who live there. To convey
to us a sense of that remote place and its animals and
the Inuit people is Ehrlich's passion and her genius.
Unlike some writers who spend a few months in research
and then write with mock authority, her voice has been
Greenland-seasoned seven times since 1993. Her view is
subtle and encompassing, yet leavened with the humility
of one who comes from the outside looking in.
Ehrlich's writing style is richly poetic, strong in metaphor
and allusion. By interrupting her own lyric voice
with the deliberate descriptions of early Arctic
explorers, she creates a blend of the fanciful and the
matter-of-fact that broadly reflects the Inuit
view of life, past and present. In the end, however,
and inspite of her admiration for the subsitence hunter,
she squarely questions the viability of the traditional lifestyle
in the face of modern consumerism. The answer, Ehrlich suggests,
is the one we've come to expect and, tragically, to accept.
Lest the reader fancies that traveling to Greenland to sample
a subsistence life is a good idea, hold on to this: you
don't belong there. Let this book be your window and your
mirror. Use it to visit a wisdom that, with any luck, may
affect you at your very core.
This is not a "been there, seen that, got the T-shirt" travel book -- Erlich is drawn to Greenland no fewer than seven times, in various seasons, and she lives with the people in traditional housing (including tents on the ice). She encounters the brutality of bureaucracy as well as the incredible hospitality of the Inuit -- and at the same time she does not shrink from the pervasive alcoholism and domestic violence that are a sad feature of northern life, nor does she neglect to mention the impact even in Greenland of the growing pollution in "the south" (i.e. North America). Her thesis is essentially Romantic in a philosophic sense . . . subsistence living was/is hard but authentic. The coming of modernity, with its internet connection, TV, store-bought goods, etc., has removed both the means and the incentive for a life of integrity. She leaves it to the reader to see the Greenlandic experience as paradigmatic of the wider world.
Read this book - it will lift your heart and trouble your mind, and leave you wanting more.
What makes it frustrating for a beginner like me, however, is the way it approaches vocabulary. I've learned several other languages, and I like to learn new nouns in groups ("animals" "professions" "rooms of the house")
This book throws huge groups of unrelated words at you as it goes about explaining sentence structure, and I found them almost impossible to keep straight.
I ended up keeping a separate notebook to organize them myself!
Another important point: Pronunciation is the most difficult part of Danish, so I'd recommend buying this book WITH the cassettes. I bought the book alone, and now to get the cassettes - which are really necessary - I'm going to have to buy another copy of the book!
Denmark, unlike many other European countries, did not have a tradition of treating its Jewish citizens differently. However, great courage was required for Dyby, Georg Duckwitz, and countless unnamed Danes, to resist Nazi oppression of Jews. It is remarkable that they succeeded in actively arranging for the escape to Sweden of nearly two thousand Jews late in the war, primarily on small boats. The details of arranging transport on fishing boats through a web of discreet individuals are fascinating. It also reminds us how much difference one person can make.
This book would be very accessible to high school students who are learning about the Holocaust. Mrs. Loeffler expains historical references such as "Krsytallnacht", so the reader can follow the story even without having much background knowledge about events before and during World War II.
The book also takes emphasis on assambler, only one of the chapters is a review of c programming.
As a whole, the book is great expecially with all the diagrams in it and my opinion is that every engineer involved in embedded system design should have it on its bookshelf.