Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Useful Meme

This was extraordinarily difficult. I study philosophy; I don't know anything useful.....


1. Copy these instructions.
2. Link to the original 'useful meme' post.
3. Share 5+ things that may be of benefit to your readers -- useful facts, advice, product recommendations, etc.

(1) Mead Five Star Fat Lil' Notebook. I am something of a compulsive notationist; I constantly have the urge to jot down some thought or other. Thus I need a notebook handy; but it has to be something that's not at all bulky. I've tried all sorts of different memo books, but I wear them out too quickly; I have to be able simply to stick them in my pocket, and most little notebooks simply don't last under such treatment. But the Fat Lil' Notebook is something that has worked marvellously. It is very sturdy, with a good cover and back, and a well-made wire binding: it doesn't fall apart. It's only 5-1/2 x 3-1/2 in., so it fits in my back pocket. And it has 200 sheets, ruled front and back (making 400 pages), so you can write an immense amount in one. Highly recommend for anyone who likes writing.

(2) Sirius Radio. It really is a great thing to have in your car. I usually listen to the Radio Classics channel (I'm a big fan of radio drama). You can also get Sirius Online Radio: it doesn't have all the channels (no Radio Classics, alas), but it does have a good selection of music, talk, and sports channels, and you can get satellite radio through any good internet connection.

(3) Specialized introductory texts. It can be difficult to find solid introductory texts in philosophy, whether one wants a quick introduction, or something to brush up with, or an easy reference point. Here are some I've found to be handy, suitable for different purposes.

Think, by Simon Blackburn. It's not going to be a reference text, but this is far and away the best introductory work for anyone who wants an easy introduction to the sort of thing usually done by people in philosophy today. I regularly recommend it to people who are looking for something like this. Of course, Blackburn is wrong on almost every point; but so it goes: it's a great starting point.

What Is Ancient Philosophy? by Pierre Hadot. This is the book to read if you're looking for a general way to get a handle on all the Epicureans, Stoics, Aristotelians, etc., etc. It's not too heavy on dates and names, but still manages to be quite the learning experience.

The Sociology of Philosophies, by Randall Collins. If, on the other hand, you are interested in names and dates, this is the book for you. The purpose of the book is to lay out the foundations for a sociological analysis of philosophical creativity; to do this Collins maps out networks of major philosophers in India, China, Japan, and Europe, from the days of Socrates and Buddha and Confucius into the twentieth century. The network maps, showing at a glance the rough relationship between, say, Hsüan-Tsang and Lin-Chi during the early centuries of the rise of Ch'an Buddhism, are in themselves a very definite reason why anyone interested in the history of philosophy should have this book on his or her shelf, all 1000+ pages of it. Collins analyzes these networks in an attempt to build an account of philosophical creativity and stagnation. There are weaknesses (as there would be); sometimes the networks are not quite so straightforward as Collins makes it seem, and, obviously, Collins is not a specialist in all the eras and fields he covers, so he has to rely on other sources (which are uneven). He gets Berkeley wrong, wrong, wrong, for instance. But taken with this caveat there are few philosophy resources so handy as this book. The paperback is reasonably affordable for what you're getting.

Modal Logic for Philosophers, by James W. Garson. This is one of the most enjoyable logic texts I've read in a while. I don't know how it would be for a first introduction, but it's a splendid text for those who want to brush up on their modal logic, or extend their familiarity with different variations.

(4) GoodSearch. With GoodSearch the advertising revenue generated by your searches goes to the charitable organization of your choice. It's a very easy way to divert a few dollars in the direction of a worthy cause, particularly if (like me) you do a lot of internet searching; and over a long period of time that can add up quite a bit. In addition, if you buy online, check to see if any of the merchants you use are associated with GoodShop; it's possible that you could divert 2% or so of your purchase to a charity of your choice. Incidentally, The Greater Good Network, which runs, among other things, The Hunger Site and The Breast Cancer Site, is a good way to help out a bit, too. It's a simple thing, and it does do some genuine good.

(5) Charitable Giving. But, of course, GoodSearch and the like isn't really charitable giving: it's charitable fundraising. It's useful, though, to know some decent charities that make it easy to donate online. Here are some examples, just a handful of the many.

International Justice Mission: an anti-slavery organization. (ECFA member)

National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund: Giving to cancer charities is tricky; the names all look alike but some are not well organized. Even some of the best-known cancer charities are bloated and inefficient. But this is easily one of the best. The AIP, one of the major charity watchdog organizations, gives it an A.

The Center for Victims of Torture: human rights organization; has an A- rating with AIP.

Action Against Hunger: its online donation system is generic, but if you ever do anything by PayPal or Google Checkout, you won't find it a problem. The AIP gives it an A+, which means you can be pretty sure your donation won't be wasted in any way.

Catholic Relief Services: Several donation options. Also an A+ from the AIP.

Network for Good, which I've just recently come across, looks like another great way to donate to charitable organizations in a relatively easy way.

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