Scoop Review of Books

Archive for June, 2013

Defining Philosophy and Non-philosophy

What is Philosophy? – Michael Munro (Punctum Books, New York, 2012)

Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

This is a refreshing book, mainly because it is not exactly a book for it is freely obtainable online, thus optionally printable only – and if you wish to donate to the cause of Punctum Books, you also have another option. Such ‘Open Access’ publication is now a burgeoning trait in the online kingdom of speculative realist philosophies, such as the case with this title.

It is also a refreshingly downloadable and printable file not simply because of this format, but also because of its content, for Munro has made absolutely no claims to be a ‘professional’ philosopher, or indeed to be any sort of philosopher per se. As he says on what could be the back cover – He has no university affiliation, no awards, nor other publications. His work is approved by the Interzone Bureau of Vagabond Thinker Lovers.

For Munro has no intention to even begin to define exactly what philosophy is. More, he is seemingly more interested in ruminating and rather extensively quoting from a myriad of historical and contemporary figures, as to what philosophy might be, what philosophy is not, and how philosophy is a constant contradiction of itself. Read more »

Vaughan Rapatahana – Two Poems from china as kafka

china as kafka

china as kafka.

limbo land.

relentless brume
of shale-shroud cities,

++++l+ a+ b+ y+ r+ I+ n+ t+ h+ i+ n+ e+

++++++++ ‘law’,
++++++++++++++++++++++++ [all
++++++++++++++++++++++++ show trials/no trials:]
Read more »

Vaughan Rapatahana, ‘americano’ From china as kafka


in his mephistophelean slink
toward some visceral glimmer
of ‘democracy’

+++++in this ‘failed state’,

pauses to pat
his shades
I+ n+ t+ o+ p+ l+ a+ c+ e.

he redeems his
brusque suit collars
with a residual slap
Read more »

A Precious Portrait of Lesbian Life

Who Was That Woman, Anyway? Snapshots of a Lesbian Life
By Aorewa McLeod
Victoria University Press, $35

Reviewed by Alison McCulloch

Who was that woman image It’s trite to say that books take you places. But true nonetheless. With books, you can disappear into other times, cultures, imaginary worlds. “Foreign” fiction is better than any guide-book at introducing you to a place and its people, and sometimes even better than going there if you want to see beneath the surface.

But if you live here and read enough of the stuff (say novels from the two Anglophone powerhouses – the United States and the UK-plus-Ireland) then a different feeling starts to kick in. Like what you’re getting to know is really life inside the American novel, not life inside America. At about the same point, for me anyway, “local” fiction itself starts to feel a bit foreign. Not in the way “foreign” fiction is foreign, but in the way local fiction feels rare, like something you don’t see very often. Which, when it’s good local fiction, also makes it feel precious and exciting and new.

I felt this way reading Aorewa McLeod’s new book Who Was That Woman, Anyway? Snapshots of a Lesbian Life (VUP, $35). It’s a novel, yes, but as McLeod explains in the book’s front matter, it’s inspired by real life events. “Some details happened in real life, some did not,” she writes. “The characters are fictionalised and given fictional names.” The book’s 10 chapters, ordered by date, span roughly 40 years in the life of Ngaio, McLeod’s protagonist who, like the author, is an English lecturer at a university in Auckland.
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Brains and Morals

Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality by Patricia S. Churchland (Princeton University Press, hardback $27.20, paperback $18.24)

Reviewed by Charles Gibson

Braintrust What can science tell us about morality? In Braintrust, Patricia Churchland sets out to draw an up-to-date picture of our moral universe by applying philosophical analysis to the new and ever-growing body of scientific data emerging from advances in neuroscience, evolutionary biology and genetics. What, she asks, is the best interpretation of all this new evidence? Is morality an objective truth best expressed in terms of rules, or is it a social device that has developed in parallel to human evolution?

While this book contains a wealth of interesting information, Churchland doesn’t throw the reader in the deep end of neuroscience. She structures her book carefully to make it accessible to an everyday reader. This is one of Braintrust’s most notable achievements because presenting scientific evidence is not difficult. What is difficult is presenting it in a way that is both interesting and engaging to a wide audience, and Churchland makes it look easy, packing her book with fascinating tidbits about the natural world.
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