Russell on Metaphysics

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 29 May 2016

Metaphysics aims to uncover the fundamental nature of reality beyond appearance. It studies the world but not anything about it that can be observed.  It follows from this that the questions of metaphysics cannot be settled empirically by looking for observable eveidence, but must be solved using philosophical methods of analysis, reason and argument.


The Wind Journeys

film reviewed by Rob Mason on 8 May 2016

'To have is to lose.'

Every now and then a film comes along that produces a most enjoyable response.  The Wind Journeys is such a film, directed by Ciro Guerra (117 minutes)   Below is a short review of the film by Ian Craig

Boy meets man on donkey. Boy follows man on odyssey to return to owner the accordion that’s been the lifelong instrument of his fame. Man refuses to teach boy to play accordion. This disarmingly simple plot forms the basis of Ciro Guerra’s second film, set…Read

Measuring the World

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 11 April 2016

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, two young Germans set out to measure the world. One of them, the Prussian aristocrat Alexander von Hum-boldt, negotiates savanna and jungle, travels down the Orinoco, tastes poisons, climbs the highest mountain known to man, counts head lice, and explores every hole in the ground. The other, the barely socialized mathematician and astronomer Carl Friedrich Gauss, does not even need to leave his home in Göttingen to prove that space is curved. He can run prime numbers in his head. He cannot imagine a life without women, yet he jumps…Read

The Future of an Illusion

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 29 March 2016

Religious ideas are teachings and assertions about facts and conditions of external reality which tell one something one has not discovered for oneself and which lay claim to one’s belief. Since they give us information about what is most important and interesting to us in life, they are particularly highly prized.  Anyone who knows nothing of them is very ignorant; and anyone who has added them to his knowledge may consider himself much the richer. There are of course many such teachings about the most various things in the world.  Every school lesson is full…Read

The Fall of the Ottomans

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 7 December 2015

In The Fall of the Ottomans, award-winning historian Eugene Rogan brings the First World War and its immediate aftermath in the Middle East to vivid life, uncovering the often ignored story of the region’s crucial role in the conflict. Bolstered by German money, arms, and military advisors, the Ottomans took on the Russian, British, and French forces, and tried to provoke Jihad against the Allies in their Muslim colonies. 

Two bullets fired on a Sarajevo street on a sunny June morning in 1914 set in motion a series of events that shaped the world we…Read

Why I Write

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 28 November 2015

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." George Orwell

George Orwell says that; writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of of some painful illness and that one would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by by some demon with whom one can neither resist nor understand.  He explains that it is neccessary to efface one's personality or make oneself appear insignificant or inconspicuous and that in…Read

The Life of T.E. Lawrence

reviewed by Rob Mason on 17 November 2015

John E. Mack. A Prince of our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence

When this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography first appeared in 1976, it rescued T. E. Lawrence from the mythologizing that had seemed to be his fate. In it, John Mack humanely and objectively explores the relationship between Lawrence's inner life and his historically significant actions.The dominant theme of Mack's work has been the exploration of how one's perceptions of the world affect one's relationships. He addressed this issue of "world view" on the individual level in his early…Read

Bridge of Spies

reviewed by Rob Mason on 16 November 2015

Bridge of Spies is a 2015 American historical drama-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg.

 A true story of three extraordinary characters – William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI (1957) in New York City and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America’s most precious nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, the American U-2 pilot who was captured when his plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified…Read


Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 3 November 2015

Journalism. The essentials of writing and reporting by James Morrison

To whom is this book intended?  The simple answer is anyone and everyone with an interest in writing, the sense of wanting to sit down at the nearest keyboard and have a go at it themselves, to get their thoughts and observations down on paper, to blog, or to interact with others via social media. We live in an age when more of us than ever before are effectively journalists already, not only keeping diaries or journals, compiling information on our pet likes and…Read

Philosophy for Militants

Bookfilm reviewed by Rob Mason on 16 October 2015

Around the world, recent events have seen the creation of a radical group comprising students, the young, workers and immigrants. It is Badiou’s contention that the politics of such militants should condition the tasks of philosophy, even as philosophy clarifies the truth of our political condition. Badiou insists that the questions and priorities of philosophy at any given time are shaped by four different material activities: science, politics, art and love.

"What is our situation today - I mean, the situation of the peoploe who are comfortable enough to call themselves 'Westerners'?. …Read

In Praise of Love

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 14 October 2015

In a world rife with consumerism, where online dating promises risk-free romance and love is all too often seen only as a variant of desire and hedonism, Alain Badiou believes that love is something that unfolds over time, and involves continual re-commitment and effort. Taking to heart Arthur Rimbaud’s famous line “love needs reinventing,” In Praise of Love is the celebrated French philosopher’s passionate treatise in defense of love, published in 2009 by Flammarion.  


Life Ascending

reviewed by Rob Mason on 1 October 2015

Life Ascending: The 10 great inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane

“Where and how life has originated we do not know, but Nick Lane argues well for his view of marine alkaline vents as the cradle of life. He believes that the cell has been invented independently by bacteria and archaea.” Lars Olof Björn “The Archaea constitute a domain or kingdom of single-celled microorganisms. These microbes are prokaryotes, meaning that they have no cell nucleus or any other membrane-bound organelles in their cells.” Wikipedia In some systems for classifying all of life,…Read

Heart of Darkness

Bookfilm reviewed by Rob Mason on 12 September 2015

Heart of Darkness is a short history based novel by Joseph Conrad.  The story is about a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State, in the heart of Africa, by the story's narrator Charles Marlow. Marlow tells his story to friends aboard a boat anchored on the River Thames, London, England. The implication is that London and Africa are places of darkness. It is also suggested that there is little difference between so-called civilized people and those described as savages; therefore Heart of Darkness raises important questions about imperialism…Read

The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 5 September 2015

The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad - A biography by John Stape

Born in 1857 into an aristocratic Polish family, he went to sea in 1874 in the French merchant service, which can hardly be a relaxing experience. He switched to the English merchant service in 1878, and qualified as a master mariner and took British nationality in 1886. He stayed at sea until 1894, both accepting discipline and administering it. In 1894, aged 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health, partly due to unavailability of ships, and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that…Read

A Smile of Good Fortune

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 3 September 2015

A smile of good fortune concerns a young ship's captain who has made a passage to a Pacific Island to pick up a cargo of sugar cane. When the captain arrives at the Island he accepts an invitation to visit the home of a ship-chandler whom he may have some business with.  However when he arrives at the home he meets the attractive daughter of the host, Alice, whom he feels drawn to.  The captain describes it this way: "How weak, irrational and absurd we are! How easily carried away whenever our awakened imagination brings…Read

The Spirit of ‘45

film reviewed by Rob Mason on 29 August 2015

With the likelihood of popular, left-wing Labour Party leader: Jeremy Corbyn being elected in the UK. this impassioned documentary by Ken Loach: The Spirit of '45 should be re-visited. It celebrates the Labour landslide at the 1945 general election led by Clement Attlee and the resolve never to return again to the miserable conditions that the working class endured in the 1930s

Following this strong result at the polls, The Labour Government decided to implement the Beveridge Report. William Beveridge was an economist and provided a comprehensive "cradle-to-grave" welfare…Read

What is Relativity

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 18 August 2015

Einstein Centenary

Very few people know what the theory of relativity is all about, and a common myth holds that the theory is too esoteric or difficult for the average person to understand. What is relativity? will shatter the myth, proving that anyone can understand the basics of Einstein’s ideas. Bennett’s intuitive, non-mathematical approach will give a large audience of readers their first real understanding of how relativity works and why it is so important not only to science and scientists, but to the way all of us view ourselves as…Read

The Physicist and the Philosopher

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 3 July 2015

"In illuminating a historic 1922 debate between Albert Einstein and Henri Bergson about the nature of time, Canales marks a turning point in the power of philosophy to influence science."--Publishers Weekly




Genetics of the Evolutionary Process

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 5 June 2015

Theodosius Dobzhansky, was a Russian geneticist who moved to the United States and provided laboratory evidence for natural selection and variation where previously there had been only field observation. In his book: Genetics of the Evolutionary Process he begins chapter 1 by by stating that a man consists of seven octillion ( the number represented as one followed by 27 zeros) atoms grouped in about ten trillion cells, he then goes on to ask the question, how can an agglomeration of atoms experience a feeling of life, joy, suffering and discriminate between beauty and ugliness.…Read

Nature of Life

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 3 June 2015

Conrad Hal Waddington was born in Evesham on 8 November 1905 to Hal and Mary Ellen (Warner) Waddington. He spent his first few years on a tea estate in South India, where his father was a tea planter. He was educated at Clifton College, a coeducational public school in Bristol, England, and at the University of Cambridge. The 1971 Gifford Lectures given at the University of Edinburgh by C. H. Waddington, A. J. P. Kenny, H. C. Longuet-Higgins and J. R. Lucas resulted in two books: The Nature of Mind (1972) and The Development of Mind (1973)  

Chance (the occurrence of…Read

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