Samhälle, vetenskap, kultur

Per Kraulis

Twitter @PerKraulis

Darwin, Charles: Om Arternas Uppkomst Recension 2022-11-24

Det är inte lätt att recensera en bok som är klassikernas klassiker. Är det inte litet förmätet att säga något kritiskt? Det uppenbara först: Charles Darwins teori om evolutionen är en av vetenskapens största framsteg. I boken samlar han ihop en mängd olika argument för den, och diskuterar dem med en kombination av skärpa och ödmjukhet. Han redovisar sådant som han anser utgör svåra problem för teorin. Men det är inte svårt att se varför, trots allt, så många av de som läste boken lät sig övertygas. Boken är inte alls den torra traktat som man skulle kunna föreställa sig, utan en levande och resonerande text.

Thomas, Nicholas: Voyagers: The Settlement of the Pacific Review 2022-11-16

A nice description of the controversies and investigations of the settlement of the Pacific Ocean islands by several different waves of people. It's a wonderful and fascinating story. In particular, the amazing skills involved in navigating the deep sea using the stars and reading the signs of the ocean are humbling. The traditions and skills developed by these expert seafarers were amazing, and happily there are now efforts to remember and revive the old ways.

Raihani, Nichola: The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World Review 2022-11-04

This is one of the best books on human evolution I have read. Nichola Raihani writes very well, and manages to explain scientific results and theoretical arguments in a very accessible manner. Beginning with cooperation on the level of genes, she goes on to explain how cooperation is the basis for multicellular life, continuing to cooperation between individual organisms. As part of the package, we get a very good description of how evolution works in general.

Fukuyama, Francis: Liberalism and Its Discontents Review 2022-10-30

A pretty good text on the decline of liberalism in world politics in recent years. Many of the problems are related to the unintentional effects of policies that have been called liberal, sometimes accurately, sometimes not. Fukuyama defines liberalism as arguing "for the limitation of the powers of government through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals..." Fukuyama criticizes neoliberalism as an economic liberalism that has increased inequality and directly or indirectly caused many of the issues besetting liberalism today. He points out that the threats to liberal democracy comes in different ways from both the left and the right.

Gaus, Gerald F: The Open Society and Its Complexities Review 2022-10-06

The focus of this multifaceted text is how the Open Society - a free, individualistic, diverse, dynamic society - can work given human nature and the complexity of the Open Society. It is organized as an investigation of what the author Gerald Gaus calls Friedrich Hayek's three unsettling theses: 1) That human nature has a tribal and parochial egalitarian basis which fundamentally is in conflict with the Open Society, and must be kept in check by it. 2) The Open Society is too complex to be amenable to justification, i.e. rational analysis and criticism. 3) The complexity of the Open Society is such that conscious human control and governance is impossible. At most, the state can provide the framework for the openness of the Open Society. Basically, the project that Gaus embarks on is to make a more optimistic case for the Open Society by critically discussing, and to some extent refuting Hayek's theses.

Kulturella konstruktioner är våra och ändå oberoende Inlägg 2022-09-21

Frågan har satt myror i huvudet på filosofer sedan Platons tid: Är matematiken ett människans påhitt, eller är det något som finns inbyggt i universum? Är det något vi uppfinner, eller upptäcker? I en artikel i New York Times av Alec Wilkinson 2022-09-18 diskuteras den frågan, vilket uppmärksammades av Jerry Coyne i blogginlägget Did we discover math or invent it?. Tyvärr har jag ingen prenumeration på NYT, så jag kan inte kommentera hela artikeln, men Coyne återger ett tankeväckade citat från den, vars mest intressanta del lyder:

Gaus, Gerald F: The Tyranny of the Ideal: Justice in a Diverse Society Review 2022-09-13

This is not an easily read book. It assumes quite some previous knowledge about political philosophy on the part of the reader, and it occasionally formalizes its arguments that perhaps makes them more strict, but also harder to follow.

Buchanan, Allen: The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory Review 2022-08-16

A well-written and well-argued account of a theory of moral progress. The writing is lucid, albeit a little too often rehashing the same points several times.

Hare, Brian: Survival Of The Friendliest Review 2022-07-11

A very nice read, describing the author's work on the psychology of humans, dogs, chimpanzees and bonobos as a window into the history of human evolution. The main theme is that humans self-domesticated to become the cooperative, social and cultural species that we are today. But even if we are much more friendly towards strangers than most other species, we have a strong tendency to classify people in "us" and "them", and this underlies a lot of the problems in human society.

Heyes, Cecilia: Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking Review 2022-07-03

Many features of Homo sapiens have been considered as special of significant as the source of what makes humans different from animals. Often, the features that are typically discussed, e.g. sociality, language, mind-reading, and so on, are just assumed to be part of the genetic endowment of Homo sapiens. Cecilia Heyes argues that culture is much more important in the formation, maintenance and transfer of these features than typically assumed.