I can't say that I have found anything new in the book. The thoughts and ideas expressed are basically those we have discussed in the past years.
I can't help to register a certain stagnancy. There is a decisive clinging to "traditional" themes, such as that of causality, determinism, emptiness, all of which fall into the "beaten path" category of philosophy. Although these views are presented in a well-written form, providing an interesting read to the novice, the treatment is sketchy and the strokes are broad. Given the author's strong bias, I wonder whether an in-depth understanding of highly perplexing topics, such as causality and determinism, is possible at all.
Although the first part of the book is spent almost entirely on investigating the problem of causality and free will, the theories that Descartes, Hume, Kant, Popper, and others are developed on the topic are largely ignored. Hume is mentioned briefly, but the full scope of Hume's philosophy is not addressed. The author denies Hume's conclusion that the senses and mind have no "access" to causality on the same grounds as Kant. However, Kant's landmark work "Critique of Pure Reason", which contains a comprehensive answer to this problem, is completely ignored.
The same disregard is paid to contemporary physics, in particular non-linear systems, quantum theory, and relativity, which are extremely relevant to the topic of causality. The perspective of physics is treated -pardon me for saying this- from a position of complete ignorance. Saying that causality in the subatomic world is substantiated by the absence of mass particles of the size of a mountain is unscientific and misses the point. It is also mistaken to suggest that quantum theory is based on acausality at the subatomic level, since there is a rich variety of interpretations of quantum phenomena. There are no references to the Uncertainty principle, quantum fluctuation, Bell's theorem, and quantum field theory. Under these circumstances, it might have been preferable to make no mention of physics at all.
Enlightenment is another theme discussed intensively in this book. It seems that David equates enlightenment with the consistent application of rational, logical thought to one's world view. Consequently he points out tirelessly which views are right and which are wrong. How he can do this in a consistent fashion while criticizing people for thinking dualistically is beyond me.
Despite all the emphasis on logic, the author unfortunately fails to investigate logic itself. There is no mention of Aristotle, Bool, Frege, Russel, and GÃ¶del. The author also avoids to give an account of how logic is connected to consciousness. Instead of conducting a much required epistemological enquiry, he draws on pop psychology and themes from Buddhism to support his view, yet without addressing the core topics AWARENESS and MINDFULNESS in any depth. The fact that awareness and mindfulness are ignored is perhaps indicative of how far the topic of enlightenment is missed.
Being an optimist, I hope that the remaining parts of the book will make up for this one.
Cheers, Thomas Edited by: Thomas Knierim at: 7/11/03 2:11 pm