Hobbes again, and 400 ppm CO2

I haven’t been nice to Hobbes for a bit, so:

When God speaketh to man, it must be either immediately or by mediation of another man, to whom He had formerly spoken by Himself immediately. How God speaketh to a man immediately may be understood by those well enough to whom He hath so spoken; but how the same should be understood by another is hard, if not impossible, to know. For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it.

There. Isn’t that wonderful? It so beautifully turns around the “You say God told you that but I think you’re a fraud” into “I really can’t see how you could convince me of that”. There is more, of course. [[Leviathan (book)]] provides an intro, and as it happens I wrote it (or almost all of it) and it has survived remarkably well. The section Of a Christian Common-wealth is good fun: here Hobbes tries to make a case for which books of the Bible you can reliably believe in, but (much like Popper on rationalism) is eventually obliged (oh dear, he really didn’t want to go that way 🙂 to provide an external authority to decide which books can be trusted: the Civil Power in his case, of course.

Ah, and now of course I’ve remembered what I actually intended to write about: Atmoz’s 400 ppm CO2 challenge! Off you go; I haven’t made my mind up yet.

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall is a now-immensely-well-known tale of a slice of Henry VIII’s reign; a period I know little about: we skimped it at school and it gets throroughly mythologised anyway. The chief hero is Cromwell (not Oliver) who is portrayed (correctly,as I understand it) as a brilliant administrator and generally competent chap; as to whether he was really nice underneath, I neither know nor care.

What is chiefly interesting is the playing out of certain grand themes in the period. It was part of the development of civilisation, really, a time when people, under pressure of necessity, realised that quite a lot they had thought was true, wasn’t. Which is to say, sorting out the role of church and sovereign, and the succession (and perhaps the influences of bankers over lords; but that is another matter). Which in both cases amounted to a de-mythologising, or a decline in the importance of religion.

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Book writing not rewarding, on average

From http://www.philcooke.com/book_publishing via mt’s shared posts:

Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies” (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006). And average sales have since fallen much more. According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

That is depressing reading for anyone thinking of writing a book. Fortunately I’m not (though I did wonder about a vanity-published Stoat :-). Mind you there has been an explosion of utter tosh out there; book writing has now become so much easier.

What I wonder is, how long can this go on? Every year now there are more books published on any given topic than anyone could ever hope to read. I vaguely watch for new sci-fi novels, and it is clear in that segment. And the best don’t age quickly, so why do we need all these new books? The answer, of course, is that we don’t: there is a supply-glut driven by peoples’ desire to write.

[Update: ironically, my last paragraph overlaps with para 5 of the original. And of course i didn’t funish reading the original before writing this -W]


DSC_2993-bookshelf Everyone else blogs about what they’ve read (everyone? Well, this is a blog, who cares about accuracy. Bryan does and I’m sure other people do to). And I happen to notice that my queue of books-I’ve-finished-reading looks quite good just now. Once upon a time (well, since my teens up to only a few years ago) I read almost nothing but trashy sci-fi, but lots of it. But no more; I read few novels and those slowly.

So from right to left:
Continue reading “Bookshelf”