Just so its realised — most of the books read will either be from my own private collection or from other sources eg. libraries.

Also for your information, I’ll be very selective in terms of what content gets cited, so as to remain relevant, in this ‘Student Blog’ of mine.

Finally, I read slowly, so this blog page will take sometime to be updated. So in anticipation thank you for your patience.

Related Blog Postings: Novel Approach and Noted Books.

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Title of Book: The Ethics of Ambiguity

Author: Simone De Beauvoir

Publisher: Citadel Press Book


When a man projects into an ideal heaven that impossible synthesis of the for-itself and the in-itself that is called God, it is because he wishes the regard of this existing Being to change his existence into being; but if he agrees not to be in order to exist genuinely, he will abandon the dream of an inhuman objectively.

He will understand that it is not a matter of being right in the eyes of a God, but of being right in his own eyes. Renouncing the thought of seeking the guarantee for his existence outside of himself, he will also refuse to believe in unconditional values which would set themselves up athwart his freedom like things.

Value is this lacking-being of which freedom makes itself a lack; and it is because of the latter makes itself a lack that value appears. It is desire which creates the desirable, and the project which sets up the end.

It is human existence which makes values spring up in the world on the basis of which it will be able to judge the enterprise in which it will be engaged. But first it locates itself beyond any pessimism, as beyond any optimism, for the fact of its original springing forth is a pure contingency.

Before existence there is no more reason to exist than not to exist. The lack of existence can not be evaluated since it is the face on the basis of which all evaluation is defined. It can not be compared to anything for there is nothing outside of it to serve as a term of comparison.

This rejection of any extrinsic justification also confirms the rejection of an original pessimism which we posited at the beginning. Since it is unjustifiable from without, to declare from without that it is unjustifiable is not to condemn it. And the truth is that outside of existence there is nobody.

Man exists. For him it is not a question of wondering whether his presence in the world is useful, whether life is worth the trouble of being lived. These questions make no sense. It is a matter of knowing whether he wants to live and under what conditions.


Title: Human Nature and Conduct

Author: John Dewey

Publisher: Prometheus Books


Another reaction to the separation of morals from human nature is a romantic glorification of natural impulse as something superior to all moral claims. There are those who lack the persistent force of the executive will to break through conventions and to use them for their own purposes, but who unite sensitiveness with intensity of desire.

Fastening upon the conventional element in morality, they hold that all morality is a conventionality hampering to the development of individuality. Although appetites are the commonest things in human nature, the least distinctive or individualized, they identify unrestraint in satisfaction of appetite with free realization of individuality. They treat subjection to passion as a manifestation of freedom in the degree in which it shocks the bourgeois.

The urgent need for a transvaluation of morals is caricatured by the notion that an avoidance of the avoidances of conventional morals constitutes positive achievement. While the executive type keep its eyes on actual conditions so as to manipulate them, this school abrogates objective intelligence in behalf of sentiment, and withdraws into little coteries of emancipated souls.

There are others who take seriously the idea of morals separated from the ordinary actualities of humanity and who attempt to live up to it. Some become engrossed in spiritual egotism. They are preoccupied with the state of their character, concerned for the purity of their motives and the goodness of their souls.

The exaltation of conceit which sometimes accompanies this absorption can produce a corrosive inhumanity which exceeds the possibilities of any other known form of selfishness.

In other cases, persistent preoccupation with the thought of an ideal realm breeds morbid discontent with surroundings, or induces a futile withdrawal into an inner world where all facts are fair to the eye.

The needs of actual conditions are neglected, or dealt with in a half-hearted way, because in the light of the ideal they are so mean and sordid. To speak of evils, to strive seriously for change, shows a low mind.  Or again, the ideal becomes a refuge, an asylum, a way of escape from tiresome responsibilities.

In varied ways men come to live in two worlds, one the actual, the other the ideal. Some are tortured by the sense of their irreconcilability. Others alternate between the two, compensating for the strains of renunciation involved in membership in the ideal realm by pleasureable excursions into the delights of the actual.


Title of Book: Dial 9 To Get Out!

Author: David Graulich

Publisher: Berrett-Koshler Publishers Inc


Coffee cupI don’t know if you can measure this, but it seems like there’s been an enormous increase in the amount of swearing, cursing, and off color language in the business world. Sit in any meeting of white-collar workers and before long the conversation is laced with most of the known curse words in the English Language, as well as a few colourful obscenities imported from overseas. The more high-paid and powerful the people are, the more likely they are to talk dirty.

Michael Korda, the writer and publisher, once observed a certain structure to business cursing. It starts when the senior-most executive at a meeting utters a mild profanity for shock effect. The junior executives, wanting to prove that they’re staunch members of the team, start swearing a little more strongly. Women at the meeting, to show that they’re not intimidated by this locker-room atmosphere, escalate things with earthly language of their own. Before long, profanities are zinging all over the place until the conference room sounds like a convention of longshoremen.

My problem with this is not one of morality, but of quality. The truth is that most of us white-collar types are pretty inept when it comes to creative swearing. We can’t get the rhythm or the phrasing quite right. Basically, we sound like wimps when we curse.

[And there] are times, of course, when a good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon phrase is exactly right to express an idea or emotion. But when you hear someone in business constantly resorting to four-letter words, you’ve got to wonder if it’s a substitute for having to think. 



Title of book: Geothe & Palladio

Author(s): David Lowe & Simon Sharp

Published by: Lindisfarne books


“…The question was not: how do we get back to classical times?  Rather it was: how do we bring what was there in the past into the present and metamorphose it into a form appropriate for our time? How does metamorphosis work with regard to different periods of Art?”

(extract taken from Chapter 5: The School of Seeing)

The villa Rotonda by Palladio


Title of book: Men and the Emergence of Polite Society,
                                 Britain 1660-1800

Author(s): Philip Carter

Published by: Pearson Education Limited


“…Polite society has recently become an important subject for historians of late-seventeenth century Britain. This, to an extent, is a case of scholars now taking seriously a theme that has long been central to popular literary and cinematographic images of an era synonymous with a ‘measured code of manners’ as practised at the tea-table, the London pleasure garden or at polite resorts such as Bath. Scholarly interest in politeness has prompted renewed scrutiny of these and other areas as a valid and useful subject of historical research. Early findings reveal polite society’s importance as a significant, far-reaching and much consider aspect of of eighteenth-century culture. As we might expect, its impact has featured prominently in recent studies of eighteenth-century art and design, concepts of taste, and the production and appreciation of high culture…”

(extract taken from chapter one: Exploring polite society)

Men & Polite Society


Title of book: The Reveries of the Solitary Walker

Author(s): Jean-Jacques Rousseau, trans. by Charles E. Butterworth

Published by: Hackett Publishing Company


I continue to learn while growing old’ Solon frequently repeated this line in his old age. There is a sense in which I could also say it in mine, but what experience has made me acquire these past twenty years is a very sad bit of knowledge: ignorance is still preferable. 

Adversity is undoubtedly a great teacher, but it charges dearly for its lessons; and the profit we draw from them is frequently not worth the price they have cost. Besides, before we have obtained all this learning by such tardy lessons, the occasion to use it passes.

Youth is the time to study wisdom; old age is the time to put it into practice.  Experience always instructs, I admit; but it is profitable only for the time we have left to live. Is the moment when we have to die the time to learn how we should have lived?”

(extract taken from Third Walk)

 Jean-Jacques Rousseau 

Title of Book: In Our Time

Author: edited by Melvyn Bragg

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton


John Stuart MillMELVYN BRAGG: Alan Ryan, Mill’s father, James Mill, as I said, was a friend and colleague of Bentham. Can you tell us what impact Bentham’s ideas had on J.S. Mill’s upbringing and this fabled and most singular education he gave his son?

ALAN RYAN: Mill’s autobiography is Mill’s own record of that education and he tells the reader that the only thing the reader is to pay any attention to about this autobiography is that it is a record of an education. It is actually in Mill’s view a record of two educations, the first of which he got from his father and the second of which he got from Harriet Taylor later in life. Mill was immensely clever. People who try to calculate IQ on flimsy evidence reckon he had an IQ of 192, which is pretty high, and everybody who encountered him thought he was immensely clever. His father told him that he wasn’t, persuaded him that his abilities were rather below average, and so he set about educating the boy.

This included learning Greek at the age of three, and learning to read English by reading Greek. He could read Latin fluently by nine, he was reading Plato and Demosthenes at the age of ten, learnt logic and economics between twelve and fourteen and, as everybody said, by the age of sixteen he had an advantage of about a quarter of a century on any of his contemporaries. A lot of people thought it was bad for him, even at the time. People like Leslie Stephen said it was a pity in an early draft of the autobiography that he didn’t actually learn how to tie his shoelaces until he was twelve, learning cricket might have been a bit difficult too. He did go to France when he was fourteen and learnt to fence and to dance, so some of the graces of life came his way.

MELVYN BRAGG: Why did his father impose that educational experiment in such a draconian fashion on this little boy? It does seem that the boy was a laboratory because the boy also had to teach his eight siblings and he was punished if they didn’t answer his father’s questions. It is a strange business. What is going on there? What is the purpose of it?

ALAN RYAN: It is half strange and half not. Quite a lot of Mill’s contemporaries were tremendously well read by a very, very early age. Mill didn’t in fact get much further in a literary direction than Macaulay did. A lot of children learnt a great deal, particularly of a literary kind, very quickly, but Mill’s father was obsessed with education. This is Mill’s father side of the whole Bentham story. If what you are obsessed by is calculating the consequences of people’s behaviour then one of the things you very much want is for everybody to be good at calculating consequences and you also want to know how to get people to have the right kind of aspirations and the right kind of wishes so that you can organise society in such a way that they become happy.

So there is a natural alliance between Utilitarians and the early educational theories of the nineteenth century. The people who disliked it because they thought it was too calculating and that it didn’t give enough scope to the emotions included, for example Dickens, who mocks the whole thing in his picture of Mr Gradgrind in Hard Times. So Bentham and James Mill in a sense were experimenting with little John Stuart but at the same time they wanted him to grow up and become a leader of advanced opinion and to push the whole reforming movement forwards.



Title: Renaissance Self-Fashioning

Author: Stephen Greenblatt

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press


Self-construction and destruction is not simply identical to those patterns of self-fashioning and self-cancellation that I explore in the careers of several of my authors ― but the way to explore these implications lies neither in denying any relation between the play and social life nor in affirming that the latter is the “thing itself”, free from interpretation.

Social actions are themselves always embedded in systems of public signification, always grasped, even by their makers, in acts of interpretation, while the words that constitute the works of literature that we discuss here are by their very nature the manifest assurance of a similar embeddedness.

Language, like other sign systems, is a collective construction; our interpretive task must be to grasp more sensitively the consequences of this fact by investigating both the social presence to the world of the literary text and the social presence of the world in the literary text.

The literary text remains the central object of my attention in this study of self-fashioning in part because, as I hope these chapters will demonstrate, great art is an extraordinarily sensitive register of the complex struggles and harmonies of culture and in part because, by inclination and training, whatever interpretive powers I possess are released by the resonances of literature.

I should add that if culture poetics is conscious of its status as interpretation, this consciousness must extend to an acceptance of the impossibility of fully reconstructing and reentering the culture of the sixteenth century, of leaving behind one’s own situation: it is everywhere evident in this book that the questions I ask of my material and indeed the very nature of this material are shaped by the questions I ask of myself.

I do not shrink from these impurities ― they are the price and perhaps among the virtues of this approach ― but I have tried to compensate for the indeterminancy and incompleteness they generate by constantly returning to particular lives and particular situations, to the material necessities and social pressures that men and women daily confronted, and to a small number of resonant texts.

Each of these texts is viewed as the focal point for converging lines of force in sixteenth century culture; their significance for us is not that we may see through them to under-lying and prior historical principles but rather that we may interpret the interplay of their symbolic structures with those perceivable in the careers of their authors and in the large social world as constituting a single, complex process of self-fashioning and, through this interpretation, come closer to understanding how literary and social identities were formed in this culture.

That is, we are able to achieve a concrete apprehension of the consequences for human expression ― for the “I” ― of a specific form of power, power at once localized in particular institutions ― the court, the church, the colonial administration, the patriarchal family – and diffused in ideological structures of meaning, characteristic modes of expression, recurrent narrative patterns.


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