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Publisher's Summary

Do we matter? Does mattering matter? In this talk at Smithsonian Magazine's The Future Is Here Festival in Washington, DC, philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein asks these questions and more. Find out why mattering matters so much to us from this MacArthur “genius” grant winner.
©2017 Smithsonian Magazine (P)2017 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By wbiro on 04-23-18


Usually when something is terrible, we ignore it - it is not worth our time, which we assume sends a message that 'no review is a negative review'. Well, sometimes one needs to give a negative review, and this is one of those cases - no review would result in the author thinking nothing was wrong... and, being a MacArthur Fellowship Award recipient (over half-a-million $$$ now), the critique is even more pertinent...

First, the author does not take us beyond "we need to think", or 'that is something to think about' or 'should be considered', which inadvertently means the author has not done any thinking. You would have assumed the author would have already done the thinking, and is presenting us with the results. Not the case. She is leaving it to someone else to do the heavy mental lifting (like me).

Second, the author makes several unfounded claims, such as 'we are genetically endowed with a need to matter'. There is no such scientific finding. She gets several other things wrong, too, such as 'Einstein's brain was normal' - it wasn't, it had a speech/spatial anomaly, and that 'mattering explains our distinctly human behavior' (it doesn't, it is a symptom of a mental disease - continued universal human cluelessness, the world in which the author is trapped in, and hence references. The author notes that we live in a 'very dramatic time of mattering', noting social media. Nice observation, but now what? No answer.

Third, the author proposes attitudes based on emotion, such as proposing a negative attitude toward CRISPR genetic engineering, which the author associated with 'designer babies', which is automatically assumed to be a bad thing (and the author cannot see the real root of the evil - continued universal human cluelessness, of which the author is a part of).

Fourth, the author demonstrates philosophical vapidity by stating that happiness and decreased suffering are the end goals of life (they aren't, continuing to struggle to exist is, just to let you know). The author only goes as far as 'pursuing our lives', as clueless and vapid as that is, and has been.

Fifth, there is a gender bias in the topics (babies, mattering, being short).

The author does note the 'slow moral advancement over centuries', though does not have a clue that humans are still universally clueless, and again offers no answers or final enlightenment (being clueless).

Sixth, the author actually descends into mysticism, noting the 'psychic powers of her mattering map'.

Overall the lecture is about our clueless pursuit of attention and approval, and, horridly, the author thinks it is OK. The lecture does not take us beyond the blind need to matter, or to the crux of the problem (philosophical cluelessness).

Now, for someone who has done so little thinking, one wonders how a MacArthur Fellowship Grant was obtained, and the answer may be that one just needs to know and play the system, which is nothing more than being a parasite.

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