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This year’s lists are out. The New York Times has made their picks of the best of the year. Writers at the Atlantic have each chosen their best reads as well. Do you have a favorite book from 2013? My favorite from the year was actually published in October 2012: On Politics: A History of…

Best Book I Read This Year

This year’s lists are out. The New York Times has made their picks of the best of the year. Writers at the Atlantic have each chosen their best reads as well. Do you have a favorite book from 2013? My favorite from the year was actually published in October 2012: On Politics: A History of Political Thought from Herodotus to the Present by Alan Ryan. Here is the publisher’s description:

“Three decades in the making, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive histories of political philosophy in nearly a century.

“Both a history and an examination of human thought and behavior spanning three thousand years, On Politics thrillingly traces the origins of political philosophy from the ancient Greeks to Machiavelli in Book I and from Hobbes to the present age in Book II. Whether examining Lord Acton’s dictum that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” or explicating John Stuart Mill’s contention that it is “better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,” Alan Ryan evokes the lives and minds of our greatest thinkers in a way that makes reading about them a transcendent experience. Whether writing about Plato or Augustine, de Toqueville or Thomas Jefferson, Ryan brings a wisdom to his text that illuminates John Dewey’s belief that the role of philosophy is less to see truth than to enhance experience. With this unparalleled tour de force, Ryan emerges in his own right as one of the most influential political philosophers of our time.”

Posted by Joel on December 19 2013 • Books

Cats Choose to Ignore You

New research suggests that cats do indeed recognize their owner’s voice, they just choose to ignore it. Researchers in Japan conducted research by measuring 20 house cats’ reactions (movement of their ears, paws, head, or tail and whether they meowed or dilated their pupils) when responding to their owner calling their name or other normal cat-talk. They then compared the cats’ reactions to recordings of strangers using the same language. While the cats had a significant greater response from their owners’ calls, they didn’t bother to get up.

The reason why cats don’t respond to owners’ calls may be that they indeed control the domesticated relationship with humans, partly due to evolution, according to a story about the research in The Independent. “Recent genetic analysis has revealed that the common ancestor of the modern housecat was Felis silvestris, a species of wildcat that first came into contact with humans around 9,000 years ago. As early societies developed agriculture, these cats moved in to prey on the rodents that were attracted to stores of grain. In the words of the paper’s authors, they effectively domesticated themselves: “Historically speaking, cats, unlike dogs, have not been domesticated to obey humans’ orders. Rather, they seem to take the initiative in human–cat interaction.” This is in contrast to the history of dogs and humans, where the former has been bred over thousands of years to respond to orders and commands. Cats, it seems, never needed to learn.”

Posted by Joel on December 08 2013 • Current Affairs