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Why is it so hard to make up our minds? Adam and Eve set the template Do we or don’t we eat the apple? They chose half heartedly and nothing was ever the same again With this book Kenneth Weisbrode offers a crisp literate and provocative introduction to the age old struggle with ambivalenceAmbivalence results from a basic desire to have it both ways This is only natural although insisting upon it against all reason often results not in both but in the disappointing neither Ambivalence has insinuated itself into our culture as a kind of obligatory reflex or default position before practically every choice we make It affects not only individuals; organizations societies and cultures can also be ambivalent How often have we asked the scornful uestion Are we the Hamlet of nations? How often have we demanded that our leaders appear decisive judicious and stalwart? And how eager have we been to censure them when they hesitate or waver?Weisbrode traces the concept of ambivalence from the Garden of Eden to Freud and beyond The Obama era he says may be America’s own era of ambivalence neither red nor blue but a multicolored kaleidoscope Ambivalence he argues need not be destructive We must learn to distinguish it from its symptoms selfishness ambiguity and indecision and accept that frustration guilt and paralysis felt by individuals need not lead automatically to a collective pathologyDrawing upon examples from philosophy history literature and the social sciences On Ambivalence is a pocket sized portrait of a complex human condition It should be read by anyone who has ever grappled with making the right choice


10 thoughts on “On Ambivalence

  1. says:

    I met the MIT Press booth at Wordstock last summer and I had to have at least one of their gorgeously designed bound books Because I'm cheap I bought the smallest one this treatise On Ambivalence I wanted a tiny pretty book object to tuck in my pocket or stick my nose in on the light rail and I got one Given those criteria I don't have much right to criticize the contents Having said that this is one of those documents that academics churn out which seem intended to demonstrate their own cleverness rather than affirm claim determine or say anything Then again the near total lack of definitive statements in this book may be some kind of meta meta genius commentary on ambivalence itself a manifesto of indecisivenessBut on the other hand it's a long strung together meander through a ton of other writerthinkers' uotes about ambivalence expressed with occasional poetry but often a haughty pretension toward meaning When the author makes any statements of his own they're usually hedged with maybes possibys left unsupported If there is a central argument I missed it The writing does not convince I know there's a long tradition of the erudite scholarly essay that references everything but once upon a time such things were genuinely difficult to assemble A philosopher had to have the entire body of his field's work at the tip of his pen and lean on a large reference library and it still would have been an odyssey to complete something as deeply referenced as this Today you can pretty much type ambivalence into google or lexisnexus and generate your entire bibliography I have no idea if that's what the author did but it's conspicuous that he uotes Carl Sagan as lightly as Karl Marx


  2. says:

    Took me the longest time to read this little book I started it many times over the past few years enjoyed what I read well enough but just couldn't bring myself to finish it The book itself provides a thoughtful explanation


  3. says:

    This is an essay in book form the 88 pages are each only as big as my hand The dearness of the package and the title persuaded me to make an impulse buy I'm not sure it was worth my hard earned pennies and yet I do find it an appealing litle book to contemplate just as an object and the one illustration is lovely a reproduction of a 15th c painting of Adam and Eve They're the father and mother of ambivalence thanks guys which according to Weisbrode has become an unfortunate and defining aspect of contemporary life I feel in total agreement with him but partly instinctively because he doesn't spell out all of his arguments and I need 'em spelled out Still this is clarifying on a basic level and helps me begin thinking about ambivalence which I've always suffered from The author distinguishes ambivalence from indecision being ambivalent is not only the inability to make a decision but a refusal to recognize that a decision must be made Ambivalence comes from wanting too much from too much ambition from wanting the best and being unwilling to give up any options even though having the best of all possible circumstances is impossibleAn ambivalent person seeks to overstep mortal limitations gaspAt the cultural level he writes about the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s which dragged on because so many actors were involved with so many ambivalent agendas Today's experts call this situation 'internationalized civil war' which if you think about it makes no sense at all except in the realm of pure ambivalence where state borders are matters of life and death and also meaningless According to Weisbrode peace and war now only have ambivalent meanings it is impossible to distinguish clearly between them and wars are no longer really won or lost With globalization comes a rise in ambivalence as we try to live within both global and local frameworks at the same time and find them contradictory


  4. says:

    No joke I'm ambivalent about this book and I'm relieved most reviewers seem to be so too Not a brilliant essay or argument by any means but it does get intriguing toward the end talking about Obama's ability to make hay out of our society's ambivalence and talking about war and peace and how there are no clear victories any with so many outside actors and interests involved He's getting into globalism and our difficulty with it and how sometimes not taking action is the better decision despite its ambivalent nature This probably warrants an immediate reread with those thoughts in mind But I think I'll wait a while but to clarify ambivalence is living with and tolerating both sides philosophically as opposed to indecision or never ending procrastination In a way it's a certain wisdom sometimes the wisest choice is to be ambivalent We don't always have to kill off the alternate idea we don't always have to act Are the extremists listening?


  5. says:

    This tiny book is packed full of interesting ideas At its worst it is a bit of a linguistic game my primary gripe with some areas of philosophy but at its best it is chock full of examples and analysis He concludesSo long as we embrace or at least accept ambivalence as individuals we may continue to decry and contain it constructively as a society Perhaps doing so can usher in a new era of human progress; or perhaps not


  6. says:

    Not so much a book but an essay on ambivalence For me the most insightful part of the book was this sentence the ambivalent soul will probably want all of the above and to enjoy the benefits without the costs; to value and to overcome the luxury of idleness; in other words to have it both ways


  7. says:

    This book did bot make me any cleverer Finished it although rather uickly but with a feeling that the author did not want anyone who is not super elite academic to understand what he is trying to say In other words This book made me feel stupid


  8. says:

    Really an essay that interestingly links all the most prominent examples of ambivalence in western cultural production then results in the unsatisfying conclusion that it may be noble to be stuck in the middle