Current Readings on Personal Creation and World Citizenship suitable for serious study and criticism, November 2012
Introduction to Outside Reading Opportunities
Welcome to this extra session of our course presenting suggested reading for writing a book report or review related to a philosophy of Personal Creation and World Citizenship.
Most serious students of a subject new to them want help finding significant current books on the subject. Some of them, of course, will read anything they can find, others will require a more scholarly book or article with good writing and a challenging argument, while others will first want to check with academic or religious authorities they know from previous experience and see what they recommend.
We endorse all of these approaches, and in fact, we do not shy away from any point of view related to the subject at hand. Why is that? Because experience shows that any reading of any kind generally leads a person along into better reading.
I remember when I was in grade school, I once thought that English literature meant a Green Hornet comic book, and character development meant Captain Marvel to the rescue, and many weeks that was how I spent my 10-cent allowance at the little corner grocery store.
Nowadays, sixty-nine years later, after paying the rent out of my Social Security "safety net," I use my left-over allowance to buy quality hardback nonfiction books for 50 cents apiece from the Discarded Book Table at the convenient Villa Park Public Library. But I would even more gleefully spend my last 10 cents for one of those old comic books -- if only the library, or the local 7-11 convenience store, were that convenient.
So we advise each student to select any relevant book that seems to them most interesting, most appropriate, most suitable for them. No one else knows you well enough to dictate what you should read, much less what you should think. Let us know if you find a good relevant book that doesn't appear on our list.
Whatever your book, read it seriously, take notes, write an honest response, and then enjoy the pleasant rewards of realizing how you now (a) can better understand your chosen subject, (b) can send your instructor an honestly written report, and then (c) can wait expectantly for an intelligent response to your work. Anyone with experience in higher education can tell you that these rewards are neither small nor insignificant.
"Why look at a list of books?" you ask. Because it serves an important educational purpose for you to print out this list and browse through it seriously. It will open the eyes of most new students to find this wide range of ways to approach a philosophy of Personal Creation and World Citizenship.
We consider all these books worthy without by any means endorsing everything in any of them. Indeed, we deliberately feature diversity of ideas rather than any consistent point of view. None of them are particularly easy to read. An asterisk indicates our highest recommendation.
Internet tip: For most of these authors, Wikipedia has an article that provides excellent background and context for their work.
Philip Ball, Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). Follows the path of Hobbes, Kant, Adam Smith, Comte, and John Stuart Mill to base the study of human behavior on the principles of physics.
Michael H. Barnes, Stages of Thought: The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science (Oxford Univ. Press, 2000).
*John M. Barry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty (Penguin, Viking, 2012). Readable account shows how "longing for the will of God" led Williams (1603-1683) to call for (a) "a wall of separation" between church and state, (b) individual "Soul Libertie," and (c) the revolutionary concept that governments derive their authority not from God, but from the consent of the citizens. In 1636 at Providence, upriver from Narragansett Bay, he founded the first government in the world based on those three principles, making him, indeed, a "world citizen" eons ahead of his time!
*David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (Random House, 2012.). Written partly like a novel, partly like a survey of current research in the social sciences, this book is a wonderful eye-opener, full of insight into contemporary American consciousness and behavior. Highly recommended.
Cynthia Brown, Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present (New Press, 2008). "Stunning synthesis of historical and scientific knowledge of humanity and the earth we inhabit," with special attention to the human ecological impact.
*Jerome Bruner, Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002). Brilliant cognitive psychologist shows how our narratives must balance our "conviction of autonomy" with our reliance on the "world of others" (p. 78).
------, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (Harvard University Press, 1987). Still relevant work of pioneer in cognitive, developmental, and educational psychology, and language development. How human imagination works to find meaning in experience.
Jeremy Campbell, The Many Faces of God: Science's 400-Year Quest for Images of the Divine (W. W. Norton, 2006). A readable account of how early modern science became a new mediator between man and God, especially for Isaac Newton, and how the "intertwining of science and theology" gradually diminished both, until God as "cosmic mind" has now destroyed "his function as explanation of the deep mystery in which we find ourselves" (p. 259). Short on solutions.
Lois Daniel, How to Write Your Own Life Story: The Classic Guide for the Nonprofessional Writer, 4th ed. (Chicago Review Press, 1997). Thirty-one easily read chapters on how to get a handle on your own life by looking for its stories.
Louis Dupré, The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (Yale Univ. Press, 2004). Prof. Emeritus of Philosophy of Religion at Yale shows how the period between the Thirty Years War (1648) and the French Revolution (1789) produced the modern "breakthrough in critical consciousness" in the "dialectic movement" among such major philosophers as Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Vico, Hume, Rousseau, Herder, and Kant.
Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). "Has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?" A knowledgeable, highly-regarded, but controversial best-seller by a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist on the emerging new world of globalization.
David Gershon, Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World (High Point/Chelsea Green, 2009).
Sonya Hamlin, How to Talk So People Listen: Connecting in Today's Workplace (Harper Collins paperback, 2006). A good example of the many fine new books describing for general readers the many new ways of interaction and understanding required for effective participation in the revolutionary new communication environment.
Jonathan Heidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (Basic Books, 2006). Social psychologist at the Univ. of Virginia uses both ancient writings and modern scientific research to identify and describe the ten most important ideas about "the causes of human flourishing."
Kendall F. Haven, Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007).
Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon & Schuster, 1996). This Harvard professor's book made history dissecting the new geopolitics emerging after the end of the Cold War.
Paul Kennedy, The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations (Random House, 2006). Outstanding account of the U.N., whose charter surprisingly does not even mention the word "peacekeeping."
*Eric Maisel, Fearless Creating: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Book, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995). Excellent guide to all aspects of the creative process for writers, visual artists, musicians, actors, and creators in any field.
Jean Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural (Stanford Univ. Press, 2000). Existence is always co-existence; "I" is not prior to "we; being is always "being-with."
------, The Creation of the World, or Globalization (SUNY Press, 2007; orig. French 2002). Ideology alert! Prof. Nancy's brilliantly stated either-or argument considers capitalist globalization anti-world and making the world uninhabitable, that we must replace world market exchange with "un-evaluable" respect for human dignity, and that Western philosophy's major intrinsic value of the world "cannot be subsumed under capitalism."
Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (Penguin, 2007). Harvard prof. shows how words explain human nature, based on his unique blending of cognitive science, behavioral genetics, and evolutionary psychology. Also available in summary on YouTube as a one-hour video lecture.
John A. Quelch, and Katherine E. Jocz, All Business is Local: Why Place Matters More Than Ever in a Global, Virtual World (Portfolio/Penguin, 2012). Even Amazon is establishing more locations to fend off competitors with better, quicker, local service.
Lee Rainie, and Barry Wellman, Networked: The New Social Operating System (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012).
Matt Ridley, The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation (Penguin, 1998). How does natural selection favor self-interest, yet produce humans living cooperatively in complex societies?
Jeremy Rifkin, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World of Crisis (Tarcher, 2009).
Peter Singer, One World: The Ethics of Globalization, 2nd ed. (Yale Univ. Press, 2004). Princeton professor of bioethics makes the controversial case for globalization and gradual internationalization that he thinks modernity requires. We don't agree, but think we need to hear and understand the arguments.
*Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide (NY: Garland, 1999). English professor beautifully describes the full range of surprisingly different, but well structured modern ways to interpret F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. This kind of diverse analysis is indispensable for understanding life in today's ideologically complex world.
Let us know if you have other favorites that fall in these same categories. Our HubPage with mission statement and syllabus contains more instructions for registered students on the suggested length of the book report, due date, and so on. Those who take the registration track will receive full information.
Thank you for joining us for this special session. Please join us again soon in one of our regular Monday sessions devoted to our philosophy of Personal Creation and World Citizenship.
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