Atheism and freethought Books suggestions dump
#13
The Magic of Reality - Richard Dawkins

probably the best book u can gift a kid(12 years or older)
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#14
Are there any Hindi translations available for the books of Hitchens or Dawkins?
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#15
(17-Dec-2011, 11:43 PM)frmchandan Wrote: Are there any Hindi translations available for the books of Hitchens or Dawkins?

There is an ongoing discussion on the same, over here.
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#16
Here is a digest of reader suggestions of non-fiction books, on Prof. Jerry Coyne's blog.
Winner: nonfiction contest

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#17
Can anyone please suggest good books on morality/ethics ?
Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them. - Ambedkar
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#18
My plan is to read the following books on Ethics. I have only read the 0th book. So that is the only review, the rest are my expectations from my literature survey of these books!

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Essay details:

I have written the title and the author of the book.
I have linked the title with a flipkart link to a cheap yet good version of the book.
I have added a small essay on why I want to read the book.

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0) Ethics: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Blackburn:
You can read my review at the flipkart site that is linked. My reasons for choosing to read the following 7 books comes from reading this book. I have not read any of the following books, but I plan to read them, in the following order, to get a firm grip on the evolution of ideas in ethics and their contemporary critique.

1) The Republic by Plato:
One of the oldest books that presents a dialogue which takes us on a tour of virtues, reality and knowledge. The fun part is supposed to be the method of dialogue.

2) Politics by Aristotle:
Aristotle who gave us the idea of teleos and a whole lot of virtue ethics persuades us about the power of politics. According to Aristotle, a just society is one where every citizen's latent potential is realized to its fullest extent. Aristotle believed that this could be done only by encouraging virtues, which required extensive education.

3) The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
Rousseau describes the idea of social contracts and the obligations that we have towards the society. Rousseau held the view that 'rise of arts and sciences served to corrupt the morals of people'. A freethinker might be troubled by this philosophy. But his novel idea that 'social contracts between the citizens serves as the source of sovereign power' is remarkable for its time. His opening lines are famous: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains".

4) Utilitarianism and other essays by J. S. Mill and Jeremy Bentham:
J. S. Mill is the proponent of this legendary brand of ethics which still exists in various forms in today's world. The genius idea that was proposed by his mentor Jeremy Bentham was: 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number as a measure of right and wrong'. In other words, happiness can be measured and a society should act in a way so that it can maximize the net happiness of its people. And this alone makes an act morally right. J. S. Mill was very sure of his philosophy and established this idea using a formal system of logic (which is included in the essay). This book has one essay by Bentham and the remaining essays are by Mill. Mill assumed that humans are 'reason'able and reason is the primary faculty that determined our assignment of utility, with a purpose of increasing happiness.

5) A Treatise on Human Nature by David Hume: David Hume critiques the philosophers who use reason as their basis for defining morality. He believes that 'reason' is too arbitrary a foundation and thus, a weak ground for ethics. He observes, apparently, that sciences can only be descriptive (tell us what is) but not prescriptive (tell us what ought to be). Hume observes this is-ought problem and demarcates the descriptive and prescriptive arguments in this book.

6) The Moral Law: Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals by Immanuel Kant:
I have a confession to make. I absolutely adore Kant's work (from the descriptions in other books). Hopefully he will lay the groundwork to deal with deontological thinking in this book. The Universal Maxim and the Categorical Imperative which forms the basis for Human Rights and Duties arises from this brilliant work. If Mill and Bentham were right and the total happiness of a society is the only thing to care about, then democracy could empower the majority to make the rules and decide the utilities. What about the happiness of the minority then? Can the majority trample the minority's choices and happiness simply because their contribution to the equation of total happiness is low? Kant has an answer to this question. The idea of human rights: an inalienable property owned by every human that not even the majority can bargain at any cost!

7) A Theory of Justice by John Rawls: This is a very influential book that introduced the idea of justice as fairness. The utilitarian ideal of maximizing net happiness allows people who are in positions of power to decide the notions of happiness which means such a notion can be prejudiced and virtues (Aristotlean conceptions) that we consider good can also be extremely biased. For example, if a culture intrinsically valued men more than women, then men and women may internalize these cultural norms and see nothing wrong with it (Kant wont be pleased!) and women wont contribute equally to the society's net happiness (Mill would be furious). So such a bias, though imperceptible, is 'wrong' according to Rawls. He attempts to resolve this problem using his legendary 'veil of ignorance'. The veil of ignorance allows the lawmaker to be unbiased and to ignore one's privileges. This book forms the core of U.S justice philosophy according to Prof. Gintis.

P. S: I apologize for any mistake in the above descriptions. If you do not agree with my expectations of these books, please criticize me for my naivete. Thank you GoodMorning
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#19
Here is a list of books on the broad area of ethics that can complement the classical source materials above. These books are more contemporary and not by career philosophers, but maybe more accessible as they present ethical questions in a less abstract and more familiar context of law, civic obligation and public policy.

(1) Rights from Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights Alan Dershowitz

Since the level of commitment towards human rights is perhaps the single-most important bellwether of a society's ethical standards, this book offering a historical review of fundamental rights as embodied in constitutions such as the American and Indian ones, is a relevant read. Here is an earlier post with some takeaways.

(2) Eating animals Jonathan Safran Foer

Nowhere do ethical challenges present themselves in such sharp relief as in contexts which challenge deep-seated assumptions and habits like dietary preferences. This book is a useful case study of a clear-headed examination of contemporary collective ethical dilemma in a manner that is non-partisan and upfront about the constraints and assumptions that make this problem particularly challenging. Lest the title put you off, this is not just one more veganism pamphlet.

(3) The Difficulty of Being Good Gurcharan Das

Quoting from here,

Quote:Speaking of how best to ‘use’ the stories that we have inherited, a useful approach is the one employed in the book ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’ by Gurcharan Das, which I highly enjoyed and recommend. The author treats the Mahabharata not as a repository of role models or a ‘court of appeal’ for moral dilemmas, but rather studies how many plots in the epic are convenient illustrations for the archetypal moral dilemmas and how the writers of the epic conceptualized and wrestled with them.

Freethinkers needn't have qualms about reading this book, as there is not a hint of a suggestion of divine command theory or annoying caricatures of role models and rogue mannequins in it. What the book really does is use characters of a well-known epic as recognizable motifs of contemporary ethical dilemmas and surveys different attempts to resolve them, thus supplying a pedagogical context to apply the prescriptions of the great moral philosophers, in the process copiously citing and quoting a lot of the source material listed above.
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#20
Here are some of my suggestions for free thought reading and references with particular emphasis on Indology:

Riddles of Hinduism by BR Ambedkar: This is a classic for all those who really wish to know the sources and motivations of the hypocrisy of the intellectual pretensions of Hindu religion and metaphysics and all the ivory tower debates that were waged between astika and nastika schools to establish the primacy of Vedas and Shastras.

Truth of the Gita by VR Narla: Gurpreet Samra has done a very review and annotation of this classic in his blog here.

An Essay on the Upanishads: A Critical Study by VR Narla: I have not been able to lay my hands on this book. But there is a very good synopsis and review of this work in the Radical Humanist

ORIGINAL SANSKRIT TEXTS by John Muir in 2 volumes: This is available in Google books

Indica by Alberuni

FRAGMENTS OF A PRISONER's DIARY by MN Roy: This should be available on Internet archive

Will keep adding to this pretty soon



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#21
(29-Aug-2012, 01:55 AM)Ranganath R Wrote: Here are some of my suggestions for free thought reading and references with particular emphasis on Indology:

Staying with Indology, one book I have heard recommended often and plan to read when I get a chance, is The Wonder that was India by A.L.Basham.

A magisterial and wide-ranging work which based on work that can be credited of founding a whole new subdiscipline in historiography, is Combined methods in Indology by the polymath D.D.Kosambi.

A highly educational documentary series featuring footage from a number of sites of archaeological and historic interest is India Invented, narrated by Dr. Arvind Narayan Das. It is 13-part series and links to each are provided below:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part13

Episodes 3 and 5 together make interesting viewing on the subject of what is sometimes spoken of as the 'Indian Enlightenment' (an idea that gets short shrift all too often) and its eventual decline due to which historians like Basham speak of that India as a wonder that was, rather than one that endures.

In Episode 4 (dealing with India in the Axis Age), Prof. Romila Thapar explains how Ashoka's invasion of Kalinga and his hostile relations with the forest-dwelling (Aatavika) tribals were all about securing access to iron-ore-rich Jharkhand, an assured source of raw-material for Iron-Age ordnance. History has repeated itself several times there, from the Mughals and the British all the way upto Operation Green Hunt today to secure what Arundhati Roy calls the MOUist corridor referring to the Memoranda of Understanding of the Government with corporates literally selling the nation's mines to them.

Edit 24 Aug 2013 : Replaced broken links to India Invented with active ones.
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#22
Peter Singer's book "A Darwinian Left" is a good read. In this book he argues that leftist experiments like Marxism failed to achieve its goals because of its lack of understanding of Darwinism. The key message of the book is that for the people on the left (more accurately liberals) to achieve their political goals they have to first understand human nature from an evolutionary perspective.

Another good read is Steven Pinker's "Blank Slate". This book changed the way I viewed left wing and right wing ideas. Before I read this book I used to summarily dismiss ideas from the right and blindly agreed with the hard left. Now I am slightly (only slighty smile) more accepting of some ideas from the right particularly those related to free markets.


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#23
(04-Jun-2012, 01:58 PM)nispat Wrote: Can anyone please suggest good books on morality/ethics ?

I have tried to read several books on Ethics. Some of these books are extremely dense. These authors assume that you have already read several other books on ethics. Here is a short list of books (all by the same author) on ethics that do not fall under this boring category.

"How are we to live?" by Peter Singer is a great book. The book is loaded with a lot of contemporary examples. It is a very light read. Very enjoyable.

"One World: The ethics of globalization" by Peter Singer. Just as the title says it is about how to live and overcome the challenges posed by a globalized world.

"The life you can save" by Peter Singer. The book persuades the reader to give to charity.

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#24
Thanks Captain Mandrake, and welcome to the Nirmukta forums!

(31-Aug-2012, 04:29 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: Another good read is Steven Pinker's "Blank Slate". This book changed the way I viewed left wing and right wing ideas. Before I read this book I used to summarily dismiss ideas from the right and blindly agreed with the hard left. Now I am slightly (only slighty ) more accepting of some ideas from the right particularly those related to free markets.

Another contemporary thinker arguing against a blanket Right-is-wrong worldview is Jonathan Haidt, who acknowledges the contemporary relevance of Conservative, especially Burkean, insights even in settings where a progressive agenda is being pursued. Related topics are discussed here and here.

(31-Aug-2012, 04:29 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: I have tried to read several books on Ethics. Some of these books are extremely dense. These authors assume that you have already read several other books on ethics. Here is a short list of books (all by the same author) on ethics that do not fall under this boring category.

Peter Singer features in many discussions here, on the largely expected themes of philanthropy, vegetarianism and a sort of atheism not identical to 'New Atheism'.
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