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"I am what I read" or "The Making of a Progressive"
Old 03-27-2008, 08:08 PM   #1
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"I am what I read" or "The Making of a Progressive"

The recent political threads on the board have convinced me that we need to understand each other better. I, for one, often feel like I am talking past other people because I don't have the knowledge to place their views in context. It occurred to me that we might all be well served if we listed those books that each of us feel has either contributed in a meaningful way to the development of our own political philosophy, or even just those books that we feel might help explain the way we view the world. I can guess some of them. For example, I would guess most libertarians would list Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged , but I'm sure there are many more books libertarians would list that are foreign to me. Reading a few of these books might make me more aware of their point of view and facilitate a deeper and more meaningful dialogue. I think it would be helpful to first describe your political philosophy and then your book list -- fiction, non-fiction, plays, essays and speeches, whatever is important. I'll start:


My political philosophy wavers between social democrat and democratic socialist. Some would call me Liberal. I prefer Progressive. I accept the need for a capitalist economic system but prefer strong social/governmental controls to ameliorate the resulting inequalities.

My book list:

The Bible, particularly the Gospels
1984 by George Orwell
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Nickel & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Jesus Rode a Donkey by Linda Seger
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Plato's Republic
A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt


And I'm sure I have forgotten many more.

I look forward to seeing your list.

Gumby
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Old 03-27-2008, 09:09 PM   #2
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Gumby,
I was pretty hard on you in a recent thread. I like the instrospection and what you are trying to accomplish with this thread.
I couldn't think in terms of book titles but in therms of authors and subjects. Once I find an author I'm interested in I will read a few of their books.

So in no piticular order and I'm sure I left off several
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Herman Hesse
Hermann Hesse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Zen Buddhism
Zen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aristotle, Plato , Socrates, stoics
Science Fiction - (not science fantasy)
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Astrophysics
Astrophysics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
physics
Physics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

When discussing the issues about Senator Obama I focused
on how his decisions and what they tell us about him and his philosophical thought process.

For an influential book on the black experience in America
Black Like Me - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Langston Hughes
Rest at pale evening...
A tall slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.
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Old 03-27-2008, 10:36 PM   #3
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Science Fiction - (not science fantasy)

What's the difference?
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Old 03-27-2008, 10:47 PM   #4
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What's the difference?
Science fantasy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 03-28-2008, 12:16 AM   #5
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I'd like a government that provides social benefits similar to those in Europe while allowing a great deal of individual freedom. I'm actually not much on politics but I do have a lot of strongly held personal beliefs that could be considered political.

Backlash and Stiffed- Susan Faludi
John Holt, Grace Llewellyn, and A. S. Neill, radical educators. I'm against compulsory schooling and intend to unschool any offspring.
Kant- because his moral imperative underlies many things and I don't agree with it
Rousseau- because his idea of the noble savage underlies many things and I don't agree with it
Kierkegaard- for reaffirming that Christianity and rationality can be compatible
The Beauty Myth- Naomi Wolf
The movie Sicko
Class by Paul Fussell
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Old 03-28-2008, 02:45 AM   #6
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What's the difference?
Science fantasy is usually stories about dragons and unicorns.
Science fiction is more like Star wars or Star Trek.
Wikipedia says settings include:
My reading list is mostly SciFi as i get kinda bored with books if there arent any aliens or starships.Space Opera and Military Scifi are my favorite Genre's
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:37 AM   #7
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I read a lot of science fiction, the ones that seem to interest me the most are stories that address the issue of "What would be the effect on society if this invention (sentient robots, anti-gravity devices, faster-than-light travel, etc.) came to pass?"

Getting back on topic, I'd say I'm more pragmatic than idealistic. If the ideology doesn't work in practice it will inevitably fail. 1960's communes are an example. Some people will work harder than others, and they become resentful of those who don't work as hard as they do. So it falls apart.
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Old 03-28-2008, 09:42 AM   #8
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Gumby, you have listed many of my favorite reads, but I gather I am much more conservative in my beliefs than you, which leads me to believe it is not simply what/who we read that influences our views. I guess I just treat my books as good reads and enjoy the tales, think a little on it, and move on. BTW - I don't have a favorite genre of books - just go in phases...non-fiction for a while, then to cheezy murder fiction top sellers, westerns, classics, then take a break with a couple brainless romance...basically depends what is in the bookshelf rotation from yard sales and unscheduled book exchanges! Makes for a nice cross cut!
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Old 03-28-2008, 03:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fireup2025 View Post
Gumby, you have listed many of my favorite reads, but I gather I am much more conservative in my beliefs than you, which leads me to believe it is not simply what/who we read that influences our views. I guess I just treat my books as good reads and enjoy the tales, think a little on it, and move on. BTW - I don't have a favorite genre of books - just go in phases...non-fiction for a while, then to cheezy murder fiction top sellers, westerns, classics, then take a break with a couple brainless romance...basically depends what is in the bookshelf rotation from yard sales and unscheduled book exchanges! Makes for a nice cross cut!
I'm in the same boat (except, like Gumby, I am liberal, progressive, whatever). I like a lot of the things Dex cites too. My latest reads where from Thoma Paine - definitely on the lib side.
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dex View Post
Gumby,
I was pretty hard on you in a recent thread. I like the instrospection and what you are trying to accomplish with this thread.
I couldn't think in terms of book titles but in therms of authors and subjects. Once I find an author I'm interested in I will read a few of their books.

So in no piticular order and I'm sure I left off several
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Herman Hesse
Hermann Hesse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Zen Buddhism
Zen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aristotle, Plato , Socrates, stoics
Science Fiction - (not science fantasy)
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Astrophysics
Astrophysics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
physics
Physics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

When discussing the issues about Senator Obama I focused
on how his decisions and what they tell us about him and his philosophical thought process.

For an influential book on the black experience in America
Black Like Me - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Langston Hughes
Rest at pale evening...
A tall slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.
Thanks Dex. After looking at the wikipedia entries, I am intrigued by Hesse. I have heard the names Siddartha and Steppenwolf, but never knew anything about them. Which of his works would be a good starting point?
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:16 PM   #11
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My politics were influenced by Mad, Penthouse, and High Times...
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:16 PM   #12
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[quote=aworkingrachel;634826]I'd like a government that provides social benefits similar to those in Europe while allowing a great deal of individual freedom. I'm actually not much on politics but I do have a lot of strongly held personal beliefs that could be considered political.


John Holt, Grace Llewellyn, and A. S. Neill, radical educators. I'm against compulsory schooling and intend to unschool any offspring."


We're unschoolers and love it.
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
Thanks Dex. After looking at the wikipedia entries, I am intrigued by Hesse. I have heard the names Siddartha and Steppenwolf, but never knew anything about them. Which of his works would be a good starting point?
Those were cult faves back in the 60s. Is Dex showing his true colors?
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:33 PM   #14
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Gumby,
That is a tough question. Siddartha it is a smaller book but and leads you into looking at Budhism; if that interests you. HH became into popular USA culture in the 60s with the merging of western & eastern philosophy as the entry says. I think his appeal at the time was the discussion of the individual in society and how many felt disenfranchised to the point of insanity.
Steppenwolf was made into a movie - I remember seeing it in the 70s - and is more a questioning
Amazon.com: Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf: Video
Maybe Netflix has it.

I think Steppenwolf would be my recommendation.

Steppenwolf (novel) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Glass Bead Game - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 03-28-2008, 08:51 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Fireup2025 View Post
Gumby, you have listed many of my favorite reads, but I gather I am much more conservative in my beliefs than you, which leads me to believe it is not simply what/who we read that influences our views. I guess I just treat my books as good reads and enjoy the tales, think a little on it, and move on. BTW - I don't have a favorite genre of books - just go in phases...non-fiction for a while, then to cheezy murder fiction top sellers, westerns, classics, then take a break with a couple brainless romance...basically depends what is in the bookshelf rotation from yard sales and unscheduled book exchanges! Makes for a nice cross cut!
There is no doubt that the factors that have led us each to our own particular viewpoints are many and varied and extend far beyond the books we have read. Just like you, I have been influenced by my family and friends, other people I have met such as professors and professional colleagues, situations I have been in, work I have done, etc. But at least some of my ideas stem from things I have read. I cannot replicate your experiences or personal contacts, but I can read the books that you feel have been important to you, and in that small way, maybe I can understand a little more about you.

Personally, my reading tastes are quite eclectic as well, and my house is overflowing with books. I tried to list some of the ones that I felt spoke more directly to my political philosophy.
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Old 03-28-2008, 09:33 PM   #16
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We're unschoolers and love it.

That's awesome! Unschooling and ER kind of seem like two sides of the
same coin to me.
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Old 03-28-2008, 10:09 PM   #17
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Nov-progressives don’t need to do much heavy reading. We just listen to Rush Limbaugh and he tells us what to think. It’s a great cognitive shortcut and frees up time and attention we can devote to stymieing progressives' schemes to immanentize the eschaton.

But seriously I don’t imagine that we are what we read. Don't we read plenty that doesn’t move us in the direction the author intended? It’s not always clear, even to ourselves I think, what factor most accounts for the influence a book has on us; is it persuasiveness of the ideas themselves, persuasiveness of the writer’s style, preexisting receptiveness to the ideas, preexisting receptiveness to the writer’s style, or the ideas being restatement or reorganization of things the reader already believes anyway? A lot of the most useful reading is dry, and factual; in its details and slow accretion, no one source ends up being terribly memorable as being developmentally influential – but a man’s capacity to think about things isn’t much good unless his thinking is informed by some facts.

One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – Dr. Seuss
At an early age (not sure how early – childhood memory is tricky but it was before I started attending school) I read and re-read this book many times. I have since re-read it many times to and with my children – make in more interesting still by trying to make the rhymes on different pages fit the tune of different songs. No message I can discern. It’s just fun. And (oh, …maybe there is a message) as one line in the book says “fun is good.”

Hermotimus, or the Rival Philosophies – Lucian of Samosata
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl2/wl205.htm
Read and re-read several times as a teen and young adult – still have hard copy – it’s still hilarious and serious. Lucian might appreciate the FSM

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius – Marcus Aurelius
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/aurelmed.htm
Read and re-read numerous times as a teen and as an adult – still have hard copy with annotations marking passages that were important reminders to me at certain times. He (or the translator – probably both) uses the imperative a lot but you get the clear sense that this is a man writing to himself to remind and exhort himself to think clearly and to do and be good. I like his dry wit. His philosophic ideas were not novel in his time and place nor novel to that time and place – some passages of his Meditations remind me of the Dhammapada in many places (or rather vice versa since I read Marcus first)

The Road to Serfdom – F. A. Hayek
http://www.mises.org/store/Road-to-Serfdom-The-P252C0.aspx?AFID=1
Milton Friedman wrote of this book: “This book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense, a book whose central message is timeless, applicable to a wide variety of concrete situations. In some ways it is even more relevant to the United States today than it was when it created a sensation in 1944.”

He wrapped himself in quotations - as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of emperors. -Rudyard Kipling
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:53 PM   #18
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But seriously I donít imagine that we are what we read.
I've certainly been known to pull the gems out of a book/magazine/song, and then disregard the rest.
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Old 03-29-2008, 07:17 AM   #19
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progressives' schemes to immanentize the eschaton.
We have no such good intentions. Rather, it is our goal to create hell on earth for conservatives.

But to be serious, I have read Hayek's book. It is one reason why I never came to embrace a full-blown socialist centrally planned economy. I also enjoyed reading Marcus Aurelius.
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