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 Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.   Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:50 am

DOUBT: A HISTORY: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates to Thomas Jefferson to Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Michael Hecht

In the tradition of grand sweeping histories such as From Dawn To Decadence, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and A History of God, Hecht champions doubt and questioning as one of the great and noble, if unheralded, intellectual traditions that distinguish the Western mind especially-from Socrates to Galileo and Darwin to Wittgenstein and Hawking. This is an account of the world's greatest ‘intellectual virtuosos,' who are also humanity's greatest doubters and disbelievers, from the ancient Greek philosophers, Jesus, and the Eastern religions, to modern secular equivalents Marx, Freud and Darwin—and their attempts to reconcile the seeming meaninglessness of the universe with the human need for meaning,

This remarkable book ranges from the early Greeks, Hebrew figures such as Job and Ecclesiastes, Eastern critical wisdom, Roman stoicism, Jesus as a man of doubt, Gnosticism and Christian mystics, medieval Islamic, Jewish and Christian skeptics, secularism, the rise of science, modern and contemporary critical thinkers such as Schopenhauer, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, the existentialists.

Cited midway through this magisterial book by Hecht (The End of the Soul), the Zen maxim "Great Doubt: great awakening. Little Doubt: little awakening. No Doubt: no awakening" reveals that skepticism is the sine qua non of reflection, and discloses the centrality that doubt and disbelief have played in fueling intellectual discovery. Most scholarship focuses on the belief systems that have defined religious history while leaving doubters burnt along the wayside. Hecht's poetical prose beautifully dramatizes the struggle between belief and denial, in terms of historical currents and individual wrestlings with the angel. Doubt is revealed to be the subtle stirring that has precipitated many of the more widely remembered innovations in politics, religion and science, such as medieval Jewish philosopher Gersonides's doubt of Ptolemaic cosmology 200-300 years before Copernicus, Kepler or Galileo. The breadth of this work is stunning in its coverage of nearly all extant written history. Hecht's exegesis traces doubt's meandering path from the fragments of pre-Socratics and early religious heretics in Asia, carefully elucidating the evolution of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, through the intermingling of Eastern and Western religious and philosophical thought in the Middle Ages that is often left out of popular histories, to the preeminence of doubt in thrusting open the doors of modernity with the Cartesian "I am a thing... that doubts," ergo sum. Writing with acute sensitivity, Hecht draws the reader toward personal reflection on some of the most timeless questions ever posed.

*Starred Review* Let others admire cathedrals: poet and historian Hecht celebrates the creations of doubters. In this remarkably wide ranging history, Hecht recounts how doubters from Socrates to Wittgenstein have translated their misgivings about regnant orthodoxies into new philosophic insights and political horizons. Though she explores the skepticism of early Greek thinkers challenging pagan gods, the tantric doubts of Tibetan monks chanting their way to enlightenment, and the poetic unbelief of heretical Muslim poets, Hecht gives center stage to Christianity, the religion that made doubt newly visible--and subversive--by identifying faith (not law, morality, or ritual) as the very key to salvation. Readers witness the martyrdom of iconoclastic doubters such as Bruno, Dolet, and Vanini, but Hecht also illuminates the wrenching episodes of doubt in the lives of passionate believers, including Paul and Augustine. In Jesus' anguished utterances in Gethsemane and at Calvary, Hecht hears even Christ experiencing the agony of doubt. Indeed, Hecht's affinity for the doubters who have advanced secular democracy and modern art does not blind her to the hidden kinship between profound doubters and seminal believers: both have confronted the perplexing gap between human aspirations and their tragic contradictions. In her provocative conclusion, Hecht ponders the novelty of a global confrontation pitting America not against the state-sanctioned doubt of Soviet atheism but, rather, against a religious fundamentalism hostile to all doubt. Bryce Christensen
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.   Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:54 am

FREETHINKERS: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacobs

At a time when the separation of church and state is under attack as never before, Freethinkers offers a powerful defense of the secularist heritage that gave Americans the first government in the world founded not on the authority of religion but on the bedrock of human reason. In impassioned, elegant prose, celebrated author Susan Jacoby traces more than two hundred years of secularist activism, beginning with the fierce debate over the omission of God from the Constitution. Moving from nineteenth-century abolitionism and suffragism through the twentieth century's civil liberties, civil rights, and feminist movements, Freethinkers illuminates the neglected achievements of secularists who, allied with tolerant believers, have led the battle for reform in the past and today.

Rich with such iconic figures as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, and the once-famous Robert Green Ingersoll, Freethinkers restores to history the passionate humanists who struggled against those who would undermine the combination of secular government and religious liberty that is the glory of the American system.

From Publishers Weekly
Is America really one nation under God? Not according to Pulitzer Prize–finalist Jacoby (Wild Justice, etc.), who argues that it is America's secularist "freethinkers" who formed the bedrock upon which our nation was built. Jacoby contends that it's one of "the great unresolved paradoxes" that religion occupies such an important place in a nation founded on separation of church and state. She traces the role of "freethinkers," a term first coined in the 17th century, in the formation of America from the writing of the Constitution to some of our greatest social revolutions, including abolition, feminism, labor, civil rights and the dawning of Darwin's theory of evolution. Jacoby has clearly spent much time in the library, and the result is an impressive literary achievement filled with an array of both major and minor figures from American history, like revolutionary propagandist Thomas Paine, presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Robert Green Ingersoll. Her historical work is further flanked by current examples—the Bush White House in an introduction and the views of conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in a final chapter—that crystallize her concern over secularism's waning influence.

Unfortunately, Jacoby's immense research is also the book's Achilles heel. Her core mission to impress upon readers the historical struggle of freethinkers against the religious establishment is at times overwhelmed by the sheer volume of characters and vignettes she offers, many of which, frankly, are not very compelling. Still, Jacoby has done yeoman's work in crafting her message that the values of America's freethinkers belong "at the center, not in the margins" of American life.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Jacoby reclaims a key facet of American culture, secularism, or freethinking, the belief that public good is "based on human reason and human rights rather than divine authority," a concept codified in the Constitution's separation of church and state. Veteran author Jacoby feels that now is the perfect time for a thorough reexamination of America's secular tradition because, as she documents, it is being severely eroded by the politics of the Christian Right. Her cogent and engaging narrative presents myriad neglected yet significant historical episodes and compelling profiles of such clarion freethinkers as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Walt Whitman, and John F. Kennedy. Jacoby reveals how the abolitionist and women's rights movements, archetypal freethinking efforts, challenged orthodox religious institutions as obstacles to social reform, and she dissects the church's role in organized censorship and negative impact on public education, especially its opposition to the teaching of evolution.

As Jacoby critiques the rise of religious correctness and tracks President Bush's assault on the line between church and state, she reminds readers that humanist values are the bedrock of democracy. Enlightening, invigorating, and responsibly yet passionately argued, Jacoby's unparalleled history of American secularism offers a much needed perspective on today's most urgent social issues. Donna Seaman
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.   Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:27 pm

Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times by Eyal Press

On the Swiss border with Austria in 1938, a police captain refuses to enforce a law barring Jewish refugees from entering his country. In the Balkans half a century later, a Serb from the war-blasted city of Vukovar defies his superiors in order to save the lives of Croats. At the height of the Second Intifada, a member of Israel’s most elite military unit informs his commander he doesn’t want to serve in the occupied territories.

Fifty years after Hannah Arendt examined the dynamics of conformity in her seminal account of the Eichmann trial, Beautiful Souls explores the flipside of the banality of evil, mapping out what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention. Through the dramatic stories of unlikely resisters who feel the flicker of conscience when thrust into morally compromising situations, Eyal Press shows that the boldest acts of dissent are often carried out not by radicals seeking to overthrow the system but by true believers who cling with unusual fierceness to their convictions. Drawing on groundbreaking research by moral psychologists and neuroscientists, Beautiful Souls culminates with the story of a financial industry whistleblower who loses her job after refusing to sell a toxic product she rightly suspects is being misleadingly advertised. At a time of economic calamity and political unrest, this deeply reported work of narrative journalism examines the choices and dilemmas we all face when our principles collide with the loyalties we harbor and the duties we are expected to fulfill.

“Few of us will ever face a crisis of conscience of the magnitude that Press (Absolute Convictions, 2007) illuminates in this fascinating examination of courage, and yet who among us hasn’t pondered how we would react when confronted with a profound moral or ethical dilemma? In placing the spotlight on four specific individuals, Press allows readers to place themselves amid controversial circumstances while he challenges the assumption that it takes an extraordinary individual to perform extraordinary deeds. There’s the Swiss police captain who refuses, in 1938, to follow orders and expel Jewish refugees; the Serb who saves the lives of Croats during the Balkan War; the Israeli soldier who questions serving in occupied settlements; and finally the financial adviser who blows the whistle on a massive Ponzi scheme. Press argues that there is nothing saintly or particularly virtuous about these individuals, nor are they the rebellious sort we typically associate with social resistance. Rather than dismissing societal values, they hold these ideals—brotherhood, unity, diligence—as inviolable. The real question is why the rest of us don’t.” — Patty Wetli, Booklist

“In his latest, journalist Press (Absolute Convictions) explores what compels people to act according to their conscience when faced with a moral dilemma in dangerous circumstances. In 1938, a Swiss police captain allows Jewish refugees to cross into “neutral” Switzerland, defying orders that the border be closed. During the Balkan conflict, in 1991, a Serb disobeys his superiors to save the lives of Croats from his hometown, the war-torn city of Vukovar. A financial adviser in Houston loses her job when she refuses to sell a toxic product she rightly suspects of being a Ponzi scheme. In a particularly compelling vignette, an Israeli soldier in an elite military unit refuses to serve in the occupied territories during the second intifada. Drawing on research by psychologists, sociologists, political activists and theorists (such as Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt), and neuroscientists, Press reveals that the boldest acts of defiance are often made by ordinary people who regard the ideals and values of their societies to be inviolable. This thought-provoking and moving narrative highlights the different ways people react to moral quandaries and, at its best, makes us question the role our own passivity or acquiescence plays in allowing unconscionable acts to happen on our watch.” —Publishers' Weekly (starred review)

“Beautiful Souls helps us understand why a minority stands on principle when a majority fails. It’s an important book for our time, about conscience, group pressures, ethics, and psyches, and a beautifully crafted one that never falls prey to simple answers about matters of conscience.” —Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

“Too often we think of courage only as something required to charge into gunfire or scale an icy peak. Eyal Press looks at courage of a different and far more important kind. His examples spread across decades and continents, and he is wise enough to know that it can take as much bravery to defy an unethical corporation as it does to resist a totalitarian regime. This is an important and inspiring book.” —Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars and King Leopold’s Ghost

About the Author

Eyal Press is an author and journalist based in New York. His work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Raritan Review and numerous other publications. A 2011 Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, he is the author of Absolute Convictions, and a past recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.

http://youtu.be/J7GtyRi2iRM


Last edited by Jcbaran on Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.   Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:00 pm

wanted to add a brief babble after the last posting about the last book - Beautiful Souls. Obviously, with the OBC and Kennett, we were not dealing with the extreme political situations that are addressed in this book, but the book focuses on all kinds of moral dilemmas in more ordinary situations - when you are faced with speaking up or remaining silent.

Certainly, my experience at Shasta was that it was a place of enforced silence. We all learned quickly how to stop questioning out loud, how to bow down and just say yes, and how never, never, never to challenge Kennett. We gave up our adulthood, our autonomy, our integrity. Especially in the last few years I was there, so many times a week, sometimes a few times per day, I saw various forms of verbal and emotional cruelty. I saw Kennett say and do things that made me mentally nauseous, but I said nothing. The rare times I did say something, there was always -- always -- Kennett's rage or storming around. So we all -- all of us - held our tongues and went along with the game - in tiny ways and bigger ways, we just let it all happen -- and it internally felt terrible. Separate from Kennett's mental decline, this behavior which started years before that, became increasing unacceptable.... and i began to realize clearly that her actions had little or nothing to do with Zen / Dharma / teaching.

So i do think that any culture of mental and ethical emasculation does relate to the BEAUTIFUL SOULS and to the more extreme situations that are addressed in the book.

end of my babble for the day....
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Ikuko



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PostSubject: books...babble   Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:39 am

hi josh

forgive me i can't write long posts as i only have smart phone/tiny screen.

i wondered thinking about the tyrrany you experienced withRMJK,

if you thought of thinking about her as a mad person,ie explored models for understanding madness.?

i think she was wonderful and mad.both.



Two suggestions

Madness Explained by
Richard Bentall

and "Stockholm Syndrome"(not a specific publication-a theory that explains why sane people collude with mad people).

my eyes are getting tired.

take care

thank youfor book lists and entries.i will introduce myself at later date
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.   Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:01 am

Thanks for posting. I was not aware of Richard Bentall's books. I will post something about them. Sounds like he has some profound insights about human behavior,charismatic and borderline personalities, etc. I posted elsewhere on this site a lot about Kennett personality structure through the the lens of the Enneagram personality system - which does explore the many dimensions, shades of light and dark, some positive aspects of her intense personality. You might find it useful to find those posts and discussions.
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Ikuko



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PostSubject: Re: Books on Questioning, thinking for yourself, etc.   Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:00 am

Hi Josh

Thank you for your response.

I will read your posts about the Enneagram approach to understanding RMJK, and the discussions ,and I'm sure I will learn a lot.That's just as soon as I find out about the parallel universe I will need to live in to have time for all this other wonderful reading material you and the other contributors have made available!

Re Bentall:

I find him quite dry .

He is a career psychologist.In Madness Explained,he does a thorough review of current clinical thinking about genetics ,social and systemic findings,and neuropsychiatry.

He examines the history of psychiatric diagnosis,and debunks the field ,as if it needed it.

I like a good read!

I'm going back to your reading list now.

Thank you

Ikuko
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