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UnMod.org • View topic - The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

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Today I found a new virus on the Internet.

The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

For general chat. Videogames, music, whatever. Moderated.

Moderator: None

SKIN?

ORIGINAL MOTHERFUCK
4
24%
CRISPY
9
53%
ERM I A FAGGOT AND LIKE ROTISSERIE
4
24%
 
Total votes : 17

Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Ace! on Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:03 pm

Well, it's not Mein Kampf. I think what Smasha is saying isn't entirely incorrect, and perhaps Cohelo pushes his cosmology more than I remember, but I would still recommend it, especially after this conversation, so you can focus on the things that I thought were beautiful and not get suckered in by the things that Smasha thought were dangerous.


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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Horseboy on Mon Jan 17, 2011 5:32 am

And I'm already done with The Colours of Magic. Next up is Heinlein's The Number of the Beast.

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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Smasha on Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:11 pm

There are many reasons why we should recognize that some books are dangerous. I will provide one. But first, let me be polemical, for one paragraph.

We warn people against physical hazards since we are concerned with their bodily preservation. We warn people against moral hazards since we are concerned with the preservation of their souls. When we say that someone is a good person or a bad person, or has had a good life or a bad life, we aren't talking about how well-maintained their bodies are, but rather about the quality of their souls (or at least we are if we know what we are talking about). It seems very wrong to me that warning people against physical hazards is acceptable but warning people against moral hazards is not, when ultimately we are only concerned about our bodies insofar as we need them to lead moral lives. And if all this talk about "souls" is distasteful to you, then replace the word "soul" with the term "mind and character."

Most of us believe that you can learn morally-valuable things from stories in books. Moreover, we believe that certain stories can make us better people. It is this sort of belief that we use to justify to ourselves why we are put-off by people who refuse to read narratives, why we think they are uncultured or foolish. This sort of belief is why reading stories that have never happened or could never happen is considered part of an education, rather than just a form of entertainment or way of passing time. It is this sort of belief that makes us say things like "that book changed my life" or "that book was powerful" or "while reading that book, I saw something about myself I hadn't seen before."

There are two parts of the belief in the moral value of reading stories important for my argument here. First, the type of knowledge you can gain from engagement with well-told stories cannot be easily got elsewhere. That is, there are few substitutes for the knowledge you gain from stories. Second, the knowledge you gain is not necessarily, and not usually, factual. This followers from the previous point. If you want facts, read an encyclopedia, not a novel. Instead, the knowledge consists of values, skills, and habits. What kind of life is it best to live? From a moral standpoint, what should we do with the time, energy, and money we have? What kind of people should we respect, or trust, or help, or fear? How do we recognize them as such? How should we react to danger, or embarrassment, or someone else's grief, or someone else's success? How do we deal with difficult people, or difficult phases in our lives?

If we are willing to believe that engagement with certain stories can make us better people by teaching us correct values and training us in helpful skills and habits, then we ought to believe that engagement with certain stories can make us worse people by teaching us incorrect values and training us in self-destructive skills and habits. A book can glamorize a kind of life that is actually terrible to live. That is, it can make that kind of life seem valuable, and in doing so can motivate us to pursue that kind of life. A story can teach us to hold in high regard people who will turn out to exploit us in the end, can teach us to make people objects of our pity who in fact don't deserve our attention, and can make us afraid of the very people we would be better off associating with more strongly. A story can offer you a skill in reading character that doesn't transfer at all outside the universe of the story and into the real world, or worse, that can make you recognize a good trait in someone in the real world as a bad trait. A work might inappropriately habituate us to things that should catch our attention or should move us emotionally, and instead cause us to ignore those things or treat them mindlessly, with no thought or feeling.
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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Ace! on Wed Jan 19, 2011 11:43 pm

So who gets to be the moral authority? Everyone can agree that putting your hand in a fire is a bad idea, that's why your body shouts at you when you do. Physical danger and moral danger can't be compared.

The easy argument is always going to be the spiritual one: One person's spirituality vs. another's. But what of the literary? Or even the pulpy? There have been countless novels, both literary and otherwise, written about bad people, even glamorizing them. Are those works dangerous because they glamorize a life of crime or excess or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, laziness and self-destruction?

Charles Bukowski and Willy Vlauten both wrote books that romanticized alcoholism, drug use and promiscuity. Vlauten's The Motel Life made me remember why chain smoking and playing Irish ice toss with a six pack was so wonderful. Bukowski's characters do terrible things, live terrible lives and shrug it all off.

Is that dangerous? And if so, what should be done about it? Should people be encouraged not to read these works because they glamorize the negative?


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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Ace! on Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:44 am

And I might have found my first hypocrisy. Remember that book Horseboy was talking about a few months ago? The 4-Hour Body? Well, I've been reading it all afternoon and it's fascinating. That said, I will probably never do anything in this book, from the easiest to the more difficult, because it requires giving up things that I love, like white rice, bread and potatoes. Fuck. That. Also, I'm not fat and I'm not looking to gain or lose fat/weight. I'm a little disappointed, as I thought this would be more than a weight loss/gain book, but it's not. At least not yet.

But here's a place where I agree that books can be dangerous: medical professionals relying on their degrees and education telling you how to improve your life. That's dangerous because there is no regulatory body that keeps these things in check. Granted, if a doctor writes a book and people die, he's screwed. But people passing themselves off as medical professionals can run free.

Kind of like this guy. To be fair, in the introduction he does talk about his experience with all of these things, that he's been experimenting on his body for twenty years and that he does have "proof" to back up his claims. He also does clearly (at least I see it to be clear) states when something is dangerous, is a theory or is completely unproven. So I do appreciate that.

But the anecdotes are fascinating, as is the science he quotes and discusses. That said, books that potentially harm you physically are dangerous. My first hypocrisy.


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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby BaconFat on Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:39 am

So using headphones playing a song to get people to jack out of cyberspace was a Neuromancer thing too. Inception owes a hell of a lot more to it than I thought.
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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Horseboy on Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:11 am

Man, The Number of the Beast is incredible. Best 'serious' sci-fi book I've ever read, I think. Also, one of the main characters says he studied here and did that fencing thing I do. He even mentions the Red Ox, which is a sort of traditional student pub right across the street from our fraternity house. Awesome.

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Re: The Official Book Thread (AWESOMY BOOK CLUB ALERT)

Postby Buttercup on Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:35 pm

I very nearly completely agree with everything you are saying, except two main things. As Ace! has said, you cannot compare moral dangers to physical ones, as they are entirely subject to the morals of the reader. My point being you have read this book you call dangerous, you have named it such because you find it morally offensive, and feel you must tell others about it's perceived dangers. The key here is that the dangers are perceived by you, the reader. That is what I meant in saying the stories we read are as much the creation of the reader as they are the author.

Believe me Smasha, as one who has not attended any formal schooling outside of high school, I cannot agree with you enough about the importance of the knowledge we can glean from books. However, my moral compass is my own, and it would take an extremely powerful story to sway my compass. Yes they cause me to examine myself, but only one or two books have actually caused me to change in any way. That isn't to say the story itself made me a better or worse person, it means my interpretation of the story either reinforced my own feelings or caused me to re-examine my own feelings. The book doesn't make the decision for me, it only aids me in assessing what I already am. If I find I do not like what I am, it is I and only I that make the decision to change that.

It isn't up to me to decide if others need to change themselves or to warn them not to read a book because it might make them have a self realization that I didn't need so clearly neither do they. That isn't my place, nor is it anyone's. The books are themselves a story, and what makes them beautiful is that every time it is read by a new person, it takes on new meaning. Don't assume because a book meant weakness and potential heartache to you will mean anything remotely the same to a soul entirely different from your own.
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