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Individuals need both fiction and non-fiction, I do agree with you on that much. However, fiction is more important because it forces its reader to integrate knowledge completely. It forces you to reason from concretes to abstractions, and thus is indispensible to a well-rounded individual.

True dat, but may I point out that she was presenting Philosophy, and you can present a new philosophy via fiction, due to its nature.

What I mean to say is that integrating knowledge is good and all, but you need to have some knowledge to integrate! You need to read non-fiction, to understand what the author is abstracting from. I didn't get all the value I could've from my first reading of Les Mis, for example, because my understanding of Revolutionary France is, and was also then, very poor.

You can come away from a book thinking, 'Ah yes, men cannot fight for freedom by taking barbaric actions', but unless you can point to real-world battles, your argument won't be very convincing to anyone else.

Edited by Tenure
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I already own (but have not yet read) this book, I would love to add this to our queue.

Thanks for the reviews, Doug :lol:

I read the three parter he wrote a number of years ago, which was excellent ("Russia under the old regime/<can't remember the title>/Russia under the new regime")

(I apologize for not supplying the name but my connection is *exceedingly* slow this morning. It took half an hour to load a weather forecast; I do not want to deal with loading the Amazon.com page 3-5 times to figure it out.)

In any case based on those three works, I can recommend Richard Pipes with confidence. And there is no way he can be accused of whitewashing Lenin as, say, Harrison Salisbury et. multitudinous al. did.

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I'm a little confused; has a book been decided on? I'd like to participate, but which books should I order so I can get them in time to start?
Right now, 4 people have agreed to do "How the Scots Invented the Modern World". Tenure has suggested a January start date.

In addition, Sophia and I both said we were interested in "Economics and the public Welfare" by Benjamin Anderson. I guess, we'll probably do that sometime early 2009.

For fiction, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" has been suggested. Not sure if Tenure agreed to that, or if he was agreeing about fiction in general.

At any rate, the most concrete plan right now is the book about the Scottish Enlightenment, mentioned above.

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Right now, 4 people have agreed to do "How the Scots Invented the Modern World". Tenure has suggested a January start date.

At any rate, the most concrete plan right now is the book about the Scottish Enlightenment, mentioned above.

Count me in for the Scots book. Actually, anything with the "invent" in the title.

I am picking it up next week and hope to read it during holidays if I can only bash my way through to the end of this darned tedious second Goodkind novel.

Also, I can't predict how much time I'll have to participate since I can't predict how much work my inventive clients will dump on me.

Be seeing you...

<*>aj

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Individuals need both fiction and non-fiction, I do agree with you on that much. However, fiction is more important because it forces its reader to integrate knowledge completely. It forces you to reason from concretes to abstractions, and thus is indispensible to a well-rounded individual.

I do not understand how your reasoning leads you to conclude that fiction is more important. Anything that involves lesser-abstractions requires you to form generalizations and integrate them into the total sum of your knowledge. You can make the same argument for reading history, science, economics, psychology or any other subject matter.

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DW: I think Adrock's point was that Fiction, being essentially philosophical (if it's any good) is an integration of the sum total of knowledge. It takes everything you've learned in science, history, maths, psychology, etc and then integrates them via some philosophy which effects all these fields and draws a conclusion from the (assumed) shared knowledge between the author and the reader.

The point is not that it integrates, but that it integrates everything else and forms generalisations from them.

An update: As sNerd stated, the plan is to read 'How the Scots invented the modern world' and 'The Scarlett Pimpernel'. One non-fiction and one fiction. We'll be discussing them via the forum, which features a chat-function and PMing, so we can get more in-depth in our discussion, if two people really want to hammer on about a point (though it would be appreciated that they at least give a summary then of any conclusions they might have come to in said private discussion :D ).

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I'll include myself in reading The Scarlet Pimpernel. Lisa VanDamme's Junior High 1 grade reads this book, I've heard her mention it before in a lecture or two, and read her writing about it in the TOS journal blog, so I was already interested in it; why not read it with fellow Objectivists and members here? I'm in.

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Right now, 4 people have agreed to do "How the Scots Invented the Modern World". Tenure has suggested a January start date.

In addition, Sophia and I both said we were interested in "Economics and the public Welfare" by Benjamin Anderson. I guess, we'll probably do that sometime early 2009.

For fiction, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" has been suggested. Not sure if Tenure agreed to that, or if he was agreeing about fiction in general.

At any rate, the most concrete plan right now is the book about the Scottish Enlightenment, mentioned above.

I finished the Scarlet Pimpernel about 2-3 weeks ago (freeing up the copy for athena), but I'd still participate in the discussion for it. I just purchased Economics and the Public Welfare, so I would read/participate in that as well. Since I don't want to buy another copy of 'How the Scots Invented the Modern World,' and I don't want my reading time to conflict with athena's, I'm going to hold off on that one for now. So, count me in on the other two.

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DW: I think Adrock's point was that Fiction, being essentially philosophical (if it's any good) is an integration of the sum total of knowledge. It takes everything you've learned in science, history, maths, psychology, etc and then integrates them via some philosophy which effects all these fields and draws a conclusion from the (assumed) shared knowledge between the author and the reader. The point is not that it integrates, but that it integrates everything else and forms generalisations from them.

I definitely agree that fiction can do this. I was just commenting on how this is not unique to fiction and that I do not see why fiction is necessarily more important than other genres of reading.

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I definitely agree that fiction can do this. I was just commenting on how this is not unique to fiction and that I do not see why fiction is necessarily more important than other genres of reading.

Tenure hit it on the head. The integration may not be unique to fiction writing, but the concretization is. Point in case: Rand was able to show her philosophy through the character of Roark, as contrasted with the character of Toohey. Non-fiction would not be able to concretize the intimacies of her philosophy is the same way. Incidentally, this is why many philosophers have sort of sat on the wall between fiction and non-fiction, i.e., Plato (dialogues) Nietsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Marcus Aurelius, etc. Likewise, many literary giants wrote fiction that was extremely philosophical, i.e. Rand herself, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Kafka, etc.

As for the importance: Fiction is more important precisely because it concretizes abstractions. As Rand writes in Romantic Manifesto:

Man’s profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man’s fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important. In this sense, art teaches man how to use his consciousness. It conditions or stylizes man’s consciousness by conveying to him a certain way of looking at existence.

That "certain way of looking at existence", i.e. a man's worldview, is really the basis for his entire philosophy. In a way, it's pre-philosophical, or, at least, pre-conceptual (since it starts forming when you are very young).

Edited by adrock3215
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Tenure hit it on the head. The integration may not be unique to fiction writing, but the concretization is. Point in case: Rand was able to show her philosophy through the character of Roark, as contrasted with the character of Toohey. Non-fiction would not be able to concretize the intimacies of her philosophy is the same way. Incidentally, this is why many philosophers have sort of sat on the wall between fiction and non-fiction, i.e., Plato (dialogues) Nietsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Marcus Aurelius, etc. Likewise, many literary giants wrote fiction that was extremely philosophical, i.e. Rand herself, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Kafka, etc.

As for the importance: Fiction is more important precisely because it concretizes abstractions. As Rand writes in Romantic Manifesto:

Fiction does do that, but how does this compare to a chemistry text, for example? If I want to understand high level concepts in chemistry the best way to do that is to build my knowledge up by means of such a text, or series of texts. This can be a long and difficult process which might include labs, various mathematical concepts, various structural visualizations, and maybe painstaking diagramming with pencil to paper to work to "get" a concept. I've had many personal experiences where it took quite a bit of effort for me to grasp a point, either because the build up was so involved, or the explanation was not well enough put for me to extract a point right away so I had to use a little more cleverness to determine what the idea was. A novel could not teach me chemistry without becoming very didactic and non-story like.

Art can work to inspire me to push for an ideal, but to actually grasp a tough concept in some field requires tying an abstract idea down to reality. Some of those ideas are so difficult that very few people have the ability to tie them down to reality.

Put another way, Newton’s Principia Mathematica could not have been a novel.

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Fiction does do that, but how does this compare to a chemistry text, for example? If I want to understand high level concepts in chemistry the best way to do that is to build my knowledge up by means of such a text, or series of texts. This can be a long and difficult process which might include labs, various mathematical concepts, various structural visualizations, and maybe painstaking diagramming with pencil to paper to work to "get" a concept. I've had many personal experiences where it took quite a bit of effort for me to grasp a point, either because the build up was so involved, or the explanation was not well enough put for me to extract a point right away so I had to use a little more cleverness to determine what the idea was. A novel could not teach me chemistry without becoming very didactic and non-story like.

True points. I never said that one should read fiction to learn chemistry. Fiction is not conducive to technical writing in a narrow field. Like philosophy, fiction is concerned with universals; that's why the two overlap so much. Read the quote I posted by Rand. A work of fiction will tell you your relationship to existence. Your assessment of your relationship to existence (done either implicitly or explicitly) will tell you whether or not you even have the ability to learn anything, much less approach the study of chemistry. We all approach our studies through a certain fundamental worldview, namely, one that tells us--at least--that we have the capacity to understand the world around us, and that we can exercise our free will to do so.

There isn't much more to say on this. If you all want to learn about it, read Romantic Manifesto. In it, you will find the following quote from Rand: "Of all human products, art is, perhaps, the most personally important to man and the least understood." Note that non-fiction writing is also a human product. I agree with her. If you don't know why Rand says this, she will clarify it for you in her work better than I can in a few unedited lines here.

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Since Lisa VanDamme's lecture course at OCON 2009 is going to be on Henrik Ibsen, I'm also up for doing 'A Doll's House' and 'An Enemy of the People'. They're shorter as well for those that aren't looking to read anything of great length.

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As for the importance: Fiction is more important precisely because it concretizes abstractions.

Okay, I see the point you are driving at and I think it is a very good one. Fiction is more important precisely because it can concretize man's widest and most vital abstractions for living a happy, productive and moral life.

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I want to participate, but count me out of the Scots book-- I have to finish a book, "The Twilight Of Bel Canto" by Leonardo Ciampa. Quite frankly it is a little depressing, but I agreed to read it so I could discuss the technical aspects with my voice teacher. So I've got my non-fiction covered until it's over.

For fiction, may I suggest "Scaramouche" by Rafael Sabatini? As a kid, I grew up with the adventure novels of Salgari and Sabatini, but I never got around to reading "Scaramouche." Its description:

"A romantic adventure that tells the story of a young lawyer during the French Revolution. In the course of his adventures he becomes an actor portraying "Scaramouche" (also called Scaramuccia, a roguish buffoon character in the commedia dell'arte). He also becomes a revolutionary, politician, and fencing-master, confounding his enemies with his powerful orations and swordsmanship. He is forced by strategic circumstances to change sides in order to befuddle his enemies. The book also depicts his transformation from cynic to idealist. The three-part novel opens with the memorable line, "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.""

It's also public domain, so you could either buy it from amazon, or get it at project gutenberg, or get an amateur audiobook at librivox (the Scaramouche one is actually okay) and, of course, you can buy a professional audiobook of it on itunes. I personally prefer holding an actual physical book-- and I found a delicious little old edition of it yesterday at a bookstore sale- first edition, 1921.

Any takers on the idea? :)

Edited by kainscalia
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This is a list of suggestions received thus far in the thread (hope I got them all)

From Tenure:

  • The Red Queen (although I think a few of you have already read this book)
  • Aristotle's Ethics (Nichomean)
  • Titus Groan (fiction)
  • The Russian Revolution 1917-1932, by Fitzpatrick (supposed to be a very good book giving an introduction to the topic, though might be a bit too pedestrian and not deep enough for a group reading)
  • Markets Don't Fail
  • Shane (fiction; a rather brief read, but a good 'un)

From aleph_0

  • Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics,
  • other philosophical texts (suggestions range from Spinoza, ..., to Wittgenstein, to Plato, to Locke, to Shopenhauer, and more),
  • classic literature (Hugo, Homer, Shakespear, Joyce, etc.),
  • business management

From Athena:

  • How the Scots Invented the Modern World (separate thread created)
  • "The Scarlet Pimpernel" By Baroness Orczy
  • A Concise History of the Russian Revolution - Richard Pipes

From ~Sophia~:

From West:

  • Henrik Ibsen's 'A Doll's House' and 'An Enemy of the People'

From Kainscalia:

  • "Scaramouche" by Rafael Sabatini

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Since Lisa VanDamme's lecture course at OCON 2009 is going to be on Henrik Ibsen, I'm also up for doing 'A Doll's House' and 'An Enemy of the People'. They're shorter as well for those that aren't looking to read anything of great length.

Great suggestions, West. His "The Wild Duck" I also liked. I read only about ten or so plays of his, but there are many that I haven't yet read. Not only his works, but he as a person, interests me, too. I think I read two or more books on him. I didn't even know she was doing an optional course there titled "Ibsen the Iconoclast"! Thanks for mentioning the course. I didn't look further into the conference than what the email showed. If I were going to that state in the summer where the conference is in, I doubt I could pass by Amherst without going there instead... But anyways, if you are bringing up these two plays, there are also two that I would like to add for future readings, that I recently read, and they would be Moliere's The School of Husbands, and The School for Wives. But they must be the Donald M. Frame translations though, because he keeps them in verse.

I really want to read more of the books that are on the lists at VDA, so I'm starting Pimpernel now, not sure if it's officially chosen for the January read or not, but I'm not waiting.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Great suggestions, West. His "The Wild Duck" I also liked. I read only about ten or so plays of his, but there are many that I haven't yet read. Not only his works, but he as a person, interests me, too. I think I read two or more books on him. I didn't even know she was doing an optional course there titled "Ibsen the Iconoclast"! Thanks for mentioning the course. I didn't look further into the conference than what the email showed. If I were going to that state in the summer where the conference is in, I doubt I could pass by Amherst without going there instead... But anyways, if you are bringing up these two plays, there are also two that I would like to add for future readings, that I recently read, and they would be Moliere's The School of Husbands, and The School for Wives. But they must be the Donald M. Frame translations though, because he keeps them in verse.

I really want to read more of the books that are on the lists at VDA, so I'm starting Pimpernel now, not sure if it's officially chosen for the January read or not, but I'm not waiting.

Thanks for the Moliere translation recommendation! I've been told that Moliere has a savage wit; I look forward to picking up a copy of his works. I might have said it already, but I really enjoyed Scarlet Pimpernel and highly recommend it.

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