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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

What book(s) should I buy next?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16563points) August 11th, 2010

I went to the book shop last night, and couldn’t decide between Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For those of you who have read these books, which do you think is better? Which is more relevant to the modern world? Are there any other books you would recommend, considering what I am already looking at?

I ended up giving up and buying the Volsunga Saga instead, so both are still on the list. I also have (but am yet to read) Aristotle’s The Politics, and have read Nietzsche’s The Antichrist, so I’m not sure if I will be doubling up on ideas and content.

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12 Answers

truecomedian's avatar

Science of Survival by L. Ron is pretty interesting
Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima is a must read
Being and Nothingness by Sartre is good times
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
In Search of the Miraculous by ?

Dewey420's avatar

The Boomers Bible

ratboy's avatar

Principia Mathematica is a real page-turner that you won’t be able to put down.

Void's avatar

I would save metaphysics for when you run out of titles to read.

“Metaphysicians cannot avoid making their statements nonverifiable, because if they made them verifiable, the decision about the truth or falsehood of their doctrines would depend upon experience and therefore belong to the region of empirical science. This consequence they wish to avoid, because they pretend to teach knowledge which is of a higher level than that of empirical science. Thus they are compelled to cut all connection between their statements and experience; and precisely by this procedure they deprive them of any sense. — Rudolf Carnap

Therefore, If I had to recommend one that relates to your tastes, I would have to say,

The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli

2008 use to be the latest edition but they re-released a 2010 edition.

Rarebear's avatar

Oy. Too smart for my blood.

I’m reading All That Lives Must Die by Eric Nylund, the second in the Mortal Coils series. It’s excellent.

christos99's avatar

Aristotle… only cause Greeks peaked thousands of years ago lol

Jeruba's avatar

Of those two, I’d choose Zarathustra.

How about Aristotle’s Poetics?

Are you interested in the Existentialists?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I would recommend Aristotle, but then I’m bound to because I have a degree heavy in the classics. I’ve read a lot of Aristotle and Plato. Speaking of whom, I would also recommend The Republic. I always found that I could read about 10 pages of Plato for every one page of Aristotle. The latter is so densely worded and weighty. Plato’s ideas are weighty, but since he wrote in verse, his writing seems to flow much quicker.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Thanks everyone for your answers, this is a great help!

@Jeruba What does the Poetics deal with? I don’t know a huge amount about the Existentialists, but I would be interested to learn. What recommendations do you have?

@hawaii_jake I’ll take a look at that too, thanks. I have avoided Plato to date precisely because he wrote in verse, and I thought that would make it harder to glean the concepts from. The hardest book I ever read was Spinoza’s The Ethics – compared with that I don’t expect too much trouble with Aristotle.

Jeruba's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh, Poetics is about literature and writing, especially tragedy and epic poetry. It talks about the poetic use of language and the elements of tragic drama, including the classic definition of the tragic hero. It has the useful concept of the “implausible possible” and the “plausible impossible”—an idea that I still find relevant nearly 40 years after studying this work in a literary criticism seminar.

If I were about to explore the Existentialists, I would first read up a little bit on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, noting Sartre’s career of self-promotion as a celebrity intellectual, his relationship with Simone de Beauvoir (nearly as famous a couple as their namesakes here on fluther), Sartre’s coining of the label “existentialist” and applying it to Camus as well as himself, and Camus’s assertion that he was no such thing but rather an “absurdist.” Nonetheless the term stuck and Camus is invariably grouped with Sartre under this label.

Then I would probably venture forward by reading several novels of Camus, whose philosophy is expressed primarily through fiction. There is plenty of information out there to guide you—here is one source I like, even though, or perhaps because, it is personal and idiosyncratic.

There are also the relatively accessible plays of Sartre, notably Huis Clos, as well as his longer works of fiction and his essays, foremost and definitive among them the famous “Existentialism Is a Humanism” (1946), originally delivered as a lecture in 1945. This can be found in Walter Kaufman’s Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre as well as other places.

If I took to it after that, I might use Kaufman’s book as an entrée to the thinkers leading up to this movement, including Dostoevsky, Husserl, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and others. This is an old (1956—but in print only ten years when I bought my copy) and limited anthology in a very thickly populated field, but it’s not a bad starting point.

In Sartre’s later years he had a political axe to grind. Camus died before having any later years. This movement continues to hold ground in the philosophical arena, and its lineage can be traced to Kant and his predecessors even though (like many younger generations) it takes a drastically different road from that of the old guys. The great issues remain constant.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jeruba Thanks! I think that gives me enough material to last past the new year.

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