Essential Secular Humanist Philosophy for Noobs?
Posted: 06 February 2013 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve been circling around this forum for a while not sure of what I can contribute or discuss. I have an interest in philosophical thinking and reflecting on how to improve the human condition, but I’m not that well read on philosophers or educated on philosophy.

The most contemporary Philosophy figure that may influence me is Daniel Dennett.  I’ve watched some of his lecture videos and I enjoy his approach to consciousness study, life in general, or poking holes in Faith-based thinking.

Another person I’m interested in from another era is Baruch Spinoza.  The Einstein quote “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.” carries a lot of weight with me because of the source.

Now I have tried one of the cheap free Kindle books on Spinoza and gave up on it. The reason for that is the beginning was interesting, but I felt is was used as a springboard for the author to launch into his own philosophy. After a while, it wasn’t clear to me that I was reading his interpretation of Spinoza or his own philosophy. So if someone here would like to school me on Spinoza I’d welcome that. 

I guess in general, I’m interested a thread where experienced people well read on Philosophy can break the ice with complete novices who might feel slightly intimidated by it or out of their league in discussing it.  Especially in regards to philosophy as it relates to Secularism.

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Posted: 07 February 2013 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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VIDEODROME - 06 February 2013 11:42 PM

Now I have tried one of the cheap free Kindle books on Spinoza and gave up on it. The reason for that is the beginning was interesting, but I felt is was used as a springboard for the author to launch into his own philosophy. After a while, it wasn’t clear to me that I was reading his interpretation of Spinoza or his own philosophy. So if someone here would like to school me on Spinoza I’d welcome that. 

Do you have author, title?

Spinoza is interesting, but of course mainly historical. I assume you already started by reading in wikipedia? And did you look in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy?

VIDEODROME - 06 February 2013 11:42 PM

I guess in general, I’m interested a thread where experienced people well read on Philosophy can break the ice with complete novices who might feel slightly intimidated by it or out of their league in discussing it.  Especially in regards to philosophy as it relates to Secularism.

Just ask questions, or give ideas. They might trigger the interest of some of us…

I am not a specialist in humanism however. But I assume somebody else reading this might give you some book hints.

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Posted: 07 February 2013 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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AFAIK the best recent books on Spinoza are by philosopher Steven Nadler; you might want to look those up. But NB: Spinoza’s philosophy is not easy to get through.

Another good book that deals a lot with Spinoza and allied thinkers is Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment. That’s more a straight intellectual history so is probably more approachable than a book on Spinoza’s philosophy in particular.

Dennett is probably your best bet when it comes to contemporary philosophers in the public sphere who speak to a popular audience. There’s also Massimo Pigliucci’s blog Rationally Speaking, that includes links to his podcast and a few videos, etc.

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Posted: 07 February 2013 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Okay in general what interests me is that Einstein quote and clarifying Spinoza’s actual view. People like to run with both and link Spinoza with Pantheism. I find Pantheism interesting, but still wondered how accurate that was.

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Posted: 07 February 2013 05:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Has Spinoza`s work with functional and philosophical optics provided enough means for beginning to understand objectivity in our time?

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Posted: 07 February 2013 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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VIDEODROME - 07 February 2013 05:36 AM

Okay in general what interests me is that Einstein quote and clarifying Spinoza’s actual view. People like to run with both and link Spinoza with Pantheism. I find Pantheism interesting, but still wondered how accurate that was.

It’s been awhile, but I recall Nadler arguing that Spinoza was an atheist, not a pantheist. His “god” was basically identical with the laws of nature, and had no particular religious importance.

Israel argued the same thing, though he isn’t as close to the philosophy.

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Posted: 07 February 2013 07:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Doug seems to have a historical point of view about philosophy, religion and science,

It could be useful to a wondering humanist!

Only to add, 1,000 years ago, religion and government had the same function in daily life.

How do you see your secular humanist philosophy functioning in life today?

[ Edited: 27 February 2013 01:14 PM by arnoldg ]
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Posted: 24 April 2013 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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VIDEODROME - 06 February 2013 11:42 PM

I guess in general, I’m interested a thread where experienced people well read on Philosophy can break the ice with complete novices who might feel slightly intimidated by it or out of their league in discussing it.  Especially in regards to philosophy as it relates to Secularism.

I’m no expert in philosophy, I’m only a little ahead of you. Perhaps reading some of Paul Kurtz’s books would be a good start.

Kurtz was both a professor of philosophy and humanism’s biggest advocate (the “father of secular humanism”).

Kurtz’s humanism placed emphasis on the passions, as well as reason.

So I’m guessing that Kurtz would like philosophers like David Hume, Epicurus, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Aristotle, Bertrand Russell, etc.

I’m not familiar with Spinoza.

For a contemporary expert in this line of thought, try psychologist Jonathan Haidt - he has some good books that cover philosophy and psychology.

[ Edited: 24 April 2013 08:37 AM by mralstoner ]
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Posted: 01 May 2013 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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For Humanism I’d go with Paul Kurtz, as mentioned, but also Corliss Lamont and, though I don’t think he ever mentions it as such, the non-technical writings of Bertrand Russell (Why I Am Not A Christian in particular) and Albert Einstein are great for learning about the ideas behind humanism.

Spinoza, IMHO, is best read by reading summaries or explanations of his thought.  The original writings are very dense and written in a manner common back then when philosophers thought their logical explanations were on a par with scientific reasoning.

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