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Suggested readings by area compiled by TOK teachers Introduction At this stage, any text which takes a thoughtful, reflective and wide-ranging approach to knowledge will be very helpful. Excellent short and accessible essays on topics as diverse as propaganda, art, Santa Claus, God and truth can be found in Martin Gardner’s Order and Surprise (Oxford University Press, 1983) or The Whys of a Scrivening Philosopher (Oxford University Press, 1985). For a more philosophical but delightfully readable and very short introduction you might try Thomas Nagel’s What does it All Mean? (Oxford University Press 1989); by the same author Mortal Questions (Cambridge University Press, 1979) is much more advanced but equally fascinating. For a philosophical look at the whole concept of knowledge, it is hard to find a better introduction than Stephen Cade Hetherington’s Knowledge Puzzles (Westview Press 1996). In terms of relevant fiction, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Bodley Head 1974) takes an unusual but compelling approach to some of the issues, and the dazzling stories, essays and parables in Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths (Penguin 1964) defy description, providing a unique and paradoxical window on the everyday world. From a philosophical point of view essential reading is Bertrand Russells Problems of Philosophy (repr. Oxford University Press 1998); a lighter text is Donald Palmer’s Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991),
Natural Sciences The recent explosion in popular science writing means that you really are spoiled for choice in this area, and any good bookstore will have a whole section devoted to the philosophical implications of the natural sciences! In terms of the scientific method itself, Alan Chalmers’ What is this thing called Science? (Open University Press 1979) is an accessible but detailed and lively overview; John Hosper’s An Introduction to philosophical Analysis (Prentice Hall 1957) ch.4 also provides a very brief but interesting overview. Recent classics are Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Hutchinson 1968) and Conjectures and Refutations (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1969), and Thomas Kuhn’s The Copernican Revolution (Random House 1959) and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press 1970). On the issue of science and truth, John Ziman’s Reliable Knowledge (Cambridge University Press 1978) is helpful; on the links between science and religion (and interludes into the nature of time, free will, miracles, mind and self) a great starting point in Paul Davies’ God and the New Physics (Pelican 1984) or The Mind of God (Penguin 1992). The whole concept of laws of science and their nature is explored in John Barrow’s The World within the World (Oxford University Press 1988). Possible limits of science are discussed lucidly and entertainingly in both John Horgan’s The End of Science (William Morrow and Co. 1994) and John Barrow’s Impossibility
(Vintage 1999), and Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World (Ballentine Books 1996) is a classic call for us not to take these limits too far. The Arts A extremely powerful introduction to the arts as socially and politically relevant is the very readable and short John Berger's Ways of Seeing (Penguin 1972), based on the BBC television series. The best general philosophical introduction I know if is ch. 10 of Donald Palmer's wonderful Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991), and Martin Gardner's The Why's of a Philosophical Scrivener (Oxford University Press 1983) ch 4 directly addresses the issue of aesthetic relativism. The links between the arts and the natural sciences are controversially explored in Edward Wilson's Consilience (Vintage 1999). In fiction I have been charmed and enlightened by Alain de Botton's How Proust can change your Life (Vintage Books 1998). For the thoughts of the critics, a great overview is Carolyn Korsmeyer, ed, Aesthetics: The Big Questions (Blackwell 1998), and many of the original expressions of aesthetic theory from down the ages and across the cultures can be found in David Cooper, Peter Lamarque, Crispin Sartwell (eds) Aesthetics : The Classic Readings (Blackwell 1997). Maths It is difficult for the non-specialist to get to grips with much of the mathematical literature, but G. H. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology (Cambridge University Press 1940 repr.1994) is a brilliant and engaging description for the layman. If you would like to get a first hand, totally non-algebraic experience of mathematical imagination, then Edwin Abbott’s classic Flatland (Penguin 1952) and it’s more readable descendent, Rudy Rucker’s The Fourth Dimension (and how to get there) (Rider and Company 1985) are unsurpassed for expanding conceptions of mathematics. Two very readable accounts of humans at the centre of mathematics are David Blatner’s The Joy of Pi (Penguin 1997) and Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Enigma (Walker and co., 1997). Getting very slightly more technical, an outstanding description of what mathematicians actually do can be found in Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh The Mathematical Experience (Houghton Mifflin 1981). The notion of proof is brialliantly explored in Imre Lakatos Proofs and Refutations (Cambridge University Press 1977). If you want an extraordinary introduction to the extraordinary findings of Gödel then Douglas Hofdstadter’s rich, enormously wide-ranging (and simply enormous) Gödel, Escher and Bach (Vintage 1989) remains more a literary experience than simply a book. The same ground is also covered in the excellent Ernest Nagel, James R. Newman’s Godel's Proof (New York University Press) Rationalism A very gentle introduction to informal logic can be found in S. Morris Engel’s Fallacies and Pitfalls of Language (Prentice Hall 1994) or Neil Browne and Stuart Keeley’s Asking the Right Questions (Prentice Hall 1994). A sparkling, accessible but at the same time profound approach to reasoning and the possibility of paradox can be found is Raymond Smullyan’s brilliant What is the name of this book? (Prentice Hall 1978); informative though probably overrated is Edward de Bono’s classic Lateral Thinking (Ward Lock Education 1970). More analytic approaches to the use of reason in general can be found in A. J. Ayer’s The Problem of Knowledge (Open University Press 1956) Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of
Philosophy (repr. Oxford University Press 1998). An overview of what we mean by rationality and different possible conceptions of the notion is found in Mikael Stenmark’s Rationality in Science, Religion, and Everyday Life : A Critical Evaluation of Four Models of Rationality by (University of Notre-Dame Press, 1995)
Social Sciences For the problems in representing human information is meaningful form, Stephen Jay Gould’s handling of IQ in The Mismeasure of Man (WW Norton 1981) is brilliant. Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh tackle the issue more generally in Descartes’ Dream (Harvester books 1986). A reasonably technical but readable and rich account of the emerging discipline of decision theory (which attempts to model how humans actually make decisions) can be found in Stephen Watson’s Decision Synthesis (Cambridge University Press 1977); an economically-slanted alternative might be Brian Loasby Choice, Complexity and Ignorance (Cambridge University Press 1976). The issue of free-will is brilliantly introduced in Donald Palmer's Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991) ch. 6 and further explored in Daniel Dennett Elbow Room (MIT Press 1984). For a case study on psychology try Adrian Furnham’s All in the Mind (Whurr Publishers 1996). General reflections on human nature, with an emphasis on language can be found in Noam Chomsky Powers and Prospects (Pluto 1996); the links with the natural sciences are superbly and controversially explained in any of Edward Wilson Consilience (Vintage 1999), Matt Ridley The Red Queen (Penguin 1993), Stephen Pinker How the Mind Works (Penguin 1998). A broader, far more philosophical (and far more difficult) approach is taken in John Searle The Construction of Social Reality (Penguin 1995)
History A very brief overview of some ideas is in Reuben Abel Man is the Measure (The Free Press 1976) ch 15, but perhaps the classic introduction to some of the ideas of historiography is E. H. Carr’s very accessible What is History? (Random House 1967). A useful overview of the post-modern criticisms of historical truth is found in K. Jenkins (ed) The Post-Modern History Reader (Routledge 1997); a response to these claims has been mounted in R. J. Evans In defence of History (repr. WW Norton and Co 1999). Other excellent book are A. Marwick’s The Nature of History (repr. Lyceum Books 1989) and Barbara Tuchman’s enagaging collection of essays Practicing History (repr. Ballentine Books 1991) To look at current controversies and some lesser-know views, you will not find better themes than in Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide (City Light Book 1997) and James Peck ed. The Chomsky Reader (Random House 1987) Empiricism An overview of the philosophical ideas may be found in any introduction to philosophy; I recommend Donald Palmer's Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991) ch 3 or John Hospers An introduction to Philosophical Analysis (Prentice Hall 1953) ch 3. The phenomenon and implications of of synesthesia is described in detail in Richard Cytowic The Man who Tasted Shapes (Abacus 1993).
For a defence that the world really is there (do you need one?) Martin Gardner The Whys of a Philosophical Scriverner (Oxford University Press 1983) Ch1 is delightful. A more controversial (maybe even extreme, but still important and interesting, if rather difficult) defence of empiricism may be found in A. J. Ayer Language Truth and Logic (Dover Books 1946). Empiricists [Abridged]Locke, Berkeley and Hume (Anchor Books/Doubleday 1961) is a good primary source. Paradigms The term paradigm was made common by Thomas Kuhn’s The Copernican Revolution (Random House 1959) and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press 1970), both of which are which are very readable and extremely interesting. There are few books which deal directly with the issue, most are written in a particular paradigm, but Paul Davies Are we alone? (Penguin 1995) deals with the implications of finding alien life. Perhaps most helpful would be a list of books dealing with the great paradigm shift we are currently in (at the end of?). With the topic of evolution so controversial, why take anyone's word for it? Read the following and make your own mind up! Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker (repr. WW Norton and Co 1996) and The Selfish Gene (repr. Oxford University Press 1990) were the first popular books to really challenge religious views. Robert Wright The Moral Animal (Vintage 1994) applies the theory to see if it can explain our sense of right and wrong, and Stephen Pinker, in How The Mind Works (Penguin 1998) argues that most aspects of what we know about the brain support evolutionary theory. Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Touchstone 1996) takes an overview. Anti-evolution writers who argue that the scientific evidence is simply not good enough to support the theory include Micheal Behe, who in Darwin's Black Box : The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Touchstone 1998) suggests that irreducible biochemical complexity in nature cannot be explained by evolution. Phillip E. Johnson Objections Sustained : Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law & Culture (Intervarsity Pr August 1998) takes a similar line and this is followed up in detail by Lee M. Spetner Not By Chance (Judaica Pr; March 1998) where many examples are taken which, it is suggested, show that many natural forms of life must have been designed. A. N. Field in The Evolution Hoax Exposed (Tan Books and publishers 1971) goes on to suggest that believeing in evolution leads to many social ills, and Michael Denton, in Evolution : A Theory in Crisis (Adler & Adler,December 1996) argues that a rational appraisal of the evince will lead to the jettisoning of Darwinism in due course. Language A most profound and wide-ranging introduction to a wide range of language issues is Stephen Pinker’s - The Language Instinct (William Morrow and Co. 1994). Pinker’s Words and Rules (Basic Books 1999) is a more detailed introduction to linguistics. For an entertaining guide to deceptive language try William Lutz’s Double Speak (Harper and Row 1989). The problem of meaning is well covered is many philosophy texts - I can recommend as a very brief introduction Thomas Nagel’s What does it all Mean? (Oxford University Press 1987) ch5. Two more general overviews are provided in Reuben Abel’s Man is The Measure
(The Free Press 1976) ch 7 or John Hosper’s Introduction to Philosophical Analysis (Prentice Hall 1953). A fascinating, less philosophical and more comprehensive guide is found in David Crystal’s Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language (Cambridge University Press 1992), and Geoffrey Pullman’s The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and other irreverent essays on the study of language (University of Chicago Press 1991) remains an entertaining and informative peek at some areas and characters in linguistics. As an introduction to the subtle and controversial aspects of language it is hard to beat Noam Chomsky’s Language and Thought (Moyer Bell 1993) or the early chapters in Powers and Prospects (Pluto Press 1996). Ethics It is well worth checking some introductions to philosophy and then going on to look at some applied issues. Recommended introductions are Thomas Nagel’s What does it all Mean? (Oxford University Press 1987) ch7, or John Hosper’s Introduction to Philosophical Analysis (Prentice Hall 1953) ch8 or .Donald Palmer's Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991) ch7,8. For a more detailed look at I recommend Gilbert Harman’s The Nature of Morality (Oxford University Press 1977) and Christopher Biffle, ed, A guided tour of John Stuart Mill’s ‘Utilitarianism’, (Mayfield Publishing Co 1993); and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism and Human Emotions (Philosphical Library 1957). Three excellent studies are Jonathan Glover’s Causing Death and Saving Lives (Pelican 1977) and John Harris’ The Value of Life (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1985) and Violence and Responsibility (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1988). Politics A tremendous personal view, largely concerned with practical matters in America this century, is given in Martin Gardner’s The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener (Oxford University Press 1983) in ch.7 - 9. A brief general overview can be found in Donald Palmer's Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991) ch 9 or in the Alan Brown’s Modern Political Philosophy (Penguin 1986). A classic attack on Marxism can be found in volume II of Karl Popper The Open Society and its Enemies (Princeton University Press 1971); the minimalist state is defended in Robert Nozick’s influential Anarchy, State and Utopia (Basic Books 1974) and the interesting but at times dense John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press 1971) discusses the veil of ignorance. More technical but still fairly readable is . Ball and R. Dagger Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal (Longman November 1998), and since M. Forsyth, M. Keens-Soper and J. Hoffman (ed) The Political Classics - Hamilton to Mill (Oxford University Press 1993) contains the classic thoughts of Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Mill all in one handy place. For a brilliant web-site with many profound social and political issues discussed by many great thinkers, and an extensive archive, go to http://www.zmag.org God Check the philosophy or religion section in any book shop and you will be spoiled for choice; here are a few personal favourites. An excellent brief overview can be found in Donald Palmer's Does the Centre Hold? (Mayfield 1991) ch 5; a very personal account of the
defence of faith against the problem of evil and doubt is in Martin Gardner’s The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener (Oxford University Press 1983) ch.10 - 16. For and against the existence of God is covered very readably in Todd C. Moody’s Does God Exist? : A Dialogue (Hackett Pub Co; October 1996); the challenge posed by science is well covered by Cambridge scientist and theologian John C. Polkinghorne in Belief in God in an Age of Science (Yale University Press 1999). William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience (Random House 1999) remains unsurpassed, in my view, as a thoughtful and interested reflection on religion
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