Recommended reading

Professor of Europen Thought at London School of Economics, John Gray is tirelessly and irreverently exposing the murky myths underlying a lot of Western thought. Here he successfully shows the liberal and neo-conservative belief in the free market as just a new version of the old Judeo-Christian belief in divine providence. The humanistic hubris of elevating humans to be at the centre of the universe is shot down by means of a sobering analysis of our real position in the eco system. He makes you doubt whether we are not the cancer of this planet rather than her glory.

Hands-on useful techniques for waking up from the trance of daily life and learn to be. No spiritual or metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, this is applied and practical philosophy at its best. It is written by the Italian psychotherapist Piero Ferrucci and is based on his clinical work with clients and techniques used in the psychosynthesis tradition. Get to know your different subpersonalities and make friends with yourself, develop your skills in a balanced way, learn to control your attention. An endless source of inspiration and a perfect toolkit of psychological exercises equally suited for a spare moment at the bus stop or in preparation for an important performance. This is one of those books you return to year after year and I could not recommend it too highly.

A thought-provoking attempt by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm at understanding human cruelty. His basic idea is that violence is one of many solutions to the existential problem of defining one’s identity. We have a deep need to be someone and when all else fails making an aggressive “dent” in the world is one way of obtaining that recognition. While it focuses on Nazi cruelties and analyses the sadistic personalities of the likes of Hitler its subject is tragically timeless and universal. Recent school shoot outs in Finland and the terror atrocities in Mumbai have both been analysed in terms of attention seeking, and the concept “celebrity terrorism” implies a lack of any “higher cause”.

“Beyond Objectivism and Relativism” is a fairly accessible presentation of the intellectual crisis we are facing in regards to finding a foundation for our knowledge and ethics. Bernstein is presenting the contributions of 20th century philosophers such as Popper, Kuhn, Habermas, Taylor and Gadamer, and tries to build bridges between them to find a way in to an uncertain future which does not rely on naive faith in scientific, religious or moral absolutes, nor succumbs to vague post-modern relativism where anything goes, but a fallible pragmatism where reliable and testable knowledge is accumulated by continuous dialogues with the opposing perspectives and rationality still has an adequate and important role to play.

Science of Complexity

Nature’s Numbers: Discovering Order and Pattern in the Universe – Ian Stewart (1998) (If I were not against piracy I would tell you that you can find audio torrents for this)
Emergence – Steven Johnson (2002)
Chaos – James Gleick (1997)
Order out of Chaos – Prigogine & Stengers (1985)
The Web of Life – Fritjof Capra (1997)
Chaos Theory Tamed – Garnett Williams (1997)
At home in the universe – Stuart Kauffman (1997)