Recent Books Read

I’ve reported on Aifric Campbell’s “The Semantics of Murder” in a previous post. But in the past couple months I’ve also read three philosophical books.

1. “The Case for God” by Karen Armstrong
2. “The Beginning of All Things: Science and Religion” by Hans Küng
3. “36 Arguments for the Existence of God: a work of fiction” by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Armstrong’s book is in big print (I mistakenly ordered that format from Amazon) and her case for God is far from conventional. In fact her concept of God is close to that of an atheist, I think. She joined a convent at an early age and rebelled strongly becoming an out and out atheist. But now she apparently believes in God in the sense that action alone is an expression of what God is. Her big project is The Charter for Compassion based on the golden rule. I’ve subscribed to this.

Hans Küng’s book is challenging in part perhaps because it’s a translation from scientific German. He’s actually still a Catholic although I’d say it’s by quite a stretch. To him the miracles are metaphors and God is somehow wrapped up in the incomprehensibility of an origin of the universe. Mankind’s reason meets its limit in its inability to fathom a “first cause”, and also an ending. He discusses the question, “Why not Nothing?” a great deal, something I have mentioned in this blog as my favorite question, i.e., why is there something rather than nothing?

Rebecca Goldstein’s book, basically an exciting novel which captures the kinds of feelings associated with the Why not Nothing? feeling, demolishes all the arguments for God (36 of them in the Appendix) and replaces these with a defense of morality based on the feeling of “ontological wonder”. So, if you wanted to call this “ontological wonder” a replacement for God, you could I suppose, although Goldstein herself claims to be an atheist intellectually. She seems a little worried, in the interviews of her I’ve found online, that some of her academic friends might think she’s NOT an atheist. She’s obviously a fascinating and brilliant woman and graduated summa-cum-laude from Barnard College.

So what do these three books all add up to in my mind? Not sure, to be honest. However, I am thinking of getting Goldstein’s book on Spinoza who she thinks has it all. From what I’ve gathered by listening to her, she thinks Spinoza has successfully used reason to explain, or account for, the “it’s turtles all the way down” problem. I’d like to see that one explained!

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  1. Thomas’s avatar

    I recently read the book “Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life” by Wendy Mass. It wasn’t as deep as the books you’ve been reading, but it was still very enjoyable.

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Thanks for your comment, Thomas. I looked up “Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life” on Amazon and the description of the book sounds good! Yes, I bet it was enjoyable.

    I often think of a comment Mr. Natural made in a Mad Magazine many years ago. Mr. Natural is riding his uni-cycle and a nervous teenager says, “Mr. Natural! Mr. Natural! What does it all mean?”, and Mr. Natural says, “Don’t mean sheeeeeeeit!”.

    But seriously, “Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life” sounds like it should be a very good read. I may get it.

  3. Ian Glendinning’s avatar

    FYI Marde, I just ordered Rebecca Goldstein (both 36 Arguments and Betraying Spinoza) …. I’ll let you know.