As an engineering student, I took a course in philosophy
called Logic because I thought it would help me think more
scientifically. Well, the course proved beyond my expectations. What it
did, was to make me aware of the fallacies in my perceptions and thought
processes. Like other fields of study, it has its own lexis for
classifying, observing and reasoning. The untrained mind looks for
similarities and thinks in terms of absolutes; while the trained mind
can distinguish ranges of differences and thinks in terms of
relationships. It takes time and practice to learn, but the effort is
worth the payoff. We can't change our emotional biology, but at least
proper logic helps to guide our emotions, rather than allow our emotions
guide our logic.
About 2300 years ago, a Greek philosopher named
Aristotle formulated three laws of truth: The law of identity (A is A),
the law of excluded middle (Anything is either A or non-A), and the law
of non-contradiction (Something cannot be both A and non-A). In his
time, Aristotle was a genius, but his laws have limitations.
It because they are intuitive, his laws have influenced
thinkers ever since, even to those who have never heard of Aristotle. It
is these laws upon which the following set of books are based. They are
limited because they lead to the impression that something is either
true or it is not true, and don't account for degrees of truth. They are
valid as far as they go and are essential to our knowledge of how we
The Art of Reasoning by David Kelley. This is a college level
textbook, but it is well written and covers the entire subject of logic
The Art of Deception by Nicholas Capaldi. Explains the basic
principles of critical thinking with case studies on basic logical
The Art of Argument by Giles St Aubyn. This little book is full of
wisdom. Rather than go into formal logic, it discusses irrational man
and how he avoids uncomfortable truths.
How to Think Straight by Antony Flew. Teaches how to know the
difference between valid and invalid, the contradictory verses the
contrary, vagueness and ambiguity, contradiction and self-contradiction,
truthful and fallacious arguments.
The Power of Logical Thinking by Marilyn Vos Savant. Marilyn vos
Savant explains the art of reasoning with the same style she uses in her
newspaper column. She covers how our minds can work against us,
statistics and political exploitation.
How to Think Straight About Psychology by Keith E. Stanovich. While
he is defending his profession from its bad reputation, he does an
excellent job of explaining
the scientific method.
While Aristotelian logic teaches A is A, General
Semantics starts from the premise that A is not A. This doesn't make
sense at first, but it reminds us to look for differences in our
observations. For example, it may be true that man is man at the lowest
level of abstraction, but it is also true that on a higher level each
man is individually different: man 1 is not the same as man 2. This is
called the principle of non-identity.
Second, the principle of non-allness (A is not all A),
teaches us to avoid absolutes in our thinking. What is abstracted on one
level does not represent all that is abstracted on another level. For
example, a man with a 160 IQ may think he is smart because he can grasp
information quickly, but he can be stupid in the way he interprets that
Third, the principle of self-reflexiveness means that
any statement we make is relative to something else; perceptions are
relative to our observations; information we receive is relative to the
source. A dictionary is one example: it uses words to describe other
words. On the ground, earth looks flat; from high above we can see it is
Aristotelian logic covers the many cases of truth and
falsity. General Semantics teaches us to be aware of the many shades of
truth and falsity.
Tyranny of Words by Stuart Chase. There is an incredible amount of
disinformation in our society based on meaningless abstractions. The
author breaks down the misuse of language in philosophy, law, politics,
economics, science and mathematics. This guide will help you separate
the meaningful from the meaningless.
People in Quandaries by Wendall Johnson. The psychology of
maladjustment goes in three stages, from idealism to frustration to
demoralization. The art to avoiding these pitfalls is to become aware of
when we are abstracting and when words relate to reality.
in Thought and Action by S. I. Hayakawa. Words are symbols with
which we use to communicate. The symbol is not the thing symbolized. The
map is not the territory it stands for. The word is not the thing it
represents. The right use of language guides us towards reality.
and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski. This can be in intimidating book
because it is 800 pages long. I recommend the other three books before
starting on this one. The writer is the founder of General Semantics and
the main source on the subject. It was not meant for casual reading, but
it is clearly written. It has to read several times to grasp thoroughly.
General Semantics founded by Korzybski, this group is devoted to
teaching the semantic is language.
Politics and the English Language by George Orwell. Orwell's name
has become synonymous with language abuse. This article is critical of
obscure writing styles.
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel
Goleman. Academic intelligence has little to do with emotional life. 80%
of success comes from ability to motivate oneself, persist in the face
of frustrations, to control impulses and delay gratification, to
regulate ones moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to
think; to emphasize and to hope.
Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow. Explains how
safety oriented personalities are inhibited from growing emotionally.
Growth entails risks but lead to a more secure, more creative,
self-fulfilled personalities. Full of insights on why people cling to
the familiar and what it takes to enter on a journey of self-discovery.
A New Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper.
Sees rational thinking as a means towards maximizing human happiness. It
minimizes anxiety, depression, hostility and other emotional blocks to
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. From
experience, he has learned that most people underestimate their power to
change and grow. This book offers guidelines.
The Art of Living Consciously by Nathaniel Branden. Maps out the
characteristics of what it takes to acquire a sense of reality. It's a
great confidence builder for exploring unknown territory.
The Meaning of Mind: Language, Morality, and Neuroscience by Thomas
Szasz. Explains that the cognitive function of speech is to enable us to
talk not only to others, but to ourselves. Argues that mind is best
understood as a verb describing the ability to pay attention and adapt
to one's environment by language. The scientific community has usurped
the proper meaning to control the patient's vocabulary.
The Immune Power Personality: 7 Traits You Can Develop to Stay Healthy
by Henry Dreher. Explores the mind-body connection, how we make our
selves sick and the characteristics for positive living.
The Conquest of Happiness by Betrand Russell. T and which is all the more
unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears
Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. The eminent scientist debunks
fallacies such as witchcraft, faith healings, demons and UFO's. He
emphasizes the differences between pseudoscience and real science.
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. Explains the appeal of mass
Flim Flam by James Randi. With his magicians background, James Randi
is on mission to debunk the paranormal, occult and supernatural claims
that have impressed the public. He also sponsors a
Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. The eternal
search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment often results in our
thinking being led astray by extraordinary clams and controversial
ideas, particularly in the realms of superstition and the supernatural.
The Myth of Mental illness by Thomas Szasz. The importance of proper
use of language extends to psychiatry. "Illness" used to mean a bodily
disorder. By labeling hysteria an illness, the profession opened the
gates for mistreatment and medication. Covers witch mania.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds by Charles
Mackay. This book was first published in 1841. It's still a timeless
classic. It covers witch-mania, the crusades, haunted houses,
alchemists, financial debacles such as
The Mississippi Bubble,
The South Sea Bubble and other types of manias.
The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon. He calls
it the substitution of unconsciousness action of crowds for the
conscious activity of individuals, and goes on to show the benefit of
The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by
Etenne De La Boitie. Argues tyranny must be grounded in popular
acceptance. It's overthrow simply means withdrawal of that consent.
1984 by George Orwell. His timing may be off, but it is prescient in
pointing out where our society is heading. It is a world of
authoritarian control where words mean the opposite of their popular
Animal Farm It starts out with all animals being equal, but ends up
with the pigs being more equal than others. It's a lesson on the nature
of our stratified society.
The Art of Contrary Thinking by Humphrey B. Neill. Ever wonder why
stock markets fall when they are the most popular? Explains the symptoms
and phases of market trends.
Power: A New Social Analyses by Bertrand Russell. Every man would
like to be God, he asserts. Then he goes on to describe the various
forms of power, its ethics and how to tame it. Full of case studies.
The Ascent of Science by Brian L. Silver. Presents an overview of
Western science, from the Renaissance to the present. He translates the
most important and obscure developments into readable language for the
Uncertain Science: Uncertain World by Henry N. Pollack. Aimed at the
ignorance of those who dismiss massive amount of scientific evidence as
only a theory. Explains why "theories" allow room for improvement.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkins. An excellent layman's
book that explains the researchers and workings of the universe and the
many unknowns yet to be understood.
Anything written by Hawking is a good bet.
Chaos: Making a new Science by James Gleick. Does order come from
chaos or does chaos come order? Shows that the order we see hides a
facade of chaos. Explains the "butterfly effect."
At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization
and Complexity by Stuart Kauffman. In what he calls "spontaneous
order," he argues that self-organization is a great undiscovered
principle in nature. Shows that ecosystems, economic systems and even
cultural systems evolve from this principle.
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Pete L. Bernstein.
The development of the mathematics of risk undermined the oracles and
soothsayers. Explains the impact of uncertainty on contemporary affairs.
The Left Hand of Creation: The Origins and Evolution of the Expanding
Universe by John D. Barrow & Joseph Silk. Written in non-technical
language how the the physics of elementary particles and the scenarios
of cosmology converge in theories illuminate the beginnings and the
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer. Starts with
Darwin's research, the boiling controversies that arose after its
publication and reviews the evidence that supports evolution. Well illustrated.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. This is the book creationists
love to hate. He gives a genes eye view on how genes replicate in order
The Blind Watchmaker: Why Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe
Without Design by Richard Dawkins. Explains how evolution, without
long-term goals, accounts for biological complexity.
The works of Richard Dawkins can be found at this
Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal by Desmond
Morris. Far from a book on physiology, it explains the human animal as
if he was a zoologist on the Planet of the Apes. Entertaining
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation
by Matt Riddley. Most philosophers accept selfish and antisocial
behavior as natural. A zoologist shows that cooperative instincts have
evolved as part of our nature without which complex societies could not
Why We Feel: The Science of Human Emotions by Victor S. Johnston.
Explains the human brain did not evolve to accurately represent the
world around us; it evolved to enhance the survivability. Explains
consciousness, sexual reproduction and other facets of our
emotions and senses.
Overall, I found these books to be extremely will written and
educational. Not being expert in these subjects, I found it necessary to
read counter-arguments by other experts. Some creationist books contain
valid critiques of evolutionary theory while they also contain straw man
arguments and misrepresentations. Others tell us what we don't know
about nature. That said, they do not validate other more far fetched
theories. While science cannot invalidate the existence of a god with
positive evidence, it has invalidated the Bible with positive
evidence. Let's be clear about one thing: Faith, by definition, is in
opposition to the scientific method of acquiring knowledge.
Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About
Evolution is Wrong by Jonathan Wells.
Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology by William
Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by
Michael J. Behe.
Before the Flood: The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How it Changed
the Course of Civilization by Ian Wilson.
The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for
Discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez & Jay W. Richards.
The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom
by Gerald L. Schroeder.
Darwin's God by Cornelius G. Hunter.
Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists by Benjamin Wiker.
Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry by
Vincent Carroll & David Shiflett.
The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes by Dean Hamer.
Modern Physics and Ancient Faith by Stephen M. Barr.
See also the sections on science and biology above.
Science and Creationism edited by Ashley Montagu. A collection of
essays on different aspects of creation science. This is a good starter
Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh. Refutes the assertions of some
popular creation science books. It's focus is on the hard sciences.
The Impossibility of God edited by Michael Martin & Ricki Monnier.
These are arguments along the philosophical verses theological level.