Sunday, September 01, 2013


A Book Can Change Your Life

The value of self selection in reading

I read a great article on the value of self choice when reading books. Unfortunately I'm not able to find that article. Now that I have my Nexus 7 tablet, I read do many articles. But the author makes the point that when children and adults self-select their books they frequently run into a book that will change their life. I remember reading a book that changed my life.

When I was a young man, I held rather traditional Christian views of life and eternity. But as I went to the university to be trained as a psychologist many of these views changed. There is a scientific hypothesis that thought is merely a by product by brain activity. This hypothesis is called reductionism.  As a trained psychologist I had decided that the reductionist hypothesis was the only reality for human existence. As far as I could tell there was no God, heaven or life after death. All we could only know was what we saw before us in our daily lives. This is what I was taught in my graduate training.

After I graduated with my PhD, I had a good friend who liked to read the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. I found these books way too difficult to read myself. So my friend recommended that I should read the American philosopher Norman Malcolm. Malcolm was a student of Wittgenstein. He wrote about a lot of Wittgenstein's ideas. I read Norman Malcolm's book Thought and Knowledge.
In this book Malcolm sets out Wittgenstein’s argument that thought is not equivalent to brain activity. Malcolm sets forth a very cogent argument that thought is independent of the brain. Malcolm argues that the reductionist argument is not philosophically sound. Reductionism is what in philosophy is called a circular argument. If you have a circular argument, it means your logic is not good and your argument is not sound. His presentation literally made me drop my book. I sit stunned with my mouth hanging open. This is what can happen when you read a book!

With surprise I thought to myself, if thought cannot be reduced to mere brain activity, then thought can be more than brain activity. Our thoughts were not dependent just on our brains. So thoughts could existed outside of our brains. If that was true then human consciousness did not depend on our body alone. This meant that I could entertain the hypothesis that consciousness (our thoughts) could exist outside of our brains. In other words as humans we have something that is called a soul. This soul can exist beyond the physical body, since thought is not dependent upon the human body. This then lead me on a life long journey of reading scientific research about human consciousness, the human spiritual experience and the possibilities of human existence beyond physical death. So as you see simply reading one book can set a person on a life long journey of learning and investigation. So I encourage you to read and to read to your children. I hope your reading will lead you to your life's journey. 

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