Quote of the day: "Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism--the right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought." -- Margaret Chase Smith, 1950
My first exposure to philosophy was a series of books by Carlos Castenada about his relationship with a Yaqui Indian "Man of Knowledge" named Don Juan (not to be confused with the fictional, romantic Don Juan). While these books are far removed from formal philosophical writings (and not intended to be philosophical novels such as Nausea by Sartre or The Plague by Camus) they do contain some metaphysical discourse. I read these books in high school and found then very interesting (and still do):
Another influence of mine were the books by Alan Watts which, like the books by Castenada, were recommended by my friends. His famous work, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, was popular among our group. I read a few others as well. Later, in college my professors discounted Watts' philosophy but I thought his books were thought-provoking:
There are others in the series but these are my favorites.
When I went to college I was a biology major who quickly became a chemistry major. However, during the summer vacation after my freshman year I became very interested in the conversations of two of my best friends (Rich Joyce and Doug Rauch). They were both Philosophy majors, in preparation for careers in law. They were talking way over my head about the nature of reality and the opinions of various philosophers they had studied. It sounded so interesting I had to give it a try. So I took an introductory Philosophy course and I soon changed my major to Philosophy. Of course, I was looking for answers to life's questions at the time and I thought Philosophy was the place to find the answers. I don't think I was well suited to the field, however. I was not a good writer and I have always been better at science than at the liberal arts but I gave it a try. By the time I was a senior I had done enough philosophical inquiry for the time being and I was ready to do something else. I realized that Philosophy doesn't provide any "answers" to life's questions, in fact it provides you with the skill to ask more questions than you had when you started (actually, of course, I had learned a lot about Philosophy and myself as well as developing the ability to think logically--all of which have and will continue to serve me well throughout my life). But, as with most good things, the joy in Philosophy is not in the destination but in the journey (something I didn't realize at the time). So I parted ways with Philosophy and returned to a technical field.
One thing I discovered in college was that I liked philosophical novels better than philosophical textbooks. Here are some of my favorites:
Fifteen years went by and in all that time I hadn't read a single book I would call philosophical. That changed when I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in the mid-90's. Although I didn't agree with everything Ayn Rand was saying, her point of view was so different from the norm that I found it very stimulating. Since then I have redeveloped my interest in Philosophy. Currently I am interested in the philosophy of science, ethics, and the moral philosophy of Gandhi. Some books I have read recently include: