View quake reading

Ryan Holiday blogs my email to him:

My reading was much different when I was younger. I would more likely
intensively engage with some important book totally full of new ideas.
Hayek. Parfit. Plato. And so on. There just aren’t books like that left
for me anymore. So I read many more, to learn bits, but haven’t in
years experienced a "view quake." That is sad, to me at least, but I
don’t know how to avoid how that has turned out. So enjoy your best
reading years while you can!

Quine should be on that list as well.  Nietzsche was a view quake in high school, though I find him oddly uninteresting upon rereading.  Here is Ryan’s post on Marcus Aurelius.; the Stoics collectively were a view quake for me, in economics there was Anthony Downs and Thomas Schelling and Albert Hirschmann.  David Hume.  Maybe Rene Girard was the last "view quake" author I read.  On the upside, greater context means that many more books are interesting than was the case before.

Many of you are asking me about Amazon Kindle, the new ebook (sort of); Jason Kottke offers a round-up of opinion.


This seems sadly jaded. Surely there are many more quake-worthy books out there, and surely a rereading Plato, for example, 20 years later will produce a new quake. The other kind of reading, to pick up a few bits, hardly seems worthwhile by comparison.

Is it that there are only a limited number of books capable of creating a view quake ... or is it that view quakes are much easier to generate when you are younger?

The last one I remember was Hernstein's "Godel, Escher and Bach" -- that's from the mid-70's. I should get Hernstein's newest book and see if there are still new gems.

Wow, I managed to read Prof. Cowen's post without seeing that Hume was on his list.

Continuing in the philosophical vein, with a bias toward the contemporary, my personal list includes Kripke's Naming and Necessity and David Lewis's On the Plurality of Worlds.

Of more interest to the general reader, but still philosophical in nature, is Dennett's Consciousness Explained.

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, obviously.

At 38, I was recently overwhelmed by "Seeing Like a State" (Scott), which has a good thesis (how the state homogenizes for control). Some books only make sense when you are older (and vice-versa). When is the best time to read King Lear? Romeo and Juliet?


The two big things about Naming and Necessity that affected my philosophical outlook were semantic externalism (which Putnam expressed pithily as "meanings ain't in the head"), and putting modality at the forefront of metaphysics. (Or back at the forefront, where it hadn't hadn't been since Leibniz.)

When you read a work, like N&N, where the footnotes are as good as the main body of the text, that's a sign that you may have a "view quake" book in your hands.

Recently published:

Thomas Metzinger, Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity

Overall I think its more rigorous than Dennet's version (although I haven't quite finished it yet).

If you want to maximize view quakes, you should spend your youth reading Nietzsche and Marx, and then later read Hayek and C.S. Lewis. Perhaps this is the real value of an American university education: lots of view quakes in your 30's, 40's, and 50's.

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