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A thought experiment and your bookshelf.


Omniscient1

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Imagine sometimes in the future a mad scientist creates some sort of super weapon. This super weapon will destroy all people and signs of human civilization. The mad scientist who created this weapon, interested in what kind of civilization would be founded afterwards, decides to provide a way for a small group of children to survive this apocalypse. He then asks you to provide five books from your collection, which will make up all knowledge for the future world. What five books would you provide?

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Gárcia Marquez

Blindness by José Saramago

Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

The Lord of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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The Bible and that's it since I don't have any other important literary works in my bookshelf. Although if I did, I'd give George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", as many Wikipedia pages as I could print, the Constitution of the United States, and I can't think of a 5th book.

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From my personal collection? That limits it a bit.

The Principia, A Briefer History of Time, On the Origin of Species, one of my world history books, and Crime and Punishment.

EDIT: Give me a heads up beforehand so that I can collect an appropriate world history book and anatomical and physiology book. :)

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The Bible and that's it since I don't have any other important literary works in my bookshelf. Although if I did, I'd give George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

I have "Nineteen Eighty-Four" on my bookshelf, and also "Nineteen Eighty-Three", which is an entirely different book and not recommended for children :-/

I hope that a civilization started from scratch by children would not need the warnings given in Nineteen Eighty-Four quite so immediately, and avoid the "Socialist Utopia" described therein. Perhaps Lord of the Flies is more of a useful warning of what could happen.

===

I would second the Bible and notice that I also have a forager's guide on eating wild plants, herbs, mushrooms etc. I'd say that would have to be included.

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Sounds like the plot from Oryx and Crake.

5 books, eh?

- First Thousand Words in English (or any book teaching ABCs and reading)

- Any dictionary

- A book titled "Wikipedia" which will soon be published by Bowwow

- Oryx and Crake

- Guns, Germs and Steel

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My "collection" at school is fairly limited, but I guess that makes it a bit more interesting.

- The Illustrated Man, R. Bradbury

- Four Plays, H. Ibsen (Collection including Gengangere, En Folkefiende, Vildanden, & Hedda Gabler)

- A Small Place, J. Kincaid

- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, T. S. Kuhn

- The Death of Ivan Ilyich, L. Tolstoy

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The Bible - Here is something on which a basic morality and spirituality can be established. Without this, all else is for naught.

The Libertarian Reader - David Boaz, (an assortment of philosophy, from Locke to Jefferson to Mill - it covers the basic principles needed to form a government).

The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution - They usually come together, more principles on which to build a society.

Democracy in America - Tocqueville (offers knowledge of how a productive society and a virtuous one can prosper).

Why Be Good? - Richter (a collection of philosophy from the likes of Kant and Humes, also necessary to develop morality).

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How old are the kids? Can they read?

Yes, the point is though that they have next to no knowledge about the world except for the very basics. A basic comprehension of words, and grammar and how to figure out big words from context clues. But next to know knowledge of science, languages, ethics, or history.

Also interesting replies from all of you.

I probably should have thought to include a dictionary, but I was very hesitant to include novels in my list, because I was afraid of someone taking it for "absolute truth" and disreguarding the message.

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I probably should have thought to include a dictionary, but I was very hesitant to include novels in my list, because I was afraid of someone taking it for "absolute truth" and disreguarding the message.

That's why I included LoTR and not the bible, world would be a much better place if the main religions were based in Tolkien mythology than based in the bible.

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From mey personal collection this becomes quite difficult.

-The bible

-The Ultimate Student Cookbook

-What is the What by Dave Eggers

-Pinicchio

-English Legal System

Yeah beyond that....nothing at all useful.

If I can use my collection from home then most of that wouldn't be there and instead there would be;

-Bible

-Whichever of the gardening books is most useful for growing food

-SAS survival guide

-A physics textbook (from one of the various lying around)

-Michael Palin's around the world in 80 days (book form, not the TV series)

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Five books wouldn't survive the following return to a primitive way of life: they'd be irrelevant IMHO.

The question tells us something about the people that reply, though. I'll think about my list.

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Five books wouldn't survive the following return to a primitive way of life: they'd be irrelevant IMHO.

The question tells us something about the people that reply, though. I'll think about my list.

Got to agree. I've got books on gardening/agriculture, primitive carpentry, an EMT study-guide, the History of Invention (which covers all sorts of advancements and practical ways to apply basic science). Also metal-working books, and four or five Bibles in my drawer to boot. But if "all signs of human civilization" have been erased (no tools, no rudimentary shelter, no supplies to plunder), there isn't much hope that kids would survive in a primtive world. Too weak to hunt, too stupid to fish. :P

I've also got to say, if I were a survivor of the end of the world, I'd have no interest in creating a new civilization (too bad for you, Mr. Mad Scientist!). I'd help to provide for my fellow survivors, but having even more children (more people to provide for, take up valuable time, and potentially incubate disease)... not sure I see a point in that. Unfortunately, my fellow survivors probably wouldn't see my point of view, and I'd end up taking care of their children anyway. :v:

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Five books wouldn't survive the following return to a primitive way of life: they'd be irrelevant IMHO.

The question tells us something about the people that reply, though. I'll think about my list.

B'golly, the replies tell us something about what they value :o

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First off, don`t give them any religion books, that`s what causes 75% of our wars.

But i would give them:

Chariots of the Gods, By Erich Von Daniken

Webster`s Newset Dictionary with all references to relgion wiped out

The Transcripts to the Anarchist Cookbook (Very Useful in a Post apocalyptic World)

Auto Mechanics Fundamentals by Goodheart-Wilcox

And A Phonebook, one day we will have phones again and if reincarnation is real, i want my number back

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I like the dictionary and cookbook ideas, wouldn't have thought of them myself. Aside from those, not sure what I'd include. A Bible makes sense intuitively but you'd need oodles of commentary from different sources to give it any kind of context. Novels would be a waste, which is sad because I (and some others here) own some great ones. Maybe a catch-all world history book, as long as it's inclusive enough.

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First off, don`t give them any religion books, that`s what causes 75% of our wars.

As 89.5% of statistics are made up, I have difficulty believing your completely arbitrary "75%".

In any case, religions have very rarely caused wars, though I admit that faith unfortunately is often used to justify wars and violence. I suppose that is testament to its power. But it's fairly obvious that without religion people would still fight each other. Resources, land, fear of invasion: these are the causes of war, now, in history, and as long as the world remains.

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I like the dictionary and cookbook ideas, wouldn't have thought of them myself. Aside from those, not sure what I'd include. A Bible makes sense intuitively but you'd need oodles of commentary from different sources to give it any kind of context.

True, and the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is perhaps a more important book as it contains Scripture, but also contextualizes it, provides commentary, and also gives us the order of service for the preeminent act of Christians: the Eucharistic Meal (a Christian rite that obviously predates the Bible, as reference is made to it in the Old Testament).

A history book is a good call, though history is also subjective and needs contextualizing (arguably the Bible is itself, in part, a history book written in the context of the Christian people, and describing the history of God's interaction with His creation).

I suppose all this emphasizes the importance of remembering stories, and the oral tradition. More important than history books is the knowledge of "our"* history, and remembering in our hearts the story of how "we"* came to be.

*this can be interpreted as the history of a nation, a faith, or of all humanity. The first two are preferable if the survivors come from the same faith and/or nation.

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The question tells us something about the people that reply, though. I'll think about my list.

Exactly. Some of the replies have been interesting.

I do disagree though that children "wouldn't survive" or that people "wouldn't set up another society". There's several cases of feral children scavaging from animals to survive.In my own mind the first thing I would do if I found that civilization was gone is look for other survivors. (just like Will Smith in I am Ledgend) I couldn't guarentee that the books wouldn't be completely disreguarded though. However, for the thought experiment I'm going to say they would be kept, and at least somewhat followed.

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Also for anyone interested I chose:

The Secret History of the World by Mak Booth

The Emperor's new Mind by Roger Penrose

SAS survival guide by John "Lofty" Wiseman

A Theory of Justice by by John Rawls

Healing by Design by Scott Hannen

I'm surprised at how many "Bibles" I've gotten here, and I'm shocked at the lack of Nietzsche. When I posted the same question on a philosophy forum nearly every post had Nietzsche in it.

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When I posted the same question on a philosophy forum nearly every post had Nietzsche in it.

As you say, that says more about the sort of people who inhabit philosophy forums more than anything else, including philosophy itself.

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From my collection, eh? Well lets see what I have...

Webster's New World Dictionary with Student Handbook

Better Homes and Gardens: Family Medical Guide

Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race by The Daily Show Staff

America (The Book): A Citizens Guide to Democracy Inaction by The Daily Show Staff

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't

by Stephen Colbert

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Gentle Persons

A truly inspiring question.

How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life Louis A. Bloomfield

The Encyclopedia of Country Living Carla Emery

SAS Survival Guide John Wiseman

Wilderness Medicine Paul S Auerbach, M.D.

Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill

Mind, Body and Soul.

Respectfully

Dame Hime Themis

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After having looked at my bookshelf I realized that all those essays and works of literature would be utterly useless in such a situation. I don't even possess any dictionary! I should probably just pick the five hugest ones, in the vague hope that the children could make some use of the paper to light fires... Which is what they'd probably do with them anyway, now that I think of it.

At any rate, my (terrible) list:

• The Lord of the Rings

• Chinese cuisines

• Learn Democracy

• Dune

• Physics

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