Here are the opening lines of four books that are important. For each, I have provided a link for a free download of the book.
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.
The following is an extended edited excerpt from Arthur Ryder’s introduction to his translation of the Panchatantra. What’s the book about? Ryder begins his introduction with:
“The Panchatantra contains the most widely known stories in the world. If it were further declared that the Panchatantra is the best collection of stories in the world, the assertion could hardly be disproved, and would probably command the assent of those possessing the knowledge for a judgment.”
The editing consists of removing quotations from the main text. Even if you don’t get around to reading the translation, you must read the introduction in full. And if you don’t want to do that either, you must read this shorter version. Continue reading →
Celebrated economist Thomas Schelling died today at the age of 95. He was the recipient of the 2005 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for “having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis”. I note his passing because he was instrumental in my recognizing that I belonged to his tribe — that I was at heart an economist. Mere accident led me to pick up his book Micromotives and Macrobehavior (1978) at the Sunnyvale Public Library sometime back in the early 1990s. He received his bachelors degree in economics in 1944 from UC Berkeley, my alma mater. Continue reading →
You never thought of the web reflecting the morality that permeates human behavior, did you? I did not. I just read a fine article on the topic. The article title by David Weinberger, “The Morality of Links“, is a tad disturbing to me because it smacks of anthropomorphism but the article is a delight to read. The article is from a collection in the book, “The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age“, Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui, editors.
Weinberger starts off with the simple declaration “Links are good” and then goes deep into what makes us human. Here are a few excerpts, for the record. Continue reading →
The following is a review of Francois Gautier’s Rewriting Indian History. (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing 1996). The reviewer is C J S Wallia who writes:
From my own perspective as a secular humanist, I believe that any whitewashing of historical record is counterproductive. No matter how lofty the ideals of a current cause, any whitewash of history tempts the fates. To forget history will always be fateful; to forgive its horrendous facts can be redemptive. Forgive — but never forget — history.
I, like the millions of others of my generation, grew up basically ignorant of Indian history as I had only been taught the Nehruvian pseudo-secular socialist government-sanctioned propaganda “history.” Now it is time that we free ourselves from the government brainwashing by reading alternative viewpoints critically. I bow deep in gratitude to the internet gods for allowing some light to shine through the darkness that Nehru imposed.