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Study Notes for Sunday Book Club

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We are looking at Bedford McCoin's (local author's) trilogy of books on Sunday, April 18, at the Candy Factory (10:30 a.m.; Refreshments and Fellowship at 10:00 a.m.)

Attached here is a summary by Massimo Pigliucci, by subject matter, of the three books: Traditional Values Revisited, by Bedford McCoin

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Traditional Values Revisited, by Bedford McCoin


- Socrates/Plato: only just people can be happy (I, 11)
- Socrates/Plato: the mixed life of pleasure and wisdom conquers all (I, 60)
- Socrates/Plato: happines requires temperance (I, 67)
- Aristotle: happines (eudaimonia) is fulfillment of function (I, 72), and the chief function of humans is contemplation (mental excellence, I, 94)
- Aristotle: the road to happiness is an end in itself (I, 73)
- Aristotle: part of the trick is to limit ourselves to what we can reasonably achieve (I, 79)
- Aristotle: friends are as importance to excellence of life as eating is to survival (I, 90)
- Aristotle: well-being emanates from having both the right goals and the right means to achieve them (I, 102)
- Lucretius: contentment doesn’t come from religious rituals, but from peace of mind (I, 149, 153)
- Epictetus: we have absolute power only over our will (I, 158, 161, 163)
- Epictetus: we must remove desires and bad opinions from our souls (I, 160, 165)
- Marcus Aurelius: we need good teachers, and we have a limited time to clear the clouds from our minds (I, 168)
- Marcus Aurelius: life is too short to waste it after fame and fortune (I, 169, 170, 174)
- Marcus Aurelius: the good of the individual and that of society are interrelated, so no selfish behavior (I, 172, 175)
- Marcus Aurelius: the real cause of our irritation is not to be found into things, but in our opinions of things (I, 172)
- Plotinus: our souls should be developed the way a sculptor develops a statue (I, 179)
- Plotinus: lasting satisfaction comes no from the pursuit of outward goals, but from the possession of the inward self (I, 187)
- Montaigne: “to philosophize is to learn to die” (II, 1)
- Montaigne: “the most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness” (II, 10)
- Hobbes: happiness is not a product of a satisfied mind, but the “continual progress of the desire from one object to another” (II, 35, 40)
- Spinoza: the aim of every man should be self-satisfaction through reason (II, 82)
- Locke: contentment is a form of happiness (II, 90, 97)
- Hume: friendship is one of life’s chief joys, and moderation is the source of tranquillity and happiness (II, 129,131)
- Rousseau: luxuy is perhaps the greatest of all evils (II, 136, 138)
- Mill: right actions promote happiness (III, 88, 92)
- Mill: a satisfied life is a proportional mix of tranquillity and excitement (III, 88, 93)
- Freud: happiness is a combination of pleasure and escape from pain (III, 138, 143)


- Socrates/Plato: virtue is acquired through knowledge (I, 1; but see I, 27-28)
- Aristotle: moral virtues are formed by habit (I, 75)
- Aristotle: moral virtue is the mean between two vices (I, 75)
- Aristotle:we are naturally inclined to learn morality (I, 77)
- Aristotle: practical wisdom offers the right means, moral virtue the right ends (I, 87)
- Kant: morality is a matter of rational, not divine, judgment (III, 12)
- Kant: when facing moral questions, ask yourself if a given course of action could be generalized to be a universal law (III, 18, 20, 24)
- Kant: morality is a matter of duty, not predilection (III, 26)
- Kant: the universality of moral behavior also helps us figuring out if a war is just (III, 29, 34)
- Mill: bringing a child into the world w/out prospects of care and education is a moral crime (III, 83, 87)
- Mill: morality is a natural outgrowth of human nature (III, 89, 94)


- Socrates/Plato: it is better to be wronged than to do wrong (I, 66)
- Aristotle: it is what is both lawful and fair (I, 83)
- Aristotle: there is a distinction between willfull and accidental injustice (I, 85)
- Aristotle: justice is the virtue through which everybody enjoys his own possessions in accordance with the law (I, 135)
- Montaigne: good and evil are a matter of opinion, not the basic natures of anything (II, 3) -- see also Hobbes, II 35, 39; and Spinoza (II, 83)
- Rousseau: animals should be entitled to decent treatment (II, 135)
- Rousseau: the first code of justice was arrived at through the recognition of ownership (II, 136) -- but this wasn’t necessarily a good thing (II, 137)
- Rousseau: slavery is absurd and meaningless (II, 139, 142)
- Mill: wifes should have the same rights as husbands (III, 83, 87)


- Socrates/Plato: democracy (as in unrestrained rule of majority) is worst form of government (I, 32, 35)
- Aristotle: the family is the basic unit of government (I, 95)
- Aristotle: democracy is a perversion of constitutional government (I, 99)
- Aristotle: in an ideal society, the middle class is predominant, with few rich or poor people (I, 100)
- Aristotle: a State’s purpose is to provide its people with food, arts, arms, revenue, religion, law and justice (I, 102)
- Aristotle: education should be public (I, 107)
- Lucretius: society originated when men got tired of living by brute force and exchanged a limitation on their actions for security (I, 153)
- Hobbes: government arises out of a social contract in which men enter in order to escape the brutish state of nature (II, 36, 42)
- Spinoza: since one man cannot assist every needy person, care of the poor should be the responsibility of society as a whole (II, 82, 86)
- Locke: the point of government is to protect the life, property, and well-being of its citizens (II, 111)
- Locke: “the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom” (II, 112)
- Montesquieu: political authority ought to be divided into legislative, executive and judicial (II, 120)
- Montesquieu: democracies are threatened by both too much inequality and too much equality (II, 121, 124)
- Rousseau: the family represents the first model of a political society (II, 139)
- Rousseau: sovereign power cannot exceed the law (II, 140)
- Rousseau: “the social state is advantageous to men only when all have something and none too much” (II, 142)
- Hegel: international law must regulate interactions among states (III, 48)
- Mill: protection is needed against society’s tendency to suppress individuality (III, 81, 84)


- Socrates/Plato: possible through logical alone (deduction, rationalism: I, 37)
- Socrates/Plato: relativism is foolish (I, 38)
- Socrates/Plato: we understand things by dissecting them into their component parts (I, 39)
- Aristotle: men have a desire to know (I, 118)
- Aristotle: the world exists independently of our perception (I, 126)
- Lucretius: life is likely to exist on other worlds (I, 147)
- Lucretius: the soul perishes with out body (I, 147, 151)
- Lucretius: fantastic creatures never existed because they violate principles of logic (I, 148, 153)
- Lucretius: the world had a beginning and will have an end (I, 153)
- Lucretius: the power of religion comes from ignorance of how things are (I, 154)
- Plotinus: knowledge has to be able to determine action, or it is useless (I, 180)
- Bacon: learning tames the beast in man and defends against the temptations of idleness and pleasure ... Unlike other pleasures, knowledge cannot be sated (II, 24)
- Bacon: induction ought to replace deduction (Aristotle) in science (II, 29)
- Bacon: more widespread writing is crucial to the advancement of science (II, 31)
- Hobbes: true abd false are attributes of speech, not of things (II, 34, 38)
- Descartes: reading good books is like conversing with noble men of the past who offer their best thoughts (II, 49, 51)
- Descartes: the method to knowledge includes radical doubt, subdivision of problems in smaller parts that can be addressed separately (reductionism), and orderly proceeding from simple to complex issues (II, 52, 56-57)
- Spinoza: mathematics forces us to think logically, and thinking logically releases us from the web of superstition spun by pagan high priests (II, 67)
- Spinoza: the laws and rules of nature are everywhere and always the same (uniformitarianism) (II, 77)
- Locke: knowledge can be intuitive, rational (arrived at through rigorous logic), or a matter of judgment (probabilistic, based on evidence) (II, 105, 110)
- Berkeley: things perceived with our senses may be images of the mind, so we cannot be sure of the true nature of anything (II, 116, 118) -- however, this is meant to stress the limits of the human mind, not to question the reality of nature (II, 117, 118)
- Hume: two sources of information for the mind: ideas and sensory impressions (II, 128)
- Hume: all reasoning on matters of fact are based on the perceived relation of cause and effect (II, 130)
- Hume: no human testimony can ever prove a miracle (II, 131)
- Hume: just reasoning depends on moderate skepticism (II, 132)
- Kant: sensory impression gives us knowledge a posteriori; while intuition and reason give us knowledge a priori (III, 3)
- Kant: awareness of time and space are a priori (not from sensory perception), and constitute indispensable frames of reference to make sense of the world (III, 4, 6)
- Mill: no restriction should be put on what is written or published (III, 82, 86)
- James: reasoning requires breaking a subject into parts and selecting those that will most likely lead to a successful conclusion (III, 104, 109)
- James: we have other inborn untuitions other than space and time (see Kant), e.g., cold, heat, pleasure, pain, color, sound (III, 117, 118)

Posted by pking
Apr. 12, 2004