The First Book: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and it's all small stuff. by Richard Carlson, PhD. is about not worrying about everything so much. In the introduction, Carlson says that people are often too worried about things they cannot control, which is true, and they need to stop worrying so much. He points out that some people worry themselves into inaction, which will prevent accomplishing anything. His point is that people should not worry, and he cites a few examples of successful people he knows who are not high stress individuals. While not worrying so much is a good idea in general, saying that ambitious people should never worry is obscene. These people become successful because they take care of details, and that frequently involves stressing about the small stuff. As a low key type of person, I still have to disagree with Dr. Carlson. There are times when people should stress. The whole book is filled with short high school-style 5 paragraph essays about why people shouldn't stress in a variety of situations, and 2 of the first 3 I read were simply inane. I stopped reading this book partly because it is poorly written, but mainly because the whole premise is asinine. Stress in proper proportions can elevate achievement and increase success. Knowing when stress is important is the key, not completely eliminating stress. I couldn't read anymore, and I don't intend to.
The Second Book: Fear of Knowledge by Paul Boghossian is a philosophical treatise on relativism and constructionism. I was interested because I have wondered many times about the concept of ethical and intellectual relativism. Included in this are a number of seminars recently about when and how to perform medical research in third world countries. Protections for the rights of the subjects need to incorporate both the norms of the community and the norms of the country hosting the research, but there are a lot of grey areas in those protections when the norms of the two countries directly clash. In reading the introduction, Boghossian sets up the definitions, as all good philosophers do, and the book is well written and thoughtful. However, I have serious doubts about whether I am interested n completing the book. I don't mind the philosophical nature of the book, but I do not see how it could persuade a constructionist that they are wrong. Defining how constructionist theory fails is the goal of the book, so it must be written in a persuasive manner. However, based on the definitions given, the book has no chance of succeeding. This is entirely due to the definition of constructionism given. Constructionsim says that facts are different based on the background and goals of the observer, and they can be influenced by beliefs and goals. The main example given is the belief of the Zulu nation that man emerged from a volcano to populate Africa. In reading this book, a constructionist would rightly point out the Boghossian has a career to advance which is partly based on his nonconstructinist views. Also, as a philosopher, he has an interest in defending the nonconstructionist view since philosophy in general objects to the precepts it is founded on. Thus, while the argument he presents in the book could be very persuasive and generally valid, a constructionism could define a situation in which the reasoning would be taken in a different tack and come up with the opposite conclusion. Why should I read a book that I know will fail to be convincing to the opposing party?
I will probably finish the second book because I can learn about the arguments from both sides, and it should only take about 90 minutes to complete. The first book will never be read again.