Is it wrong to burn books?

Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:14 pm

Lt. Staplic wrote:
GrahamKennedy wrote:Let me put it this way. Suppose you took a random book you own and burned it right now. You don't even tell anybody else you've done it. Would you think that you had done a bad thing? Why?


I would feel bad yes, but no it wouldn't be an act of evil.

And that's exactly what I'm saying - that makes no sense. If doing it is not bad, why would you feel bad doing it? There's no reason to.

My argument is not and never has been "nobody thinks burning books is bad any more", nor is it "if you burn books there's no possible way anybody could be upset by it", nor "people who burn books usually do it for the sake of sunshine and puppies nowdays." My point is that there's no longer a reason for that particular symbol to have that particular meaning.

A kind of pseudo example I noticed in a movie the other day. Somebody said something "went up like a rocket," then paused and added "Time was, I would have said it went up like a balloon. Times change." A changing world made one phrase obsolete, but people didn't say "well so what, reality has nothing to do with it, the perception is that balloons go up fast so I'm going to keep saying that no matter what," right?

But then that scenario isn't what I'm talking about. There cannot be the context of society on an event you do purposefully in private to avoid such context.

Right, but the conclusion I take from that is that society should change it's views on the subject.

This is not to say that I think society will change it's views just because I tell it to, and society may not change it's views at all. But so what? Society has all sorts of attitudes that I think are wrong, and at the very least I'm always willing to point out that I disagree and say society should change. That's what I was getting at earlier... if you decide that you can't say "hey, this makes no sense" just because everybody thinks otherwise, you've given up on the very idea of individuals participating in and shaping society. Seems weird to me.

The nature of the symbolism is not for the person taking the action; it's for everyone else.

But we've agreed, so it seems to me, that everyone else is wrong. So let's tell them so! :)

What if you happenned to notice a plume of smoke coming from one of the local churches and upon investigation found that they were burning a pile of evolutionary biology books. Would you simply think, oh their having a good time and wanted to start a fire before it got too dark? Or would you see the symbolism of the action. Obviously they can't destroy the information on evolution; but the fact that they want to and are 'trying' has clear connotations around it.

As I said earlier, my thought would be : "Wow, what a pointless thing to do. These people are badly out of touch with what century they're in."

I wouldn't appreciate the thought behind their action, of course. But as I've said, that's nothing to do with it. I'm simply not addressing the idea that people don't like certain ideas and want them gone, it's a totally different argument. I'm talking merely about the symbol itself.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Lt. Staplic » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:16 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:A kind of pseudo example I noticed in a movie the other day. Somebody said something "went up like a rocket," then paused and added "Time was, I would have said it went up like a balloon. Times change." A changing world made one phrase obsolete, but people didn't say "well so what, reality has nothing to do with it, the perception is that balloons go up fast so I'm going to keep saying that no matter what," right?


I was going to post something about this in my first post, but didn't. Yes society changed, but that doesn't mean that going up like a balloon changed. Just that it was replaced. I have no doubt that before long the internet will be viewed as the foundation of storage of information instead of books, but even then I don't think that this symbol will loose it's meaning because short of destroying every computer and server on the planet, you CANT destroy the internet, so books will remain the physical symbol of knowledge.

GrahamKennedy wrote:And that's exactly what I'm saying - that makes no sense. If doing it is not bad, why would you feel bad doing it? There's no reason to.


My feeling bad actually doesn't relate directly to the topic at hand. I like books and if I burned it I'd be loosing the book which would make me sad. So it's not the symbolic action it's more the fact that i now don't have that book or would have to go buy it to have it again.

GrahamKennedy wrote:My point is that there's no longer a reason for that particular symbol to have that particular meaning.


To restate what I said above, I agree that books have been replaced as knowledge sources; however the internet and newer sources aren't physical. I can't go grab the internet and hold on to it like I can a book. So while the book may have been replaced as the actual source, and may to a degree be replaced as the symbolic source of information, i think it'll be a long time before the book is fully replaced as a symbol of knowledge and ideas simply because it's replacement is something that we can physically latch onto.

GrahamKennedy wrote:This is not to say that I think society will change it's views just because I tell it to, and society may not change it's views at all. But so what? Society has all sorts of attitudes that I think are wrong, and at the very least I'm always willing to point out that I disagree and say society should change. That's what I was getting at earlier... if you decide that you can't say "hey, this makes no sense" just because everybody thinks otherwise, you've given up on the very idea of individuals participating in and shaping society. Seems weird to me.


I agree that people have the ability to shape their society to a degree, but with symbolism in general it becomes much harder because symbols are fundamentally the personal interpretation. Just by no longer seeing book burning the same you are starting to change society; however to do what your saying and have the symbol rejected entirely would require that you alter everyone's perception of it.

People grow up learning of the historical significance of the act and therefore they attach that symbolic meaning to the act. The symbol becomes a societal symbol not because society tells the people that's what it is, but because the people collectively see it that way. the further in time you get from when Book burning had it's actual significance, less and less symbolic meaning will be put to the action, especially with a replacement object representing the book. That won't however change the symbolic meaning of the act, it'll just be that Society has moved beyond that symbol, just like we have moved beyond the balloon in your example.

GrahamKennedy wrote:I wouldn't appreciate the thought behind their action, of course. But as I've said, that's nothing to do with it. I'm simply not addressing the idea that people don't like certain ideas and want them gone, it's a totally different argument. I'm talking merely about the symbol itself.


But to talk about the symbol is to talk about the meaning behind it. That's all a symbol is is a physical representation of a non-physical idea. The physical burning of the books is a useless action, I agree, but the symbolic meaning of it is still understood and known.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:21 pm

Captain Seafort wrote:And? Continue on your way with a chuckle, no more.


Yes, because you, Seafort, are so very much the type to see something he thinks is wrong but to let it go without comment. :lol:

GrahamKennedy wrote:My point is that there's no longer a reason for that particular symbol to have that particular meaning.


Probably. But the fact that you don't see a reason for that symbol to have that meaning - rightly, probably - doesn't affect anything. The symbol does have that meaning, and will have that meaning, until the meaning evolves past that symbol unabetted and organically. Let's look at symbols that have changed as a reverse example:

In the year, say, 1580, if I showed one of your countrymen a fleur-de-lys he would greet it with a certain mixture of contempt, disgust, and hatred (as would a Frenchman to the leopards of England.) Show one to me now, and I think of the New Orleans Saints. This is not due to any conscious decision to dissociate the fleur-de-lys with France or to transfer its symbolism, but rather to a natural progression wherein time and tide have allowed the symbol to move past its original heraldic meaning. Back in 1580 England, there would be no way whatsoever to dissociate that blazon with France, even if France publicly declared its new device and totally divested itself of the fleur-de-lys.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:39 pm

Lt. Staplic wrote:Yes society changed, but that doesn't mean that going up like a balloon changed. Just that it was replaced. I have no doubt that before long the internet will be viewed as the foundation of storage of information instead of books, but even then I don't think that this symbol will loose it's meaning because short of destroying every computer and server on the planet, you CANT destroy the internet, so books will remain the physical symbol of knowledge.

I like to think that they could switch to some other symbol, which is my whole point here.

As an aside, I suspect that in time people will indeed adapt their thinking to the idea that you can't destroy knowledge at all. You'll still get people doing demonstrations aimed at saying an idea is wrong, but any kind of even symbolic attempt to destroy one will, I suspect, simply not occur to people. But that will take fifty, maybe a hundred or more years.

My feeling bad actually doesn't relate directly to the topic at hand.

Beg to differ. I started the topic, and our feelings about the action and whether it makes sense to feel that way are exactly what the topic is. I did try to make it as clear as I could...

If people want to talk about how awful the thinking behind the symbol is, that's entirely up to them, but it's certainly not what the OP was about, nor is it what I've been talking about at any point, since it seem to me that that falls under the category of "well, duh!"

I like books and if I burned it I'd be loosing the book which would make me sad. So it's not the symbolic action it's more the fact that i now don't have that book or would have to go buy it to have it again. To restate what I said above, I agree that books have been replaced as knowledge sources; however the internet and newer sources aren't physical. I can't go grab the internet and hold on to it like I can a book. So while the book may have been replaced as the actual source, and may to a degree be replaced as the symbolic source of information, i think it'll be a long time before the book is fully replaced as a symbol of knowledge and ideas simply because it's replacement is something that we can physically latch onto.

There are ereaders in the pipeline that look and act like books, which may change that, but I do take your point; books do have some value to at least some people in and of themselves simply as physical objects. But then that feeling shouldn't transfer to the kind of situation where other people are doing it as a protest, as you aren't losing anything there.

I agree that people have the ability to shape their society to a degree, but with symbolism in general it becomes much harder because symbols are fundamentally the personal interpretation. Just by no longer seeing book burning the same you are starting to change society; however to do what your saying and have the symbol rejected entirely would require that you alter everyone's perception of it.

Yes, I totally agree. But people's perceptions of things can be altered by dialogue and discussion. As I stated in the OP, my own perception was altered by taking part in a couple of discussions and then most prominently by watching a youtube video somebody made. Now I throw my altered perception out there for you to consider and accept or reject as you please, and so on. It's it great? :)

I wouldn't appreciate the thought behind their action, of course. But as I've said, that's nothing to do with it. I'm simply not addressing the idea that people don't like certain ideas and want them gone, it's a totally different argument. I'm talking merely about the symbol itself.


But to talk about the symbol is to talk about the meaning behind it. That's all a symbol is is a physical representation of a non-physical idea. The physical burning of the books is a useless action, I agree, but the symbolic meaning of it is still understood and known.[/quote]
My OP, pretty clearly as it seems to me, basically said "hey, somebody did this thing and I thought this way about it, but then the way I thought changed because of that... what do you think?" That's what I was talking about, how my perception had changed and whether or not people thought other people's perceptions may or should change also.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:57 pm

Mikey wrote:Ugh, I'm sorry for the triplicate post, but I'm trying to do this while wrangling a hurricane chasing after my son.

I will try to simplify what I've been trying to say. There are two possibilities regarding the meaning behind this discussion:

No, there aren't. There's at least a third, which is the one I actually talked about : Since that particular symbol doesn't have that particular meaning, let's stop using it and use something else instead.

#2 - We are really talking about a useful topic, that being the burning of books such as proposed by Jones or perpetrated by the Nazis or by the anti-thought lobbyists such as burned Salinger et. al. in the 50's. This case is for more worthy of discussion.

If you think that is worthy of discussion then feel free to discuss it. Personally I rather thought it was settled some decades ago that only assholes expressed that particular sentiment, case closed. But certainly, have at it if you think there's things to be said.

Nice way to change the goal posts. You referenced that situation, and the Qu'ran multiple times including in your hypothetical, in the OP.

Um, yes I did, so what? I referenced it as a way to point out that the symbol itself was now obsolete, nothing more, nothing less. That's why most of the OP talked about exactly why the symbolism is obsolete, including the words "The burning of books was increasingly symbolic, but now it's a totally empty symbol."

That's why the OP went on to say "(The Youtube guy's) point is partly that he's free to destroy whatever he likes, but also that in this age, such destruction doesn't actually accomplish anything."

The only thing I had to say about his intentions in the OP was "I expressed the view that whilst burning books is uncivilised and automatically makes a person an ass, he's free to do it and he's in no way responsible for what happened in Afghanistan afterwards.... I still believe that last part..."

If you took that and assumed that I must therefore mean that the symbol is irrelevant and the real discussion I was starting was about the stupid thinking that led him to do it, or the way people reacted to it... well okay, but I don't see how you read what I wrote and get that from it.

You and I do rather seem to suffer from communication failures, for some reason. It bothers me, because I do respect you as a smart guy and we don't seem to be able to talk about things sensibly. :(
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:10 pm

We can talk about many things sensibly. Just not the same thing at the same time. ;)

I must admit that I'm somewhat flummoxed by the rather slippery point of this whole thread if it's not about the heinous connotation behind book-burning. Is burning books, completely independent of any political or moral goal, a common occurrence in England?
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:17 pm

Mikey wrote:We can talk about many things sensibly. Just not the same thing at the same time. ;)

:D

I must admit that I'm somewhat flummoxed by the rather slippery point of this whole thread if it's not about the heinous connotation behind book-burning. Is burning books, completely independent of any political or moral goal, a common occurrence in England?

Soooo tempted to describe an England where that's true. Must.... resist....

My point is exactly what I said it was... honest...
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Lt. Staplic » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:51 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:I like to think that they could switch to some other symbol, which is my whole point here.

As an aside, I suspect that in time people will indeed adapt their thinking to the idea that you can't destroy knowledge at all. You'll still get people doing demonstrations aimed at saying an idea is wrong, but any kind of even symbolic attempt to destroy one will, I suspect, simply not occur to people. But that will take fifty, maybe a hundred or more years.


We are mostly in agreement here. The Internet is already starting to become the new symbol for what the book was; however because the internet isn't something physical, books will likely remain for a long time as at least a partial symbol. And yes eventually the idea of attempting to destroy information will have been moved to a derelict way of thinking and the symbology will no longer be used.

GrahamKennedy wrote:Beg to differ. I started the topic, and our feelings about the action and whether it makes sense to feel that way are exactly what the topic is. I did try to make it as clear as I could...

If people want to talk about how awful the thinking behind the symbol is, that's entirely up to them, but it's certainly not what the OP was about, nor is it what I've been talking about at any point, since it seem to me that that falls under the category of "well, duh!"here are ereaders in the pipeline that look and act like books, which may change that, but I do take your point; books do have some value to at least some people in and of themselves simply as physical objects. But then that feeling shouldn't transfer to the kind of situation where other people are doing it as a protest, as you aren't losing anything there.


yes, but my feelings about the book being burned were not so much about the loss of the information as the book itself. I don't have an ereader, and I attach a certain personal value to books anyway. So there is a fundamental difference between my feelings when I see one of my own books burning in a personal and private manner and when I see it done as a protest. In the former my sadness has to do with the physical loss of the book, even though I can get another, or an ebook. In the latter I find offense to the idea being expressed by the burning of the books, the physical losses of the books itself doesn't affect me as I know there are multiple hundreds of copies out there plus the internet, etc.

GrahamKennedy wrote:Yes, I totally agree. But people's perceptions of things can be altered by dialogue and discussion. As I stated in the OP, my own perception was altered by taking part in a couple of discussions and then most prominently by watching a youtube video somebody made. Now I throw my altered perception out there for you to consider and accept or reject as you please, and so on. It's it great? :)


Yes it is, and this method is the way that eventually it may get done, likely there will be more and more people in future generations that have this revelation plus those that have it taught to them to eventually change society. This can take different times for different things. For example it was probably within a decade or two of rockets becoming fairly common house-hold ideas that it replaced the balloon. I contend that the non-physical nature of the internet will mean that the association with the Book will remain much longer.

I think mostly we've been focusing on this line:

The burning of books was increasingly symbolic, but now it's a totally empty symbol.


Which I would say isn't true, Burning of books is a hollow action definately, but the symbolism it invokes is still very present and strong.

In conclusion, I agree the physical action of burning a book is really not a big deal. If you ignore the personal loss from some personal value associated with the books then burning a book is no different than burning a set of doodling paper. Symbolically however Burning books is still a very strong and present. It's because of this Symbolic meaning that the physical actions of burning books, no matter how truly inconsequential the action really is, won't be viewed by society at large as a inconsequential action.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 10, 2011 9:05 pm

That's the point I had been trying to make. When I hear of someone burning books, I don't mourn the loss of the books themselves; rather, I'm offended and angered by the intent of the burner, which is really the meaning behind the symbol.
GrahamKennedy wrote:Soooo tempted to describe an England where that's true. Must.... resist....


Yes, I can almost picture the rolling countryside, dotted by picturesque thorps where the sky above the tiled cottages is hazy from the evening smoke of stoves and hearts fuelled by hardcovers... young boys sent to the cellars to bring back shuttles full of Dickens and Stevenson to feed the fires for the night...
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Tsukiyumi » Sun Apr 10, 2011 10:35 pm

Lt. Staplic wrote:yes, but my feelings about the book being burned were not so much about the loss of the information as the book itself. I don't have an ereader, and I attach a certain personal value to books anyway. So there is a fundamental difference between my feelings when I see one of my own books burning in a personal and private manner and when I see it done as a protest. In the former my sadness has to do with the physical loss of the book, even though I can get another, or an ebook. In the latter I find offense to the idea being expressed by the burning of the books, the physical losses of the books itself doesn't affect me as I know there are multiple hundreds of copies out there plus the internet, etc.


^This.

I might own an ereader at some point, but I still value books for the simple fact that they don't require electricity.

People take readily available power for granted way too often.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:05 pm

I'd love an iPad, but financially things are not great for me right now, and steadily getting worse.

There's talk of "electronic paper", displays so thin and flexible that you could make an ebook with real pages that you could flip over... only touch a menu and the writing changes into a different book. No idea how far off it is, though.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:10 pm

GrahamKennedy wrote:I'd love an iPad, but financially things are not great for me right now, and steadily getting worse.

There's talk of "electronic paper", displays so thin and flexible that you could make an ebook with real pages that you could flip over... only touch a menu and the writing changes into a different book. No idea how far off it is, though.


I've read about that too, but I think it's about as far away from practicality as are plasma windows - they exist, but are at least a few years from even testing for anything useful in the real world.

I'm in the same boat - I'd love some sort of tablet... but it would just be for the "neat-o" factor, and my situation is such that I can't justify that expenditure on a toy. I could use something, though, because my bookshelves or sagging, busted, and every other kind of overflowing. There is still, though, something viscerally satisfying in browsing down a laden bookshelf and feeling the heft of a book... I couldn't imagine ever reading Cicero or Seneca, for example, in anything other than my old rough-cut glue-back editions.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:20 pm

One thing regarding books... I had anticipated better finances, so I went looking around for some ebooks to download so I'd have some for my iPad. And I must say, in the space of a couple of weeks I had found literally a couple of thousand of the things available. It's pretty easy to find places offering the entire catalogue of big name writers. It's not even much of a download as text files are so tiny. Just in the space of a week or so I could easily have more ebooks than I've ever had as paper, and more than I could read in a lifetime. We've all become so blase about walking around with ten thousand songs in our pocket, yet it seems so weird to me that I could put ten thousand books on my iPhone, easily. :shock:
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:25 pm

One definitely can't argue with the convenience of e-books, either in obtaining them or in storing them. Like I said, I either need a house with a dedicated library (or two) or eventually give in and get something - e-reader, tablet, or whatever. But... call me anachronistic, yet I still like holding a real book.
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Re: Is it wrong to burn books?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:22 am

I'm in two minds actually. The tactile experience can be nicer than holding a bit of plastic and glass, but then some books I've had have spines so stiff that it's hard to hold them comfortably with the pages flat, and if you force it you crack the spine and damage the book, have pages start falling out. I've had books that I have read to destruction, had them literally falling apart in my hand. And hardback books especially can be heavy... I've got a trilogy in large format hardback that are like 800 pages each, and the things weigh a ton. Not comfy to lie in bed and hold one up for an hour.

I've handled an iPad, but not for any great length of time. I wonder how holding it for a couple of hours would feel.
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