1. hilal
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    hilal Active Member

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    Self help books

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by hilal, Mar 5, 2016.

    Should we really have a category titled self help books. Aren't all books self help. I think they are.
     
  2. Seeker of the unknown
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    Seeker of the unknown Member

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    I am not sure if this is a serious question, but I will answer as it was.

    It is true, any book can serve as a self-help guide, but not all books are primarily directed at it. Self-help here is understood in mostly psychological terms. It tries to give you advices on how to organize your life or increase motivation. It is hard to think about such benefits of reading a chemistry book.

    In a similar fashion you might ask whether we really need a non-fiction category of books? After all, every book is fiction, because - strickly speaking - it is just encoding of mental representations of a particular mind.
     
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  3. hilal
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    hilal Active Member

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    I agree with your point that every book is fiction, as they say there are 3 versions of the truth, yours, theirs and the truth.

    On the subject of chemistry books, all I can say is that the reader may not feel motivated after reading a chem text book. But chemistry is present in books on how to lose weight. Then again it's because of chemistry we are having this conversation.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think, as @Seeker of the unknown said, it depends on the focus of the book. A lot of books have romance in them, but they're not classified as "Romance" unless that is the primary focus of the novel. Likewise, while all books may provide something of value to a reader, not all of them are specifically targeted at self-help in a given area (psychological or what have you).
     
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  5. hilal
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    hilal Active Member

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    True, true. There is always to learn something from a book.
     
  6. Seeker of the unknown
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    Seeker of the unknown Member

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    Absolutely right. But to me it is not an argument for your thesis. It does not prove that all books can be categorized as self-help books. This only says that knowledge from any discipline can be presented in different ways: like, for instance, chemistry in a book about diet and losing calories.

    Now, in a chemistry book, I believe knowledge is not presented in a self-help manner. Rather, it is presented such as to provide you with an overall better grasp on matters of chemistry as a scientific discipline. Of course if someone is intelligent and motivated enough, then he can learn something from the book that will help him personally. But this will occur on indirect channels. He will have to digest and reshape the information properly to harness a lesson directed at "self-help".

    Then again it's because Roman Empire fell we are having this conversation. Does knowledge of this fact helps me anyhow in leading my day to day life? Not really.
     
  7. hilal
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    hilal Active Member

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    It doesn't have to. Or maybe it does on some other level that you and I are not aware of. Just like the doctor who becomes aware of the illness by looking at the symptoms. Over here we don't know were to look. Then again questions like these have been posed in stories like a sound of thunder.

    I believe knowledge whether presented as 'self help' or whatever genera there is at the end of the day helps you no matter what you call it. Self help is rather a superfluous term. I learn more than by reading Nat Geo than reading a so called self help book. Obviously Nat Geo doesn't market itself as a self help genera.

    Also I believe no book can motivate you. You motivate your self, I have not heard that there is a book out there that will motivate you to read a self help book so that you can be motivated. I hope this makes sense.

    You are motivated yourself(I don't wan't to take this into the realm of freewill) what ever the causes maybe. So reading a 'self help' book may improve your vocabulary, your take on life but I don't think it can really motivate a person. This is my belief, after all the saying goes that you can't make a horse drink.Though I can make a horse thirsty :)

     
  8. Seeker of the unknown
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    Seeker of the unknown Member

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    If we are assuming that any book is a self-help book, then, based on this assumption, it should help. My point was that not all knowledge is useful, especially in the context of self-help. I would avoid speculating, because otherwise this discussion might end in proposing ever more bizzare assumptions, leading to nowhere.

    I partly agree with you. Of course many so called "self-help" books are worthless, and of course you can learn a lot reading Nat Geo, Gone with the Wind, chemistry coursebook, or any other book for that matter. The problem is that it all depends on you: on your insights, reflections, and analyses. It seems to me that you your line of arguing is based on one inherently fallacious assumption: that you understand words ( at least in the case of "self-help ) literally, and as having rigid definitional boundaries. By that you forget about the context and their inherent quality to change in meaning over time.

    Let me make couple of important points here:

    1. If you want to equate self-help with any kind of help, at the same time taking the meaning of the second term to extreme, then yes, not only any book, but even any event, any sensation, turns out to be helpful. Why? Because it gives you information, and any information, can prove to be helpful. The fact that I spotted a squirrel while walking in the park might be helpful, because its brown fur reminded me that I have to buy brown paint to use it on my walls.
    2. On the other hand, when you exactly state the goal of the help, knowledge might prove to be exactly opposite. It could occur to be harmful. Lets say you went to a restaurant. You ordered a pasta with spinach and salmon in cream sauce. It was delicious and you leave the restaurant happy, eager to come back soon. In reality though, only on this particular day, they had a different cook, who hates people, and to punish them, always adds something unappetizing. This time he added a week-spoiled fish and a special "sauce" of his own production. Now, if you have discovered it immediately after the dish, you would had started feeling all sorts of negative emotions. Perhaps, as a consequence of nocebo, you would become sick, and definitely you would never ever visit this restaurant again. Ignorance is bliss.
    3. Words have many meanings. The context is what leads to the final meaning of the word, or, as I would say, to the final, most narrow, frames of possible interpretations. Self-help is a just another category of books, which is directed stricly at the psychogolical and personal sense of the word "help". Those kinds of books serve to help you build your discipline, organize your life, make plans, and grow your willpower. You can disagree with their effectiveness, and I absolutely respect that, but I think it is not necessary to argue againts the title of the category.

    I don't know why you started saying that books can't motivate you, because I didn't say otherwise. Probably, if I mused over it for a while, I would agree with you. I only said that if you yourself are motivated enough, then you can harness self-help knowledge from ( almost ) any book :).
     
  9. hilal
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    hilal Active Member

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    This fact may not help in your day to day life but it does prove your point and thus it has helped you :)

    This is what debating usually leads to. I still laugh at sayings like these 'that all philosophy is running around in a circle trying to disprove yourself.' Okay that's not a perfect quote! Give an old man a break :).


    This is something that philosophers like Wittgenstein and his contemporaries have talked about. So it is not something I thought of while taking the bus home.

    This is a wonderful point that you have made because to know is to suffer. The more you know the more you suffer. Not only does one need to suffer in order to know, collage anyone? But once you know something it usually does give you pain.

    You stole the words from my mind! Hahaha.
     
  10. Seeker of the unknown
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    Seeker of the unknown Member

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    I guess you are right about debating. But then, I believe that it is good to assume a degree of speculation that can be used within a specific debate, depending on the contextual factors :).

    I love to speculate and come up with all sorts of seemingly absurd ideas myself, but sometimes I prefer to draw a line beyond which we don't go with questioning and imaginative inventions.

    I think we both agree on that practically any book can teach you something, and therefore help in your life. There are hundreds of books, from philosophical, through scientifc, up to novels, that will teach you way more than any so called "self-help" book.

    I think we also agree on that how much you will learn depends mostly on you.

    The only thing we perhaps still differ in is the title of the category "self-help". For me its only a label which describes a certain set of books which are directly and stricly concerned with helping you, where the latter word is understood in narrow psychological sense.
     
  11. hilal
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    hilal Active Member

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    right and right
     

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