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In 1959, C. P. Snow published a book with the title The Two Cultures. In it he observed that intellectuals fall into two groups: On the one side the humanities, on the other side the (natural) sciences. In the 1930s academics from the humanities camp had begun to label themselves “intellectuals”, implying that academics from the other camp were not really intellectuals. This usage of the term excluded scientists like the astronomer Edwin Hubble, the mathematician John von Neumann, the cyberneticist Norbert Wiener, or the physicists Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. In the second edition of The Two Cultures, Snow added a new essay, The Two Cultures: A Second Look, in which he optimistically predicted that a new intellectual culture – a “Third Culture” – would emerge and that a productive dialogue would bridge the gulf between the humanities and the sciences. Unfortunately, this ideal never came fully to fruition. Scientists, instead of collaborating with the humanities academics, began to communicate directly with the wider public.

Whereas academics from the humanities camp traditionally communicated to the broad public via journalists, today’s Third Culture tends to forego the journalistic detour and tries to express its thoughts in such a way that an educated audience can understand them directly. Simplifying, publishing and communicating ideas are nowadays essential tasks of an intellectual. Knowledge shouldn’t merely be accumulated, new ideas should also shape and enrich the thinking of society as a whole. The success of popular science books in the last years has surprised intellectuals of the old school. They believe that such books constitute an anomaly – the books may sell well, but they lack cultural impact and are not widely read. But they are mistaken. The rise of an active Third Culture shows that there is a great deal of interest in discussing philosophical, scientific and pioneering ideas. In the following books and videos some of the most renowned scientists and philosophers present crucial considerations and arguments of this kind.

Books

Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene

Peter Singer
Practical Ethics

Michael Schmidt-Salomon
Manifesto of Evolutionary Humanism

Nick Bostrom
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Joshua Greene
Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

Peter Singer
The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty

Keith Stanovich
The Robot’s Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin

Julian Savulescu & Nick Bostrom
Human Enhancement

Daniel Dennett
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion

Steven Pinker
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Thomas Metzinger
The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the
Self

Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Steven Pinker
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Stephen Law
The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking

 

Videos

  1. Peter Singer: The why and how of effective altruism
  2. Richard Dawkins: Why evolution?
  3. Daniel Kahneman: Thinking fast and slow
  4. Joshua Greene: Moral tribes
  5. Julia Galef: Rationality and the future
  6. Nick Bostrom: Superintelligence
  7. Peter Singer & Richard Dawkins: Animal rights and vegetarianism
  8. Julian Savulescu: Pills that improve morality
  9. Esther Duflo: Social experiments to fight poverty
  10. Richard Dawkins: The god delusion
  11. Steven Pinker: Human nature and the blank slate
  12. Daniel Dennett: Darwin’s dangerous idea
  13. Molly Crockett: Drugs and morals
  14. Cass Sunstein: Nudge
  15. Thomas Metzinger: The transparent avatar in your brain
  16. Steven Pinker: The history of violence

 

Peter Singer: The why and how of effective altruism

Richard Dawkins: Why evolution?

Daniel Kahneman: Thinking fast and slow

Joshua Greene: Moral tribes

Julia Galef: Rationality and the future

Nick Bostrom: Superintelligence

Peter Singer & Richard Dawkins: Animal rights and vegetarianism

Julian Savulescu: Pills that improve morality

Esther Duflo: Social experiments to fight poverty

Richard Dawkins: The god delusion

Steven Pinker: Human nature and the blank slate

Daniel Dennett: Darwin’s dangerous idea

Molly Crockett: Drugs and morals

Cass Sunstein: Nudge

Thomas Metzinger: The transparent avatar in your brain

Steven Pinker: The history of violence

Websites