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Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines [Hardcover]

Julian Baggini
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Sep 2002
Making Sense examines the philosophical issues and disputes that lie behind the news headlines of the day. We read about what is happening in the world, but how do we know what the truth is, or whether there is one 'truth' at all? A president has his private sexual affairs discussed and analysed by everyone, but is the private life of anyone the proper moral concern of others? A war against terrorism is declared, but what justifies the use of armed forces with its inevitable loss of life? Making Sense draws out these philosophical disputes and shows how we can use the techniques of philosophy and the insights of its greatest practitioners to understand the issues behind the headlines better. It explains the proper role of philosophy in this respect, showing both the limits and the reach of philosophical analysis of current affairs. It also argues that applying philosophy to news stories can and should inform our wider understanding; what we know, believe and value. A philosophically informed reading of the news creates a two-way process where philosophy sheds light on the news and the news, thus illuminated, sheds light on our philosophy. The book covers themes such as war, truth, morality, the environment, religious faith, the ending of life and the meaning of value. It examines such news stories as the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the war against terrorism, the siege at Waco, the genetically modified foods debate and advances in human therapeutic cloning. The discussions interweave philosophy and current affairs to create a compelling narrative that challenges how we make sense both of the world around us and of our own beliefs.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803399
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 15 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 933,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Julian Baggini's books include The Ego Trick, Welcome to Everytown, What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life and The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, all published by Granta Books. He writes for several newspapers and magazines and is co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine.

Product Description

Amazon Review

There are numerous good introductory books on philosophy but Julian Baggini's Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines is of immediate practical benefit because it takes important, emotive headline news stories as its subject matter. Baggini identifies the relevant and significant philosophical themes behind the headlines and shows how the press frequently neglect critical philosophical questions and distinctions in their presentation of serious news items.

The book begins by clarifying exactly what is meant by "philosophy" before explaining how it relates to the real-world concerns of the news media. Of the 10 chapters several analyse arguments around issues of immediate and pressing importance such as those used to justify war or those used to promote or attack the introduction of GMO foods. Other topics include the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, the status of science and the trustworthiness of scientists, abortion, euthanasia and the nature of the self as well as the process of valuation concerning the relative worth of public projects such as the Tate Modern and the Millennium Dome. In a chapter discussing the Waco siege and the Branch Davidians, religious believers are challenged to distinguish between dangerously irrational cults and any kind of religious faith. Throughout the book philosophical concepts such as "rights", "freedom", and "equality" are examined and techniques of philosophical analysis are brought to bear only in so far as they shed light upon the topics under discussion.

Baggini has an enviably clear, accessible and jargon-free style but what's most valuable about Making Sense is that it urges us not only to habitually examine the arguments found in the major news stories, but also to pay special attention to our own argumentative strategies in order to uncover our own unexamined prejudices. --Larry Brown


Interweaves philosophy and current affairs to create a compelling narrative that challenges how we make sense both of the world around us and of our own beliefs.

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In 2001 Britain and America went to war. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem 30 April 2003
By A Customer
I have found this book to be both an excellent read and a genuinely useful tool in cutting through the muddled thinking that most of us suffer from when considering world events.
Rather than make overt moral judgements, the author instead invites us to use the discipline of philosophical analysis to look at our opinions on current affairs and better understand what we really think and why we feel it. It if sounds burdensome, rest assured - it's not. A highly enjoyable read.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Julian Baggini, editor of The Philosopher's Magazine, has written a wonderful contribution, for the layman. One that enables us to easily understand, from a practical standpoint, the central issues of modern philosophy. This is a very well written and readable book. It dwells with the concepts and meaning of war, morality, faith, truth, amongst other, from a philosopher's perspective. At the same time, the author clearly teaches how everybody can utilize the techniques of the philosophers in order to better grasp the meaning of the issues that invade the mind of the human being in these confuse times. Who should read this book ? Anybody concerned about the problems we find reflected and discussed in the media everyday. Drugs, science, nature, moral relativism are discussed in a manner that truly reflects the effort made by the author to dismiss the "nonsense talked about the relationship between philosophy and the concerns of real life" (Introduction) . So, if you are after a fresh approach to the relationship between philosophy and the central issues of our society, this is a book you would not want to overlook.......(As reviewed by Luciano Lupini)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I read this book over a year and a half ago and every now and then I still think about some of the points the author made. Most of the contents of the book felt brand new to me and left quite an impression.

In this book the author looks at some headlines in the mass media and makes the reader rethink what by now seem implied truths by methodically thinking through each one. The best chapters are about the morality of war, GM foods and ethics (positive and negative freedoms, i.e. 'freedom from' and 'freedom to') and made me think particularly hard, if only because I had to dig deep to understand why I disagreed with the author in some cases - I had a strong gut reaction against some of the points, but then if the book is meant to make you think hard, then it matters little if you reach different conclusions.

The book is extremely well written and definitely not dull. You will most surely enjoy reading this just for the pleasure of it.
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