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The Ego Trick [Paperback]

Julian Baggini
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Mar 2011
Are you still the person who lived 15, 10 or five years ago? 15, 10 or five minutes ago? Can you plan for your retirement if the you of 30 years hence is in some sense a different person? What and who is the real you? Does it remain constant over time and place, or is it something much more fragmented and fluid? Is it known to you, or are you as much a mystery to yourself as others are to you?With his usual wit,infectious curiosity and bracing scepticism, Julian Baggini sets out to answer these fundamental and unsettling questions.His fascinating quest draws on the history of philosophy, but also anthropology, sociology, psychology and neurology;he talks to theologians, priests, allegedly reincarnated Lamas , and delves into real-life cases of lost memory, personality disorders and personal transformation; and, candidly and engagingly, he describes his own experiences.After reading The Ego Trick, you will never see yourself in the same way again.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (3 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847081924
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847081926
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 15 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 356,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


'An arrestingly readable exploration of our elusive sense of self. Read it, and you won't be the same again' --John Gray, author of Straw Dogs

`Baggini's study of how identity is defined is lucid and backed by a wealth of anecdote'

`Baggini dismantles the idea that we have a `true' self. You won't see yourself the same way after reading this' --Stylist

`Baggini mashes up philosophy with psychology, Buddhism, and neuroscience ... with some entertaining reflections on medical immortality, and "free will"' --Guardian

'While leaving the ego in pieces, he gives your mind a thorough workout'
--Intelligent Life

`Entertaining, educative and gracefully written ... One of the most stimulating introductions about this intriguing topic. Enjoy, and profit.'
--AC Grayling, Financial Times

About the Author

Julian Baggini is the editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Do You Think What You Think YouThink? (with Jeremy Stangroom), What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, the bestselling The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, and Do They Think You're Stupid?, all published by Granta Books.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
By Bill
Format:Kindle Edition
Baggini clearly and engagingly convinced me my strong sense of self or "I" is simply a bundle of components in my brain and body interacting with the environment that change continuously throughout life. It is a joy to read his subtle arguments that feel common sense, and that you always knew them to be true. He interviews philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, Buddhists, Belle de Jour and a transgendered woman that add colour and richness to his arguments. Despite not being a self help book, his view of self as a bundle brings real consolation when he discusses death.

For Baggini philosophy is not "transformative englightment, but simply better understanding". However, sometimes this goes too far and his crushing logic picks on some easy targets. For example, he teases Buddhists about re-incarnation (that he admits is a later addition and not from the Buddha) and over-commercialisation (electric prayer wheel anyone?). Yet when his logical firepower aims at the core insights of Buddhism he misses the target. He dismisses the key Buddhist insight that attachment or grasping leads to suffering by saying we must attach to something. So his attachment to his girlfriend would be "pathological" by Buddhist standards. This is a crude interpretation that does not reflect the transformations of the self that can arise from meditation such as increased compassion and ability to read emotions. For a richer exploration of Buddhist insights and the overlap with neuroscience I really enjoyed Daniel Goleman's Destructive Emotions.

I would have liked Baggini to explore Buddhism more practically (perhaps try meditation himself?
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BAGGINI'S BEST BUNDLE OF THOUGHTS YET! 21 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a 'must read' for anyone who has ever wondered who they really are!

Julian Baggini adds rigour and readability to what could easily be a dry and confusing subject. Having said that the first half of the book is devoted to what the self 'obviously' isn't and is perhaps overlong, but then things start to hot up.

The author makes a convincing case for his theory that '"I" is a verb dressed as a noun.' It is not a 'thing' but what brains and bodies `do'.

So is self 'just an illusion'? No:

The self is really a 'bundle' of thoughts not a hard fixed 'pearl', but it is still 'real', just not what we generally assume it to be.

The self as 'no-thing' can't be destroyed by death but this doesn't mean it survives it! In as far as the self is real it will end in death! This is even less comforting than the often used non-dualist idea of 'how can something that was never born die?' But this isn't about comfort of course, neither is Stephen Batchelor's (Buddhist) idea that there is nothing (no-self) beyond the veil of appearances - all is impermanent and contingent. There is no 'transcendent' self.

Christine Korsgaard's theory of 'self-creation' is examined next: the sense in which the self is created from what is chosen and enacted. We are responsible because we are 'agents' and we 'are what we do'. This sounds very like existentialism to me. We are nothing beyond what we do and are condemned to freedom since we must do something.

This 'living without a soul' is explored further: according to Susan Blackmore bundle theory lends itself to determinism rather than free-will. This is quite convincingly explained.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By Sphex
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Those of us not entirely unsympathetic to the philosophical enterprise should be reassured by this memorable image, in itself almost all the recommendation this fascinating book needs. Julian Baggini is a practitioner who has evidently managed to retain, despite constant professional exposure to the writings of countless Great Minds, both a sense of humour and a healthy regard for human foibles and the fallibility of philosophers. That this book is both readable and comprehensible by ordinary mortals is no slight on Baggini's philosophical credentials. His intellect is sharper than most, and his verdicts on the self are delivered with a surprising degree of certitude. "The solidity of self is an illusion; the self itself is not. The Ego Trick is not to persuade us that we exist when we do not, but to make us believe we are more substantial and enduring than we really are."

Baggini's surefooted conclusions are of course a million miles away from dogmatic assertion. As far as I can tell, they rely on the best available evidence and emerge from sound arguments. This is all the more impressive given that, as well as the usual background research, he has talked to all kinds of people with all kinds of views, ranging from the common sense to the frankly eccentric. He quotes from many of these interviews, and comments according to the principle of charity (a phrase I first came across in a talk given by Baggini). That said, if the best sense falls short, he pulls no punches ("Swinburne's commitment to the truth seems to be genuine, whatever his ability to arrive at it").

"On the question of whether we are physical beings or not, the case should be closed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ego
Some parts are rather wordy but some of the philosophy references are worthwhile- a dip in book rather than a straight beginning to end read
Published 4 months ago by Jad Berrington
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Really good book, changed my view of myself, I recommend it for everyone interested in philosophy. Especially philosophy of mind, memory, consciousness etc.
Published 4 months ago by Stefan Moravcik
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, Well written
I enjoyed this book very much. It is a difficult subject which stretches across several disciplines and traditions and the author has succeeded in bringing the most important... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Johan Badenhorst
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
I enjoyed reading this book, it forced me to think about my own conception of the self and to develop these thoughts. Read more
Published 14 months ago by David Lundqvist
3.0 out of 5 stars accessible and well written
well written, easy to read and very accessible arguments, with references to interesting anecdotes and case studies. Read more
Published 20 months ago by verity
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but depressing
This is a readable and well argued introduction to philosophy of mind. Baggini dismisses notions of the soul, aligns with the 'bundle' theory of the self, finds accounts of... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Dr. Ian H. Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Pedroza
This is a fascinating book .It brings together (much it seemed to me up to date ) work on neuropathology and tries to answer the question, 'who is the "I" reading this? Read more
Published on 4 Sep 2012 by Pedroza
1.0 out of 5 stars Not about the ego
The author makes no distinction between ego and self, in fact he scarcely uses the word "ego". I suppose "The Ego Trick" sounds catcher than "The Self Trick" and it certainly... Read more
Published on 25 April 2012 by Mark Evelyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Birthday present
This was bought as a birthday present for my Daughter. She had it on her Amazon wish list so I know it was what she wanted, she loves it
Published on 23 April 2012 by Patricia Shepherd
5.0 out of 5 stars Popular philosophy with depth
If you've ever wondered about what the self is, then The Ego Trick is an accessible and thorough introduction. Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2011 by James Bradbury
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