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What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Nagel
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Should the hard questions of philosophy matter to ordinary people? In this down-to-earth, nonhistorical guide, Thomas Nagel, the distinguished author of Mortal Questions and The View From Nowhere, brings philosophical problems to life, revealing in vivid, accessible prose why they have continued to fascinate and baffle thinkers across the centuries.
Arguing that the best way to learn about philosophy is to tackle its problems head-on, Nagel turns to some of the most important questions we can ask about ourselves. Do we really have free will? Why should we be moral? What is the relation between our minds and our brains? Is there life after death? How should we feel about death? In a universe so vast, billions of light years across, can anything we do with our lives really matter? And does it matter if it doesn't matter? These are perennial questions we ask about the human condition, and Nagel probes them, and others like them, thoughtfully, clearly, and with humor. He states his own opinions freely but with refreshing modesty, always leaving it open to readers to entertain other solutions, encouraging them to think for themselves.
Nagel is eminently qualified to introduce the uninitiated to the world of philosophical inquiry. Singled out by the Chicago Literary Review as "one of the sharpest analytic philosophers in America today," he has been praised in the New York Times Book Review for writing "sensitively and elegantly" and in the Times Literary Supplement for his ability, rare among philosophers, to combine "profundity with clarity and simplicity of expression."
Never rarefied, What Does It All Mean? opens our eyes to a side of the world we rarely consider, demonstrating that philosophy is no empty study but an indispensable key to understanding our lives. It challenges us to think hard and clearly, to ask questions, to try out ideas and raise possible objections to them--in short, to become philosophers ourselves.

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Review

'If someone confronts you with the problem "Get me an introduction to philosophy and I have only one evening free to read it", I can recommend Thomas Nagel's introduction. If for the umpteemth time you are asked "What is philosophy all about", tell him or her to read this book... how would you go about explaining the complex relation between a determinisic world-view and the free will problem? Thomas Nagel shows how it can be done and quite impressively so.'Philosophica

'His style is clear and free of technical terms, and the book should appeal to those who know little or nothing of the discipline.' Library Journal

'Mr Nagel is well known among academic philosophers for bringng the clarity and rigor of analytic philosophy to such "large" philosophical questions.' Roger Kimball,

'The author is blessed with an ability rare in his discipline to combine rigour with good humour, and variety of approach with simplicity of expression. The most welcome thing about the book is that it presents the core questions of philosophy to the beginner without the deterrent baggage of names and -isms.' Anne McElvoy, The Times

'I don't know how many will find their way into philosophy via Nagel's Very Short Introduction, but it will be enough fully to justify the efforts of everyone involved.' Times Literary Supplement

'His style is deceptively simple, concealing the profundity of the thought, and is luminously clear. His chatty, easy way of writing goes with a rigorous logic of argument ... Nagel has given us an admirable challenge to what the Greeks called 'the unexamined life'.' Cogito

About the Author

Thomas Nagel is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. His previous books are The View From Nowhere, Mortal Questions and The Possibility of Altruism.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 153 KB
  • Print Length: 114 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195052161
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (15 Oct. 1987)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00524YROY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,696 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I came across this book while revising for my Philosophy Finals at Oxford and wished I'd known about it 3 years earlier!
Nagel tackles nine major philosophical issues using a succint, accurate and accessible style. His discussions inevitably dovetail towards his understanding of the problem under consideration (which prompts his solution) but this is due to the very essence of philosophical discourse - to define and outline the problem accurately is often more contentious than analysing or 'solving' it! Nagel lays open these major philosophical problems with great skill. A newcomer to philosophy may well find the question 'What can we know?' ridiculous but after reading Nagel's chapter (which, as he says, is suitable for the intelligent high school pupil upwards) on the subject he should begin to appreciate the grave difficulties posed by such a query.
The best thing about this book is that, unlike many other introductions to the subject, it is a book written by one of the most respected philosopher's of our time and its text consists of philosophising in its own right - it does not just give a potted history of Western philosophy as the majority do, yet it remains easily accessible and comprehendible. (Both types of text are useful but I have come across few books with this focus.)
This book is ideal for anyone, from A level student upwards, who wants to know a bit more about philosophy and is an excellent preparation and companion for anyone about to begin studying the subject. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Philosophical Apperatif 6 July 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Nagel is well known for the clarity of his thought and writing. This small book is an excellent read for someone with little knowledge of philosophy. The topics are broad and interesting yet, by the end, you will be much closer to knowing whether you find philosophy interesting as a subject.

This book is well suited to its target audience: people with little experience of philosophy who would like to explore some very interesting ideas - and to see if philosophy is suited to them.

If you have already studied philosophy you will almost certainly find this a little too basic. If so, pick another of Nagel's books (he is a truly great and interesting thinker).
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and interesting read 29 Nov. 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have tried a number of books on philosophy which are suppose to "ease" the reader into philosophy but of all the books i`v read this is the most easy to use. I find myself going back to it again,and again. The author seem to genuinly want you to find philosophy interesting, and, it works ! I cant reccommend this book enought , the only down side is that the author leads you to his conclusions , but for someone like me, who is just starting out in philosophy this book is a godsent, and one i will return to again , and again .
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Its not often that you can find an "Introduction to Philosophy" that isn't a) dull as dishwater or b) impossibly crpytic or c) both.
This book doesn't try to tackle all of the fundamentals of philsophy but merely takes a look at a few issues, studies them and gives a little insight into the kind of logic abnd reasoning behind philosophical argument.
If your thinking about "getting into" philosophy - at whatever level - this book is certainly worth a look.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it! 11 Sept. 2008
Format:Paperback
Just finished reading this book. I think it's great for beginners in philosophy as it isnt too complex. It's really easy to read and to understand where Nagel is coming from. He doesnt waffle on too much like some other philosophers. I'd recommend this book to people with no philosophical background, even teenagers as it isnt too academic. This book really gets you thinking about the issues raised in the book. Overall, it's an easy read and I'd thoroughly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives a good overview 6 Aug. 2010
Format:Paperback
If you want a gentle introduction to Philosophy, try this. It doesn't bamboozle you with lots of jargon but simply and concisely provides a good overview. I read it and then wanted to find out more - it encouraged me to delve a bit deeper. A keeper.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The small size of this book belies its value as an introduction to some basic issues of philosophy. How do we know anything?, Why should we be moral?, and other such questions are pondered. I was a little disappointed in the brevity of this work (hence only a four-crown rating) but this is still an invaluable purchase for the new/amateur philosopher!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting 21 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a very interesting book. I don't study philosophy but I found myself wishing I had! It brings questions to mind which I have never really thought about asking. It is all written simply and illustrates its points with interesting scenarios. I think my only criticism with this book is the fact that the author reaches his own opinions on many of the different philosophies rather than guiding you into taking your own stance. It is easy to be guided and although Nagel maintains that that is not what he intends - having his conclusion at the end of most of the chapters makes HIS view all the more prominent in your mind.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
simple encouraging intro to mind bending subject
Published 1 month ago by karry
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
goods as described and delivered promptly
Published 1 month ago by g mcmillan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
I recommend this book to anyone showing any philosophical tendencies. It was on the list of 'books to read before you start the course' in my philosophy degree, and rightly... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Howard Y
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
After being recommended I found it a disappointing book.
Published 8 months ago by Lawrie Dunn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a must read.
Published 11 months ago by R. Jarvis
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent start to a road to understanding or questioning
Very easy to understand and thought provoking - a good start on my journey hopefully to a masters in medical ethics and the law
Published 12 months ago by kas
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
I got so much from this book. I never thought that I would like Philosophy - how wrong I was. I joined a local group some time ago and this book was recommended. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jane Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Purchase
The book was in good condition and meets the needs of the student for whom it was bought. recommended for students
Published 22 months ago by vanessa
4.0 out of 5 stars University Reading lists
A very expensive pre requisite. Did enjoy reading this book though, and gives me some understanding of the course work expected.
Published on 19 Jun. 2013 by sarahb
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to Philosophy
I really enjoyed this introduction to philosophy, and found it very easy to read. I'm a complete beginner at philosophy and know next to nothing about the subject, so the fact that... Read more
Published on 7 Jun. 2013 by Samuel Glover
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