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What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy Paperback – 18 May 1989

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; New edition (18 May 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195174372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195174373
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Thomas Nagel is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University.

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This book is a brief introduction to philosophy for people who don't know the first thing about the subject. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Jan. 2000
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 By S. J. Hulbert on 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 By A Customer on 29 Nov. 1999
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 By Damian Johnson on 15 May 2000
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 By Queen Bee on 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 By woolly-minded on 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 on 31 July 1999
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 By A Customer on 21 Jan. 1999
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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