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What's it All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life Paperback – 7 Jul 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (7 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862077800
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862077805
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 1.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 176,409 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.

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Review

‘A practical but charming exploration… It’s witty, it’s engaging and it’s easy to pack: perfect beach reading for the disaffected’ -- The Observer

‘Baggini makes philosophy not only mind- stretching but also entertaining’ -- Publishing News

About the Author

Julian Baggini is the editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. He writes regularly for the Guardian, Independent and Independent on Sunday, Prospect and the TES, and has appeared on Nightwaves and In Our Time. He is the author of Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines (OUP) and Atheism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Simon Laub on 23 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
According to Jean-Paul Sartre: ''Purpose and meaning are not built in to human life, we ourselves are responsible for fashioning our own purposes. It is not that life has no meaning, but that it has no predetermined meaning.''

Which to many might ring a bit hollow: ''Ok, we can't see any meaning out there, so we are just going to make one up for ourselves....'' Really, is a made-up meaning a real meaning at all?

Yes, according to Baggini, assigned purposes are not inferior to predetermined purposes! He thinks that we should ''grow up'' and accept that there is not some hidden or secret purpose that we have not yet discovered.
Instead, our decision making should be based on what is out in the open for everyone to see: ''The whole problem of lifes meaning is not that we lack any particular piece of secret information ... It is rather to be solved by thinking about the issues on which the evidence remains silent....''

So what could life's purpose then be? Some might claim that life is all about having a good material standard of living or becoming successful someday in the future. Others claim that life is about helping others, serving humanity, being happy, enjoying each day or freeing the mind. According to Baggini there might be some truth in these answers - but not the whole truth.
The rest of the book (an entertaining and thought provoking journey) walks us through some of these ideas that people have (on lifes purpose). Trying not to be dogmatic, he doesn't reject anything completely, but does point out weak spots in a lot of the reasoning. In the end the reader should decide for himself, as long as he makes a ''Moral'' and ''Ethical'' choice....

In the end the reader should not think that he will really ever be any wiser.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Michael Murauer on 7 Nov 2005
Format: Hardcover
With this book Julian Baggini continues to qualify himself as a contemporary successor of Bertrand Russell. In a clear and entertaining prose he shows us the contribution philosophy and philosophers can make, if we look for the meaning of (our personal) life. Baggini blows metaphysical fog away but doesn't oversimplify. Let me mention especially chapter 4 "Here to help", where he discusses the proper place altruism may have in a meaningful life. "If the meaning of life is to help others, then only those doing the helping can lead meaningful lifes. The people being helped are thus mere instruments to the end of giving purpose to the altruists." (p. 65) Baggini doesn't deny the importance of altruism but emphasizes that altruism makes sense in defending values which go beyond itself. "Becoming a contender" (chapter 7) is an extraordinary good read too. Here Baggini follows more or less the old bumper sticker saying "Life's a mountain not a beach" but pleads for not choosing a mountain of exaggerated height in relation to your personal capacities. "To raise a happy family, or live your life pursuing your passion, no matter which recognition you get, should be seen as a success." (p. 123) That's a good example for the overall line of differentiated common sense the book follows. In criticizing the promises of ideological and religious beliefs (see especially chapter 9 "Lose your self") there is also a strong democratic and egalitarian commitment in the book: you don't need (or even more: beware of) any guru or esoteric knowledge to find the meaning of your life - just look and struggle yourself.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Bill on 5 May 2005
Format: Hardcover
What a powerful book. Baggini dissects all the thoughts and ideas we might hold about what life means to us: "Seize the Day!", religious belief, transcendence through meditation. Each idea is thoroughly examined with great clarity and dispensed with as being the meaning of life.
I won't ruin the conclusion of the book for you but it is both human and convincing, placing greater responsibility on you.
If you like the style of Alain de Botton's popular philosophy books (e.g. Status Anxiety) this is similarly clear and readable but far more persuasive and tightly argued.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. Horberry on 4 April 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think the negative reviewers are being harsh. Of course the author doesn't come to a neat conclusion - hardly likely given the subject. And of course it isn't a technical treatise on philosophy - hardly relevant given the audience. Instead this book offers a highly readable, highly informative account of what might, possibly, constitute a good life, drawn from across the whole subject of philosophy. I thought it was all very illuminating.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Nov 2004
Format: Hardcover
Baggini has written a small book on a huge subject.I dread to think how much money I have spent over the years on books about "the meaning of life" that have turned out to be new agey/semi-religious wiffle waffle - leaving me confused and anxious.This book is easily understood, precise and comforting, offering ideas about life that are balanced and practical. Baggini recognises our differences and imperfections and without judgement uses philosophy to help us out. I recommend that everyone buys a copy. Immediately. Thankyou Mr Baggini.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 25 Dec 2013
Format: Paperback
I really loved reading this book. It takes the reader gently through most of the important ideas connected to the practice of philosophy, using language that is never opaque or too difficult for the general reader. It is an egalitarian, humanist book, by which I mean it does not dictate, it merely questions, and offers possible answers, to some of the thorny issues that one must confront in order to engage with the problem of life's meaning. Why are we here? Who are we? Where are we going and why? It answered many questions by asking more questions, but it gave, to my mind, a thorough and satisfactory conclusion. Among other things, I learned that it is not that life has no meaning, but that it has no predetermined meaning.

This book offers an accessible guide, unprescriptive, scrupulously clear whilst encompassing the subtlety of the ideas it discusses. It is both serious and personal in it's scope and is probably the best introduction for anyone who has questioned human existence on this planet. It won't answer every question, of course, but there is nothing here to put off someone who has never yet read a book of philosophy. This book not only talks about philosophy, it shows how it is done. It's a marvel.
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