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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This may appeal to fans of this author, 21 July 2012
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This review is from: The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics (Paperback)
Although I dont believe it will to the general reader, the author is without a doubt a very smart, very intellectual individual and it comes across in the book but they came across to me as being pretty myopic in their outlook. Their major interests, its plainly evident, are maths, physics and economics of which they have some mastery but which, I would hazard to say, is not as great as many of the other authors they mention in passing or who have books on the market such as Hawkins.

While the other books by the author are economics, there is only really a single, very short (a couple of pages), chapter really dedicated to that theme in this book and it deals with the efficacy of economic models. This was much like the other times this author has dealt with the themes of economics, nothing new or particularly striking or original. The rest of the book is mainly reminiscence, topical discussion or disputes, particularly with Dawkins, and underpinned by the authors interest in mathematics and physics.

Some of this was intriguing or revealing, for instance the quite literal interpretation of "fire exit" which left the author so perturbed in the nursery school that he was unable to walk about the building as the other children did, believing that to do so would be to risk incineration. I sort of thought that some of this content, and some asides about time spent discussing topics within student or academic circles, was interesting, it made me think about what motivated what followed in this book and had been a feature in others.

However, there is not much besides to recommend this book, and I really suspect that this is not enough to recommend a book at all by itself. The other chapters are characterised by the discussion or disputation of topics, such as Dawkin's response to intelligent design in the God Delusion, the outline of the arguments is incomplete and most of the responses the author makes are disappointingly incomplete also. There is a lot of assumed knowledge, also assumed agreement or assent, on the part of the reader too. All of which left me thinking that someone could have collected the e-mails or posts and counter posts of participants on a high brow online forum and the result would be much the same.

In the final instance this could be a subjective judgement, unlike the author I dont believe that philosophy and life is reduceable to his pet themes of physics, economics and math, but I do believe that, irrespective of the beliefs being affirmed, there is something entirely disappointing in reading someone who is so obviously intelligent in some ways and yet has an unenquiring mind in many respects. The book has a contents page, bibliography and references and is structured with the use of subheadings, there are figurative or illustrative supports to the written narrative too throughout. The narrative style and pace is fine, a little more conversational or communicative than other books of this kind.
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