Customer Review

4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A deep disappointment, 1 April 2000
By A Customer
It's quite a feat to make philosophy accessible to the lay person, let alone a child - and Law has had a brave attempt, but ultimately, he fails because he concentrates on a side of philosophy that no one cares about - the pursuit of abstract, quasi-mathematical truths. People are interested in philosophy because it promises them wisdom, rather than a mathematical equation. You'd be better off buying Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 May 2008 15:34:50 BDT
You'll need to justify this comment! Looking at the chapter list there appears to little on 'quasi-mathematical truths' and a lot on 'what people care about'. Like: should you eat meat? Is there a God? What's right and what's wrong? So how does he fail to provide arguments for 'what people care about'?

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2008 00:47:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Dec 2008 00:56:54 GMT
A. Slater says:
haha, I don't know for sure but this sounds like the rearing of the ugly head of a silly divide that's dogged philosophy for about 100 years...

There's two schools of modern Western philosophy. There's 'analytic' philosophy, which is mainly British and American, and is all about taking familiar things, analysing them in great detail, breaking them down, and seeing what stands up to scrutiny. Law and the chapters of this book are rather heavily from this school - all about knowledge, certainty, basic principles and questions of fact and proof. It's good, interesting stuff, and there's loads to get your teeth into, but it can sometimes seem needlessly dry and 'quasi mathematical' - think bumbly stuffy people in cardigans talking logic.

The other school (which includes Alain de Botton) is 'Continental' philosophy, which is mostly European, and is all about creatively coming up with ideas, reading between the lines and putting things together to create ways of making sense of life. It tends to tackle questions more to do with how a person is to best understand their place in the world. It's good, interesting stuff, and there's loads to get your teeth into, but it can sometimes seem a bit wet, emotional and pretentious - think intense chain-smokers in tight black sweaters staring into their coffee.

Of course, in an ideal world, there'd be no split and the two sides would talk to each other. Questions like 'Is there a God?' would be discussed analytically, and then there'd be a discussion on what different answers could mean for how to make sense of your life. There'd be contentental style questions like "Who's really an individual in a society? Are you?" or "When you think inside the box, where did the box come from?" in books like this, and they'd be tackled with the same strict analytical vigour as "Can you jump in the same river twice?". Sadly, for that world to be possible, bumbly stuffy people in cardigans would have to voluntarily talk logic with intense chain-smokers in black cardigans who'd have to stop staring into their coffee. Not going to happen.

If you're interested, there's a little good discussion of this problem, plus some summaries of some of the best of both schools and of the happy days before cardigans and chain-smoking were invented in "Confessions Of A Philosopher" by Bryan Magee.

Basically, this book sticks to roughly a third of modern philosophy. There's plenty there to be getting on with, all about nature, knowledge, and fact, so if you're expecting any Continental-style stuff about society, power and meaning (or Eastern-style stuff about karma, balance and spirituality), you'll probably be dissappointed.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2012 10:46:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jan 2012 10:47:01 GMT
JoboG says:
Great comment A. Slater. The way you explain things makes it really accessible. I'd read a book on philosophy written by you, if you ever thought about writing one.
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