13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I'm not one to grumble, but ...,
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This review is from: Complaint: From Minor Moans to Principled Protests (Big Ideas) (Paperback)
The concept is fine: a Malcolm Gladwell-style pop-science look at the psychology and social history of complaint would have made for a fascinating little book.
But Julian Baggini's short entry - very short: it is done and dusted in 130 pages - is neither focussed or organised enough to pull that off. It reads more like a loosely-themed ramble through a field of the author's favourite hobby horses.
Baggini describes himself as a "philosopher" - every man's right, I suppose - but it does imply some sort of tenured academic role, whereas the most I can extract from a quick Google is that he has a PhD in philosophy and has fashioned for himself a role as a public commentator of sorts on matters ethical and metaphysical. However good his philosophical credentials, they don't qualify him especially well to write a pop-science book on complaint: you'd think a psychologist, psychiatrist or sociologist might be better equipped for that.
Nor, having read his offering, does he appear to have much of substance to say. In 130 parsimoniously entexted pages he manages to distract himself from the subject at hand on a number of occasions, wandering off piste into tangential ruminations on what appear (from his other writings) to be pet subjects - particularly religion and atheism. Elsewhere he doesn't really fashion much of an argument: there's a cursory attempt to categorise types of complaint and a half-hearted reader survey from which Baggini draws half-hearted conclusions, but he doesn't really have anything to say other than "complaint has its place, and isn't all bad".
Some respectable commentators have found value in his book, however: Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times, for whom I have a great deal of respect, raved about it (and on that recommendation I bought it), so perhaps it just caught me on a bad day.
But all the same, I can't see this one tipping The Tipping Point out of the bestseller list anytime soon.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Dec 2010 09:06:23 GMT
I think his Ph.D. and book writing suffices to make him a philosopher. Why should he have to be in a university? Because I have a strong interest in the middle ages, I call myself a medievalist, and I only have a BA and no academic job.
In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2010 09:28:42 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
Like I say, "every man's right" to describe himself as a philosopher.
And, like I say, "However good his philosophical credentials, they don't qualify him especially well to write a pop-science book on complaint: you'd think a psychologist, psychiatrist or sociologist might be better equipped for that."
In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jan 2011 10:44:38 GMT
You don't need any credentials to write books. Are only people who teach Creative Writing allowed to write novels? Are only people who studied Music at college allowed to make pop music. Whether people buy and read Julian Baggini's books is up to them. He fills the same hole of popularizer of Philosophy as does Matt Ridley in science. Ridley is one of the best and clearest writers on science, despite the fact that he isn't a scientist himself.
I can't help thinking you're a bit of an academic snob, though I do take your point that the fact that I sing in the bath doesn't make me a singer.
In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jan 2011 12:50:49 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
I don't object to him (or anyone) writing books - though I wish he'd written a better one - I object to him calling himself a "philosopher", with the implied appeal to authority that brings (so au contraire on the academic snobbery point). If he was just some guy writing a book, no-one would read it. Because it isn't very good.
Ridley may be an excellent science writer (though somewhat in the thrall of Richard Dawkins, I dare say), but that doesn't make Julian Baggini one.
End of day, this is a poor book.
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