The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking Hardcover – 3 Mar 2003
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Stephen Law's new book The Philosophy Gym: 25 Exercises in Philosophical Thinking contains 25 short, free-standing chapters each dealing with a different philosophical question and explaining key positions and arguments along the way. Law is editor of the philosophy journal Think and author of the popular children/adult introduction to philosophy The Philosophy Files.
What makes this set of philosophical exercises different from, and better than, other books of its kind is Law's inspired decision to adopt a variety of different styles. There are philosophical stories, thought experiments, illustrations, "thinking tools" designed to explain key ideas and, most interesting of all, is Law's use of dialogues. For instance in his chapter "Can a Machine Think" he relates an imaginary conversation between Kimberly Courahan and her state-of-the-art robot (Emit) in the year 2100.
Designed to replicate the outward behaviour of a human being down to the last detail (except for being more obedient and compliant) Emit responds to questions in much the same way as humans do. Ask him how he feels and he will say he has had a tough day, has a slight headache, is sorry that he broke that vase and so on. Is he thinking and feeling? Could a machine think? Where, if anywhere, can we locate the human/machine barrier? These questions are fully explored during the course of a deeply engaging, and very funny conversation between mistress Kimberley and her robot servant.
It's the dialogues supplemented by the philosophical stories, thought experiments and other diverting and educative strategies that make the book stand head and shoulders above others in the same genre. The topics range from designer babies, time-travel, consciousness, morality, relativism, the supernatural, the existence of God, the origins of the universe, paradoxes and many more. The chapters, ranging in difficulty from fairly easy to the more challenging, can be dipped into at random. Law himself describes the book as "a course in thinking philosophically". It is certainly that but it is Law's overall approach that makes it highly informative, constantly stimulating and, above all, great fun. --Larry Brown
It is in bridging the world of the practical and the cerebral that he delivers in style (Metro (Scotland))
Offers lively distillations of great philosophical debates', 'It's as clear and brisk as a philosophy book could be', 'As thought-provoking reading for the red-eye brigade, and just about anyone else, The Philosophy Gym certainly beats Who Moved My Cheese? (Independent on Sunday)
Law's book is an admirable introduction to a range of philosophical paradoxes (The Times)
[readers will] 'emerge lean, keen and absolutely glowing with intellectual health'
'Not just a good-humoured guide to some of the crucial dilemmas of our time, The Philosophy Gym offers an irresistibly easy-going introduction to the fundamentals of philosophical thought'
As an introduction to clear thinking, it's terrific....occasionally it does us a great deal of good to think things out from first principles. The Philosophy Gym will be a vivid, enlightening, and amusing companion in this process (Philip Pullman) See all Product description
Top customer reviews
What I particularly liked about this book is that it'll quickly lead you to a conclusion and then it will push your thinking a bit further, so you realise that it's not so simple. In this way, you can easily identify the flaws in thinking that got you to that earlier point. Its short chapters are excellent for people who want to dip in and out - for example I found it particular good book for reading on the trip to work. It also has an informal style so you really can easly relate and understand the scenario in question.
The book covers a wide range of areas and like previous reviewers I would agree it a excellent place for anyone who's interested in trying to understand the big issues we all struggle with. The author appears to have little or no agenda to it i.e. it's does not use emotive or persausive language and does not bias one conclusion over another, letting you make up your own mind on these often contensious issues. However the language and process used is very clear and I often agreed with the author's conclusions.
If you want to discover more the book suggests further reading at the end of each chapter - which again is an excellent.
I've never studied philosophy in a formal way, but have had discussions with some good friends who have and I love doing so. However I often felt out of my depth in certain areas and this book has helped me greatly clarify my thinking.
I'm on Amazon to buy this book again, because I have just lost my copy. Hopefully the person who took it is appreciating it as much as I did!
He also writes in a non-technical manner, free of jargon, which makes the arguments easy to follow. At the end you will have a basic grasp of some of the most vexing philosophical questions that have bedeviled generations of thinkers. You will understand why creationism is not a science and why you shouldn't believe tales of miracles. Some conundrums will however lead up dead ends - the famous `brain in the vat' theory crops up here - which cast doubt as to the author's declared intention to make philosophy relevant to everyday dilemmas. Some thorny issues in ethics - such as abortion - are not discussed. Issues in political philosophy - such as distributive justice - are not discussed at all. For these reasons this text cannot serve as a comprehensive introduction but then one can't include everything.
For those of you interested in the process of philosophical reasoning, but unwilling to invest too much time and energy in ploughing through the entire philosophical canon to become acquainted with the basic concepts, this book is an ideal place to start
For those of us who dont have time to sit down and ponder the un-abridged works of the great philosphers but want to exercise our mind, this book is a perfect refresher or starter
i have continued to read Stephen Law's books and i find them fascinating and extrodinary. i loved it, well done Dr Law
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