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Philosophy: The Latest Answers to the Oldest Questions by [Fearn, Nicholas]
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Philosophy: The Latest Answers to the Oldest Questions Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product Description

Review

Nicholas Fearn makes philosophy both entertaining and intelligible - no small achievement! -- Roy Porter

About the Author

Nicholas Fearn, a philosophy graduate from King's College, London, is the author of Zeno and the Tortoise, which was translated into 20 languages. He has written regularly for a range of publications including the Spectator, the New Statesman, the Financial Times and the Economist. He lives in London.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 694 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Oct. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002ROKQRE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #857,531 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. My philosophy knowledge was limited to the main ideas of a few philosophers, but I didn’t really know whether they had been discredited or where they stood in the whole picture. This book takes a fundamental philosophical question and assesses the various solutions that have been proposed over time, from the ancient Greeks to the very latest thoughts of philosophers around the world. It is entertainingly written and flows smoothly through the debates. The author describes interviews that he had with various philosophers so you get a feel for the sense of humour, camaraderie and competitiveness among the current players. I’d long been looking for a book that would tell me just what philosophy has achieved, and this did the job – the answer is quite a lot. It’s a perfect starting place for someone looking for a readable and impartial overview of the cutting edge of philosophy.
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Format: Hardcover
Fearn joins the ranks of writers attempting to bridge "Established" notions of what constitutes "Western" thought and the new views challenging tradition. Although he's not the first to attempt this synthesis, his organisation and style place him among the leaders of such effort. With gentle precision, Fearn places the advocates in carefully constructed arenas. The book's three sections, "Who am I?", "What do I know?" and "What should I do?" provide the framework for his presentation. Within these arenas, the author introduces the reader to various thinkers through summations of their views. He adds a nice personal touch where he can in relating attributes gleaned through personal interviews. He must be very charming [or bears a charmed life], since he manages personal conversations with many major figures in philosophy. Not all of them are amenable to the "journalistic" approach.

Given the potentially hazardous mix of considered thought and off-hand expression, this book comes off admirably. After some introductory material on how earlier thinkers viewed the "self", Fearn tries to show how views have changed - and why. He has no qualms about "hard questions", since he opens with the debate over how the human mind and computers can be compared. Jerry Fodor's "computational theory of mind" is given a good airing, but, as usual, the model is a bit overdrawn. Equating the mind too closely with a machine has led to questions ranging from brain "transplants" to the plausibility of "Star Trek's" transporter. Fearn, in his contact with Daniel Dennett, might have been set straight on this point, but he seems to have failed to ask the proper questions.

Fearn fares better in the second section, "What do I know?" The inevitable opening, "Is life merely an illusion" doesn't keep him long.
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Format: Paperback
This book, published in 2005, attempts to give the intelligent non-specialist an overview of philosophy in the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The author is a philosophy graduate, but a journalist and writer rather than a professional philosopher. He approached his task by interviewing as many eminent living philosophers as possible, and his thumbnail portraits of these people help to make the book lively and approachable. The reader is never allowed to lose sight of the fact that philosophy is an activity conducted by living people.

Nonetheless, as the endorsements by Raymond Tallis and Hilary Putnam would imply, the subject is treated seriously. Fearn divides his book into three sections: 'Who Am I?', 'What Do I Know?' and 'What Should I Do?' Each of the thirteen chapters under these broad headings then tackles a single topic - 'The problem of the self', 'Innate ideas', 'Moral luck' and so on - and draws on the work of one or more current practitioners to show how things stand at present.

Fearn doesn't have much time for continental philosophy; the bare half-chapter devoted to postmodernism is dismissive. Nor does he care much for Peter Singer's utilitarianism and the fashionable animal rights agenda to which it gave birth. The focus is squarely on the Anglo-American tradition. However, Fearn avoids off-putting technical discussions of minutiae. His concern is to show how contemporary philosophers in this tradition still attempt to offer substantive answers to large, serious questions of the kind associated with the idea of 'doing philosophy' in the past.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is in three parts: "Who Am I?", "What Do I Know?" and "What Should I Do?" These parts correspond to philosophical conundrums about consciousness, epistemology and morality, respectively. Fearn's method is to interview contemporary philosophers on these subjects and to compare and contrast their views while referring to the views of philosophers of the past.

In the first part Fearn tackles the problem of the self, free will, artificial intelligence, and the dualism of body and soul. The modern consensus, as I understand it, is that the self (as the Buddha taught) is a delusion in flux that the evolutionary mechanism has found useful for instilling in creatures such as ourselves; that free will is an illusion we can't help but believe; that artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence (but that may take longer than previously thought); and that the soul is pure information. For the most part Fearn's presentation of views and his comments are more or less in line with my understanding.

"Does the idea never thought exist?" would be my variant on Bishop Berkeley's old query about the tree in the forest. My answer goes to the heart of the next part of Fearn's book which concerns what we know, how we know it, and how much confidence in that knowledge we can have. I lie awake nights wondering where the idea never thought is. It's not on the ether wind and not in God's mind. WHERE is it? I refuse to believe that it doesn't exist.

Or is all of human knowledge merely a gigantic social construction (as the postmodernists would have it) forever distant from true knowledge? Clearly Fearn is not a postmodernist since he mostly diminishes this idea.
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