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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 28 September 2000
By Aliosho Archer-Diana ... International School of Toulouse
The Philosophy Files is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking books that I have ever read. It also manages to be very funny and amusing at the same time. In his introduction the author clearly explains exactly what philosophical questions are and that it is his intention to pose questions in order to get the reader to think and figure out the answers for himself rather than presenting ready-made answers. I would say that this is exactly what he manages to achieve.
This is a book that challenges and stimulates. It is divided into eight chapters or files, each one of which covers a different and separate topic. This means that you can delve in at any point that appeals to you at any particular time. The author discusses important philosophical questions such as does God exist, how do we know the world is not one big dream, what makes us ourselves rather then someone else and where does morality come from. He presents us with many different arguments that are often put forward and he argues his own point of view to support or discount commonly held theories. However, as he emphasises in his introduction "the important thing in philosophy is to think for yourself," which means that we are free to disagree with him if we wish and to make up our own minds.
The author uses different techniques to introduce and develop his arguments and theories. He invents characters and personalities and tells us fun stories to illustrate the points he wants to make. For example, in the file about eating meat, he tells us the story of Errol the explorer who was eaten by some cannibals because he could not find sufficiently sound reasons to explain why it would be morally wrong for them to kill and eat him while he himself considered it to be perfectly alright to kill and eat other animals. In the end Errol is barbequed and eaten and the cannibals enjoy some 'After eights' they find in his rucksack whilst sitting around the fire chatting. This is one of my favourite parts of the book and in fact I found myself disagreeing with his cannibal argument. I thought it was not such a valid theory because it is quite rare for any animals to prey on their own species there is a difference between animals eating their own species and relying on eating other species in the food chain. Nevertheless it was a very thought provoking idea and handled in a very amusing way.
The stories are lively and colourful, full of humour and fun. The illustrations throughout the book add a further funny and whimsical dimension. In fact the illustrations by Daniel Postgate are in my view, a major contribution to the success of the book.
The language is up-to-date and modern and the author manages to present difficult theories in a style which is clear, easy to understand and amusing without simplifying things or diluting the philosophical ideas too much or talking down to the reader.
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on 8 August 2002
An absolute masterpiece of a book. When reviews say ‘a must read’ then it usually means the book is good and that is why the reviewer is reccommending it, but this book is a lot better than good, and ‘a must read’ is a degrade of it. It deserves a much more profound and bigger compliment, more like ‘you gotta gotta gotta buy this book’ or ‘an absolute superb non fiction book - best ever’.
Dont let the word philosophy put you off. This book is fully comprehendable to anyone from young teenagers (and even younger if you give it a good stab) up to the worlds oldest person (whoever that is.) It is a superb introduction to the huge and daunting field of philosophy but Stephen Law breaks it down into little pieces, puts it on a plate so it is easy for you to use the information and by the end of the book you will know about Plato and other famous philosophers and also you’ll be debating with yourself about wheteher we are real or not and other big questions that have puzzled philosophers for centuries whatever position you started out at. Also it gives you some great arguing tips that can help win you any kind of intellectual debate with your friends.
The only disadvantage about this book is that it is not very academic - you couldn’t get a degree in this subject just by reading this book time and time again, yet Stephen Law didnt mean for this - otherwise you would find yourself with a massively heavy text book full of language that is absolut gobeldigook, yet once you have read this book (as it explains some jargon in the glossary at the back of the book) any big text book that gives the word philosophy its daunting reputation you will find will be a lot easier to handle and take in than if you just jumped into the deep end straight away, so, as I said, this is a brilliant and fun introduction to philosophy and it certainly got me interested.
The book is divided into eight ‘files’, or different philosophical questions. These are, Should I eat meat?, How do I know the world isn’t virtual?, Where am I?, What’s real? (containing Plato’s ‘forms’), Can I jump in the same river twice?, Where do right and wrong come from?, What is the mind? and Does God Exist? Each file is set out usually with a story to explain a different situation and provide a point for arguing. Each argument is set out first by explaining each others position and argument points and then by putting them into action by putting an argument on the page. This helps you see both sides of the argument and then helps you make up your own mind about what you think. This must have been very hard for Stephen Law as he would have had to see both sides of the argument and put them on paper regardless of what side he was on.
This is a superb book and if you have read this far I hope you have been pursuaded to buy it.
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on 16 November 2002
I found this in a friend's bookcase, and at first laughed when they recommended it, thinking it to be 'just a kid's book.' But having read it this morning, I am just amazed at how Law puts some of the most complex concepts in philosophy so simply, particularly the chapters on philosophy of mind and the existence of God. If only all my uni texts were as accessible and enjoyable as this work!
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on 5 April 2004
This book is great for teens aged 10 and up.
This book concentrates on the big question like who created the universe? and if god did who created god and who created the thing that created god and so on. I give it five stars and all kinds with big imaginations should read this
It keeps you reading
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on 23 November 2001
I love it!
What a joy to find such a thought-provoker in such an accessible format.
Simple but powerful language with fun, extremely relevant illustrations.
I enjoyed Blackburn's "Think" and de Boutton's "The Consolations of Philosophy", but compared to this little book they are rather dry and dull.
Can't wait for volume 2.
Enjoy
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on 10 October 2001
The quality of the reviews already received bears witness to the civilizing influence of this timely book. At first I thought that it would be the sort of worthy, well-intentioned Child's Introduction to Philosophy that one lobs half-heartedly in the direction of a preternaturally 'Gifted Child', and washes one's own hands of pronto with relief. But I found it wholly gripping, and so do my pupils. This does for philosophy what Terry Deary has done for history. Any reader with a more-or-less still functioning brain and the ability to grapple with 'the nature of reality' or 'the meaning of life' will love it. Highly recommended!
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on 4 February 2001
The "interactive" presentation of ideas in this book with its funny and imaginative illustrations of fundamental philosophical dilemmas has proved the perfect book to rekindle my eleven year old son's interest in reading. He wants more philsophy now!
Children have so many books from school in which they have to work through things in set orders and in which they are told what to think & what to believe that this book comes as a breath of fresh air. The author invites the reader to dip into the files at random and make up his/her own mind about everything. I'm sure that this lack of "lecturing" is a big part of what made this book stand out as special for my child.
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on 12 September 2001
This is a brilliant book which makes philosophical argument readily accessible for anyone in an amusing and entertaining style.There are eight files on topics as diverse as 'Should I eat meat?., Virtual Reality, and the existence of God.Each chapter is a mixture of light-hearted humour, conversations between friends, and extremely lucid philosphical summaries accompanied by amusing line-drawings. Thoroughly recommended and not just for children -should be compulsory reading for all.
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on 15 June 2000
Stephen Law's book takes many of the major contemporary questions of philosophy and ingeniously explains them in both easy to understand and entertaining ways. One of the things I like about this book is that it puts you right in the middle of the the quandary brought on by each philosophical question; in other words, you really feel you understand the questions on a personal level after reading each chapter. The questions and issues are explained using stories and dialogues between characters, which are always entertaining and often humorous. I found the book an excellent read myself, but my 13 year old son was just as absorbed by it. I would have to say its much more exciting and far more accessible than other "easy" introductions to Philosophy like Sophie's World. An excellent book for both adult and teenager, anyone with an interest in the questions asked by modern philosophy.
Mark Wingfield
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on 3 May 2001
This is an outstanding introduction to philosophy. Stephen Law is an exceptionally talented writer. He manages to communicate the basics of philosophy in an entertaining and accessible style. I'm envious of his ability.
Nigel Warburton
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