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on 15 December 2003
This is a great book! For ages I had a passing interest in philosophy but never had the time to really grasp it's basics. This book allowed me to do so while still enjoying a great read. Rowlands explanations are fantastic and what surprised me was the humour that is littered throughout the book. I can honestly say that I will never look at Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same light again. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, it is a book that will make you look at some of your favourite movies in an entirely different way. I just hope that there is a follow before long!
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on 4 May 2004
I am relatively new to philosophy and really enjoyed this book.Subjects that had been covered in my lectures finally started to make sense and I found revising much easier , I no longer needed to learn things off by heart as I understood them and just had to think back to the movies if I got confused.Incidently , my boyfriend loved the book aswell even though he had never read any philosophy before. Definately looking forward to the follow up.
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on 17 June 2006
The concept of the book, explaining philosophy through sci-fi films sounds good, especially to me as it combined something I knew well (sci fi) with something I wanted to learn about (philosophy).

In the actual course of the book, the chapters begin with a retelling of the film's story, then analyse some philisophical theme that the author has decided is related. In actuality, the discussion usually strays far from the film and one wonders what the point of the 'schi-phi' gimmick was; however the films do serve as useful examples for Mark's discussions and get one thinking in the right frame of mind beforehand. (It also pointed me towards some good films.)

The book, however, is excellent as an introduction to philosophy. I was a veteran 'armchair philosopher' beforehand but reading this book got me to think my ideas through in a more consistent fashion, and introduced me to the major ideas and characters of philosophy. It covers most of the major questions in philosophy (the ones that actually interest people, anyway) and goes over the basic arguments for the different views surrounding them. It's a credit that Mark makes his writing so clear, to the point and is low on any technical terms, making this a very easy read and allowing the basic ideas to be understood very easily.

Obviously not every point of view can be adressed, and in a book of this size he must gloss over the counter-arguments and answers to his claims. It's very likely that the reader will disagree with some of his conclusions, however one gets the feeling from reading this book that this is encouraged, and not that Mark is in possesion of some divine, inarguable wisdom. One is instead inspired to do some more research on points one finds interesting in the book (I thought Mark hadn't given a good answer to compatibilism, and reading more about it, i think it's a better answer than his of determinism, for one.)

The last word I can say about this book is: Sometimes I see on the internet some 'philisophical' debate or dissertation, where the author seems completely oblivious to some contrary argument or POV, and I think 'Hey! That was in the first book on philosophy I ever read!'
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on 9 August 2004
This is a book which appeals to a wide variety of people. If you are someone like me, who wishes to learn more about philosophy but is daunted by the depth and scope of the subject, then Mark Rowlands book is a perfect introduction. It encompasses some of the basic theories of philosophy in a style that allows access to people who've never before been even slightly philosophical! Matching philosophy with the world of science fiction proves a great partnership and allows the reader to make a connection with the teories expressed without having to study them in depth. The narrative is explanatory and informative but still retains a sense of humour throughout the book. This is a great buy for anyone who would like to see into the deeper world that is a philosophers mind.
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on 21 November 2003
"Philosophy explained through science fiction films", as stated on the cover, is a somewhat misleading introduction to what is an otherwise excellent book. The author manages to pick up on 1 or 2 basic concepts from each of 9 films and explains each in a useful mannger without putting us to sleep with long winded detail. While the method of introducing the reader to concepts like 'the meaning of life', 'free will', and 'personal identity' remains unique, the actual content wanders from the path of science fiction frequently and may leave the reader a bit lost as to how some of these concepts relate back to the film that was used to introduce the concept at the start of the chapter.
Despite this small drawback, I found the direct and simple language easy to follow and detailed reference to famous philosphers (with due respect to these people) minimal throughout the book. I thouroughly enjoyed watching these movies again after freshly reading about the philosphical issues involved and wish that more books used direct language and everyday experiences to explain what are normally difficult issues to grasp.
You won't figure out the Matrix with this book (that last 10 minutes in Matrix 2 has us all stumped!), but for a great read and a fresh view on some of your favourite movies, get this book now. Its interesting, direct, practical, understandable, and most importantly .... fun.
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on 25 April 2014
Thought provoking and life enhancing, I have only just discovered Mark Rowlands via his 'running' books - but I love his style and content - this is witty and clever - but not at the expense of getting some hefty concepts across and providing plenty of food for thought!
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on 17 January 2006
Oh cripes - Rowlands is the affable lecturer-type with a propensity for comedy swearing and recreational drug references in order to get "down" with the kids! It's a shame his prose is so flippant (and often sarcastic), as a more soberly considered book on the subject would be useful. As it stands, this work, rather than being engagingly accessible, is simply insultingly half-baked. Rowlands himself admits - as a kind of disclaimer - that the book is "not entirely serious": if this is so, why beg a reader's interest (in what are certainly interesting themes) with observations delivered in amiable yet irritating pub-speak?
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on 24 December 2013
I would recommend this to all those exploring philosophy as a refreshing read and for those fans of these movies who want a more intelligent review with their mates over a drink.
Accessible to all
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on 29 August 2008
I was a newcomer to philosophy when I read this book, but I do love a classic sci-fi film. I therefore think this is a great pop-culture way to discuss philosophical ideas that have been wrestled with for thousands of years.

The idea is a simple one take a philosophical debate and introduce it via a film you are likely to have seen- Total Recall, Aliens etc. You do realise that behind the special effects, what makes films like these so good is there is something deeper being discussed.

Starting with a film is also a useful anchor where you begin with this concept and then push the boundaries in a way that isn't overwhelming.

My only grumble is while the each chapter unmistakably starts with a film, once the philosophical argument starts rolling, the chapter never returns to the film. This is a shame as you feel yourself getting further and further away from your comfort zone and not always in a good way. Returning to scenes in the film would have also allowed a mental resting point before the philosophical discussion continues.

Overall a highly original idea that's well executed and will teach you something.
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on 23 December 2007
Overall a really great introduction to some of the more difficult philosophical questions. Reading phisosophy can be a very tedious slog - this book shows that a dry and academic writing style is not actually necessary. Other philosophical writers should take note...
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