2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Original, personal, thought-provoking,
This review is from: What I Believe (Paperback)
I decided to read Anthony Kenny's What I believe after being very impressed with his contributions in a discussion he was part of on Radio 4's In Our Time programme. And it didn't disappoint.
Kenny somehow manages to fuse academic rigour with self-analysis to provide the reader with a rare treat of the intellectual struggles of one of the most pioneering philosophers since the second world war. His contributions to philosophy and the academic community at large are unquantifiable, making reading his personal thoughts and ideas a particularly exciting prospect. From a philosophy point of view, he is an expert on the philosophy of mind but has also written widely on the history of philosophy and the great 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Roughly speaking, the first half of the book deals with a brief but informative biography of the man himself, followed by an explanation on the actually quite fascinating question as to why he commits himself to philosophy as opposed to another discipline. Things then return to a more academic format, and he delves into a fascinating discourse as to arguments against atheism and theism, a key struggle that has run and continues to run through Kenny's life today. The fact that his approach is primarily a negative one towards the key arguments, is an interesting approach, perhaps revealing a general scepticism towards theology as a whole as well. Kenny does a superb job of providing clear and concise arguments outlining his position, and pretty much all the main arguments you'd want to know are included here. Amongst the best explained is Kant's notorious analytic vs synthetic distinction and Acquinas' Five Ways, to which Kenny comprehensively deconstructs each by pointing out either a fallacy or shaky premise. The fact that Kenny is a world-leading expert on Acquinas is certainly useful in guiding the reader through the intricate theological arguments of Summa Theologica
The second half of the book is related to more general, thought-provoking ideas such as 'The Nature of Reality', 'Life and Death' and 'Happiness'. These are certainly issues that would be of great interest to even those without much interest in philosophy! The Nature of Morality is a particularly important and impressive chapter, since it feeds into many philosophical debates. Here, Kenny gives a very nice overview of consequentialist moral theories (for example utilitarianism) as well as, the more subtle, deontological theories (most notably Kantianism). On Life and Death, Kenny is not afraid to mention controversial opinions (such as infanticide), to which some philosophers base their argument from John Locke's definition of a person.
To conclude, a refreshing theme throughout is Kenny's personal touches combined with his natural academic flair, designed to provide clear, concise and structured arguments to debates so often running at tangents and descending into chaos. I certainly recommend this to anyone interested in these 'ultiamte' issues regardless of the strength and nature of their academic background.