Friday, July 17, 2009

Another book that wants to be read

Almost three years ago I wrote a brief plug for Julian Baggini's The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher.

The book is comprised of 100 brief yet stimulating thought experiments that introduce various aspects of philosophy to the reader. Baggini bases the experiments on famous philosophical ideas from popular culture and philosophy (the title of the book is an allusion to a meal in Douglass Adams' Hitchhiker series that could talk and requested to be eaten), and poses the questions to engender thinking about the topic rather than to tell anyone what the proper answer might be (although Baggini suggests ways to approach the problem in the comment section that follows each experiment.)

This book would make an excellent introduction to philosophical thought.
Well, Baggini has written a sequel: The Duck That Won the Lottery: and 99 Other Bad Arguments. This book shares the same general structure as the previous one, but, as the title suggests, focuses more on examination of common errors in reasoning.

As was the case with The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten, the book is valuable both as an introduction to philosophical thought and a means of demonstrating the practical importance of philosophy to everyday life. For example, one of the chapters deals with common misconceptions surrounding proving a negative (also see here) and how they factored into the war in Iraq and claims about weapons of mass destruction.

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