The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And 99 Other Thought Experiments.

Title: The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And 99 Other Thought Experiments.
Author/s: Baggini, J.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Plume (2006).
Format: Paperback (336 pages).
ISBN:  ISBN-10: 0452287448, ISBN-13: 978-0452287440.
Area and topic: Popular philosophy. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems; Thought experiments. Moral philosophy (ethics).
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessable
Purchasing and information: amazon.com.
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten’ consists of one hundred philosophical puzzles, presented as thought experiments, on moral philosophical and issues concerned with ‘value’ (ranging from social issues to personal dilemmas).
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Each entry includes an imagined scenario, all of which are based on sources [ranging] from Plato to Sir Bernard Williams’. Each scenario presents a problem or puzzle followed by a one to two page commentary and discussion exploring the various ramifications and possible implications of the issue in question.
  • It is notable that in all cases, the author (Baggini) offers little in the way of closure in response to the problems he presents. Consequently, each issue is kept alive and the reader guessing. As Baggini says in the preface ‘This is neither a reference book nor a collection of answers to old puzzles; it is rather a provocation, a stimulus to further thought. In the comments that follow the scenarios, I may suggest a way out of the difficulty or I may be playing the devil’s advocate: it is for you to decide which… Many lines of though can be started from this book. But none end in it.’
  • Some of the puzzles date back to ‘the Greeks’ other are more contemporary. For an example of the latter, there is an entry drawn from a passage from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Other examples include: ‘if  Stelios’s body is disintegrated and then recomposed by the transporter, is Stelio’s still the same person he was?’; ‘A doctor is not allowed to end a patient life, yet if the janitor accidentally pulls the plug, the doctor is not required to put that plug back in. What is the difference?’; ‘Is it ever ethical to eat animals, even if they want to be eaten?’; ‘Is there really an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God?’; ‘Is it right to do something wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone?’; ‘Is torture ever a good option?’
Strengths: In line with the ‘pop philosophy’ genre, the entries are deliberately presented in a relatively light and entertaining way. The author however does not shy away from presenting issues that are important, significant and at times, provocative. Furthermore, regardless of the ‘dress up’, all the entries are in fact, for the most part, respectable and quite standard philosophical dilemmas.
Limitations: The book is relatively narrow in scope in the sense that it is concerned only with a) moral philosophy (although in the widest sense), b) which are all presented as dilemmas (not all philosophical problems and issues are dilemmas), c) and as thought experiments, i.e. a method that, although useful, has its limits and has received its share of criticism (see ‘the Guardian’ review on Wikipedia under this title entry). Furthermore, for good or bad, the book is not obviously created with the classroom in mind.

Comment on this article