What Philosophers Think.

Title: What Philosophers Think.
Author/s: Baggini, J. Stangroom, J.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Continuum (2005).
Format: Paperback (256 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0826484743, ISBN-13: 978-08264847
Area and topic: Core areas/branches/sub-disciplines of philosophy. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessible to medium.
Purchasing and information
  1. amazon.com
  2. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘What Philosophers Think’ is a collection of interviews (revised and expanded from ‘The Philosopher’s Magazine’) with some of the world’s leading philosophers and scholars. The interviews explore various philosophical problems and other general issues from a philosophical perspective.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • Topics include: sex, religion, politics, language, consciousness, evil, feminism and art. Through these themes, the reader is also introduced to various wider issues, key topics and subject matter central to philosophy both past and present.
  • The book consists of the following sections: Part I: Darwin’s Legacy; Part II: Science; Part III: Religion; Part IV: Philosophy And Society; Part V: Metaphysics; Part VI: Language.
  • Each section consists of a number of chapters relative to the section theme: Example chapters from ‘Part I’ are: Part I: Darwin’s legacy; Chapter 1) Peter Singer – Darwin and ethics; 2) Janet Radcliffe Richards – Darwin, nature and hubris; 3) Helena Cronin – Evolutionary psychology; 4) Richard Dawkins – Genes and determinism.
  • ‘What Philosopher Think’ is followed by another volume of a similar nature also reviewed on this site: ‘What More Philosophers Think’.
Strengths: Although most of the ideas, arguments and positions discussed here can be found in published works, such works are often quite abstract, dry, difficult understand (i.e. they are usually intended for academics). In contrast, the interview format and the ‘live setting’ of this presentation: a) Brings a certain richness and personal dimension to the process; b) allows the arguments and positions discussed here to be presented in a summary form without the hard to follow detail; c) and does so in an informal ‘non technical’ manner. Furthermore, the two-way dialogue between the interviewer and interviewee is the perfect (and classic) approach and forum for gaining insight into the concrete process of philosophical practice.
Limitations: In some cases, the summaries of the various positions explored can come across as being little more than ‘stated’ conclusions. In other words, support for the various positions discussed here is slightly lacking. It is also possible that the book may not date well. This is because many of the positions and issues being discussed are very ‘current’, may soon be superseded and/or may lose their sense of importance.

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