Do You Think What You Think You Think?

Title: Do You Think What You Think You Think?
Author/s: Baggini, Julian. Stangroom, Jeremy.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Plume (2007).
Format: Paperback (192 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0452288657. ISBN-13: 978-0452288652
Area and topic: Popular philosophy. Pedagogical aid and/or resource. Philosophical skills and methodology. Reasoning and critical thinking.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessible
Purchasing and information: www.amazon.com
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Do You Think What You Think You Think’ uses a number of philosophical games and quizzes as a way to tease out and uncover one’s deepest assumptions and core philosophical beliefs. The aim of these exercises is to test the extent to which one’s beliefs are ‘… coherent and consistent—or a jumble of contradictions’ and to ‘reveal what you really think … [even if] … it may not be what you thought’. (From the back cover).
Synopsis and/or additional information: All below information is sourced from the above links (see purchasing and information) and the text.

  • As an example of one of the games/exercises offered in this book, the game/chapter titled ‘The Philosophical Health Check’, asks the reader/participant to tick only one box: ‘agree or disagree’ in response to a series of questions and claims. The game is designed such that some of the claims that one assents to seemingly contradict (or run contrary to) other claims also assented to. The desired effect is one of demanding (at the threat of being rationally inconsistent) some explanation of the reader/player to make amends.
  • Other games include 1) ‘The Do-It-Yourself-Deity’ where one is playfully challenged to create a god that is consistent with the world as we know it. (The main issue implicit in this exercise is the infamous ‘problem of evil’ i.e. what sort of god can be reconciled with a world where the innocent suffer and the vicious flourish? Would such a god not himself be evil, or at least indifferent, or lacking in power? If so, would such a god be worthy of worship?) 2) ‘Taboo’ – where the reader is prompted to assess the extent to which the norms that guide our conduct are supported by good reasons or are merely unsubstantiated ‘gut feeling’ prejudices.
Strengths: The general premise of the book is quite unique. The games are fun and entertaining yet the aim of exposing what one ‘really thinks’ may be seriously enlightening, challenging, and may set the foundation for some honest philosophical reflection. Furthermore, the book may be used as a starting point or source for further exploration. For example: 1) One may add, subtract or change some of the questions – or create their own questions to make the given exercise more appropriate for the classroom; 2) one may use the various game formats for issues other than those presented in the text; 3) one may use the text as a basis for creating one’s own games or for provoking reflection on issues not discussed in the text.
Limitations: Much like the magazine quizzes and personality questionnaires on which many of the games seem to be based, the games here sometimes over-simplify various issues and trade on what in other circumstances could be seen as leading (or misleading) questions. For example, the either/or answers that one might be forced to give, may in some circumstances conceal what is really a gradation of possible reasonable responses.

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