What Does It All Mean?

What Does It All Mean?

A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy

Book - 1987
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Baker & Taylor
Discusses knowledge, the mind-body problem, meaning, free will, ethics, justice, and death

Oxford University Press
Should the hard questions of philosophy matter to ordinary people? In this down-to-earth, nonhistorical guide, Thomas Nagel, the distinguished author ofMortal Questions and The View From Nowhere, brings philosophical problems to life, revealing in vivid, accessible prose why they have continued to fascinate and baffle thinkers across the centuries.
Arguing that the best way to learn about philosophy is to tackle its problems head-on, Nagel turns to some of the most important questions we can ask about ourselves. Do we really have free will? Why should we be moral? What is the relation between our minds and our brains? Is there life after death? How should we feel about death? In a universe so vast, billions of light years across, can anything we do with our lives really matter? And does it matter if it doesn't matter? These are perennial questions we ask about the human condition, and Nagel probes them, and others like them, thoughtfully, clearly, and with humor. He states his own opinions freely but with refreshing modesty, always leaving it open to readers to entertain other solutions, encouraging them to think for themselves.
Nagel is eminently qualified to introduce the uninitiated to the world of philosophical inquiry. Singled out by theChicago Literary Review as "one of the sharpest analytic philosophers in America today," he has been praised in theNew York Times Book Review for writing "sensitively and elegantly" and in theTimes Literary Supplement for his ability, rare among philosophers, to combine "profundity with clarity and simplicity of expression."
Never rarefied, What Does It All Mean? opens our eyes to a side of the world we rarely consider, demonstrating that philosophy is no empty study but an indispensable key to understanding our lives. It challenges us to think hard and clearly, to ask questions, to try out ideas and raise possible objections to them--in short, to become philosophers ourselves.

Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 1987
ISBN: 9780195052923
Branch Call Number: 100
Characteristics: 101 pages ; 22 cm


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Nov 28, 2014

This book has several problems which the author should by now have corrected with a new edition. For example, in the first chapter he wrote that "the philosophical raw material comes directly from the world and our relation to it", but later, on the same page, he asserts that, "Unlike science, it [philosophy] doesn't rely on experiments or observation, but ONLY on thought." (Emphasis added.) Another problem is manifest in Nagel's palpable anxiety about "inequalities". He cares deeply about "social justice" but lacked the courtesy to remind his intended audience ("people who don't know the first thing about the subject [philosophy]") that justice is a social virtue by definition. So, the "social" in "social justice" is redundant. The reader would do well also to suspect that the buzz term really means "social[ist] justice", and this in spite of Nagel's lament about the poor results of central planning everywhere it has been imposed. Now, there are other problems, too, but Nagel does raise important issues about epistemology, consciousness, physicalism, theism, etc. in a way which should prompt deeper thinking about them.

atarascina Nov 18, 2012

A very good introductory book to philosophy. Great if you're just starting out on the subject, or just reading for fun.


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