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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "This book is for people who are weary of nonsense..."
"This book is about what philosophy and science together can tell us concerning the big questions in life, and if we want to understand these questions in a new light we also need to look under the hood, so to speak. We will employ not only the logical scalpel of philosophy to parse what people mean by the different ideas that guide their lives but also the microscope of...
Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat entertaining but not a particularly serious book
The dustcover intrigued me: how do we take the best of modern science and modern philosophy and construct a framework to help us live a fulfilling life. What the dustcover should have said is: how do we live a meaningful life according to Massimo. The writer attempts to cover a very large surface area, spanning everything from morality, to love, to God. Unfortunately, the...
Published 11 months ago by E. Gerba


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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "This book is for people who are weary of nonsense...", October 1, 2012
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
"This book is about what philosophy and science together can tell us concerning the big questions in life, and if we want to understand these questions in a new light we also need to look under the hood, so to speak. We will employ not only the logical scalpel of philosophy to parse what people mean by the different ideas that guide their lives but also the microscope of science to try to figure out how and why people behave in certain ways." ... "The basic idea is that there are some things that ought to matter, whatever problem we experience in life: the facts that are pertinent to said problem; the values that guide us as we evaluate those facts; the nature of the problem itself; any possible solutions to it; and the meaningfulness to us of those facts and values and their relevance to the quality of our life. Since science is uniquely well suited to deal with factual knowledge and philosophy deals with (among other things) values, sci-phi [shorthand for science-philosophy] seems like a promising way to approach the perennial questions concerning how we construct the meaning of our existence."

I hope these two quotes cover the gist of Professor Pigliucci's book. That said, this book has one major advantage, which also leads to its biggest disadvantage I believe - breadth of subject matter. Pigliucci has run through and tackled some of the biggest topics of interest to both professional philosophers as well as specialized scientists. He discusses a little bit of everything: evolution, morality, religion, decision-making, politics, free will, nature versus nurture, love, and friendship. He both introduces the reader to the issue and then encapsulates the puzzles which academics struggle with out in the field. I enjoyed reading what Pigliucci had to say regarding the different subjects. The tone of the book is light and friendly, there are copious amounts of cited research, and I found myself tending to agree with nearly everything Professor Pigliucci had to say. On the other hand however, I was hoping for a little more detail and little more gusto. I felt a tad disappointed with the overarching upshot of the book. That just might be me though. All in all I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to someone at say the high school level of education. Given the breezy nature of Pigliucci's book I would recommend any of the following books as great places to begin follow up reading, if your interest is peaked: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed, The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are, or Happiness: The Science behind Your Smile.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat entertaining but not a particularly serious book, September 5, 2013
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
The dustcover intrigued me: how do we take the best of modern science and modern philosophy and construct a framework to help us live a fulfilling life. What the dustcover should have said is: how do we live a meaningful life according to Massimo. The writer attempts to cover a very large surface area, spanning everything from morality, to love, to God. Unfortunately, the end result is "mile wide, inch deep". I could live with that if the end result were sound, but what bothers me about this book is that Massimo dismisses frameworks he disagrees with by making statements like "it is obvious" or "it is reasonable" without providing a coherent and cogent argument to support it. I personally agreed with him in most cases, but that is not substitute for a deductive argument. In other cases the writer brings up the most extreme statements made by an advocate of a theory/framework he disagrees with (as in the case of evolutionary psychology) and then promptly dismisses the whole paradigm on that basis alone.

In summary I would say that if you have done some reading about philosophy and evolutionary sciences this book can be seen as entertaining banter with a well informed friend with set opinions. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an introduction - or if you are looking for what the dustcover advertises: a philosophically and scientifically grounded guide to a more fulfilling life, I would suggest you look elsewhere.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sci-Phi with Professor Massimo Pigliucci, November 21, 2012
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
Philosophy, or the love of wisdom traditionally is regarded as a manner of exploring broad, difficult questions about the nature of life, thinking, and ethics. Part of philosophical thinking is determining whether and how this can be done. In his new book, "Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy can Lead us to a More Meaningful Life" Professor Massimo Pigliucci, develops tentative approaches and tentative answers to philosophical questions through an approach he calls "Sci-Phi" -- a combination of the best of science and philosophy. Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York. He holds three PhD's in genetics, biology, and philosophy of science. He puts his formidable learning and intellect to work in informing science with philosophy, and the other way around. This was my first exposure to Pigliucci's work. He is a prolific writer and editor who has partaken in many controversies and debates surrounding the theory of evolution in particular and who maintains an active presence on the web explaining his scientifically influenced, secular philosophizing.

"Answers for Aristotle" is an engagingly written, sweeping introductory account of how science and philosophy together can provide guidance to understanding and to living a rewarding, meaningful life. Pigliucci sees the Greek philosopher Aristotle as the first thinker who attempted to integrate the science of his day with philosophy. As both science and philosophy developed, they diverged. Pigliucci wants to bring them together. Aristotle is also a dominant philosophical influence, particularly in ethics. Aristotle found that the good life consisted in a state and activity he called eudamonia, or human flourishing. Pigliucci agrees and expands upon Aristotle's account.

Both "science" and "philosophy" are difficult to define precisely. In the book's important opening chapter, Pigliucci emphasizes the tentative, empirical character of science, while describing it as "a form of inquiry into the natural world characterized by the continuous refinement of theories that are in one way or another empirically verifiable." It is more difficult to get a working definition of philosophy. Pigliucci offers a thin definition of the discipline as "the construction (and deconstruction) of reasoned arguments". In "Sci-Phi", for Pigliucci, science offers tentative teachings about facts while philosophy explores the importance of scientific teachings to human ends through thought and argument. Science itself cannot answer questions of value or meaning, Pigliucci argues, without running afoul of the "naturalistic fallacy" as developed by the philosopher David Hume.

Aristotle and Hume greatly influence Pigliucci's philosophical approaches. He draws as well from Wittgenstein, the American political philosopher John Rawls, and from Plato, particularly the early dialogue "Euthyphro". The scientific references in the book are broad, large and contemporary, ranging from string theory and quantum physics through genetics, psychology and the social sciences.

The book deals with large, complex questions in a peppery, engaging way. In successive chapters, Pigliucci deals with ethics, "How do we Tell Right from Wrong", epistemology, the nature of the self and of will and reason, love and friendship, political theory, and the existence and claimed relevance of God or gods to a valuable human life. Typically, the chapters begin with anecdotal material and work through papers in the scientific literature that Pigliucci finds valuable. Pigliucci discusses various traditional philosophical approaches and assesses them in light, in part, of what he learns provisionally from science. In general, his approach is what the philosopher William James would describe as "tough minded". Pigliuucci's ethics and politics tend towards the liberal and his metaphysics and epistemology are unabashedly secular.

As Pigliucci says of himself, he is a philosopher who enjoys arguing (not all do) and the book has a contentious, provocative tone. He is commendably serious about jarring his readers and encouraging them to think. For all the emphasis of reason and fact, Pigliucci displays a passionate, emotional devotion to his own purpose in life of educating and promoting thought.

The book is short and quick for the many questions with which it deals. It is entertaining and valuable regardless of whether particular philosophical positions convince the reader. For example, in a chapter titled "Intuition Versus Rationality, and How to become Really Good at What you Do", Pigliucci offers solid, straightforward, and non-trivial advice about improving one's understanding and skills in whatever tasks one sets out to do, whether a job, study, playing chess, or becoming proficient on a musical instrument. I found this valuable psychologically and pedagogically, irrespective of one's philosophical commitments.

Although much of Pigliucci's discussion of religion is alternatively either too quick or too burdensomely factually detailed, his discussion of the "Euthyphro" and the problems it clearly poses about religion and ethics is insightful and keen. It brought back to me the discussion of this dialogue in my first philosophy class almost 50 years ago. Revisiting the "Euthyphro" with Pigliucci was liberating and fresh. The book also brought similar memories of studying Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" and of one of my early teachers who took an approach towards science and philosophy that reminded me of Pigliucci's.

Pigliucci's book will probably have greatest appeal to new philosophical readers. As good writing frequently does, it stimulates thought more than answers questions. I was challenged and delighted with the book. It brought back to me the philosophical studies I began many years ago and the questions that I continue to find important and endlessly fascinating.

Robin Friedman
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anwers for Aristotle, September 30, 2012
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
"Answers for Aristotle" by Massimo Pigliucci: The thesis of this book is that the answer to life's great questions--morality, justice, love,gods, etc.--can be understood by combining the empirical evidence of science and the value judgments of philosophy--SciPhi as the author terms it. The science he is referring to is evolutionary biology, cognitive science, psychology and even softer stuff, and the philosophy is mostly Aristotle/Socrates with a little Hume, Kant and others thrown in. The scientific state-of-the-art is using MRI to measure blood flow rates in different parts of the brain when different mental tasks are undertaken or different chemicals are ingested, which allows an association of various parts of the brain with various subjects and an indication of the effect of drugs on brain function. The book is valuable for the insight it provides on the status of this sort of scientific research and for relating it to the philosophy of Aristotle, who it appears was mostly right in this arena, in contrast to the fate of his ideas in the physical sciences, but then the bio sciences are in their early days. The breadth of the author's knowledge is impresssive, and he has done us a service by pulling all of this together into an accessible form.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For those who like to use their most important organ (their brain!), December 31, 2012
By 
Arash Farzaneh (Vancouver, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
"Answers for Aristotle" is an entertaining and intelligent book that looks to combine science with philosophy to refine human behavior and eradicate or diminish our irrational side. Pigliucci uses the most recent discoveries and studies in psychology to underscore his main message, while making significant use of Aristotle's timeless wisdom and insights.

The book comes with the warning that if people are easily offended or narrow-minded, this is not their book. But for all those who seek general improvement in life beyond the empty promises of self-help books, who prefer hard science and facts to comfortable and convenient lies, this book is surely a valuable find to be cherished and treasured.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A self help book for people who don't like self help books., March 4, 2013
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
I was initially drawn to philosophy for its therapeutic attributes, which may be an odd thing to hear. How does an often times esoteric academic discipline help one out? I would claim it is within the practice of self reflection and the ability to think about questions on a deeper level, giving one the ability to weed out false beliefs from potentially true ones. I loved philosophy for these reasons more than for any scholarly reasons, but I didn't have any means to communicate this point of view. Massimo Pigliucci, on the other hand, was able to unpack all of why I love philosophy (and science) in his book "Answers for Aristotle."

Pigliucci, in an interview, said himself that the book has very little to do with Aristotle, and much more to do with being a "self help book for people who don't like self help books." Given this approach to reading it, I can say he completely succeeded in that goal. He does a brilliant job at introducing the reader to a pantheon of philosophical giants (including my favorite, David Hume) and to the most recent developments with the sciences. In addition, he gives the reader an ability to understand the fundamental nature of the two disciplines for those who may not be familiar.

It is a great feat that Pigliucci has accomplished in terms of fitting in a wide range of material. While giving one of the best explications of how to construct arguments in one section to an introduction to a variety of ethical theories in another, and a defense of evolution and the nature of academic science in yet another. (And of course, much more!) The book also gives many practical lessons in how to evaluate claims and avoid falsity.

For some readers, particularly those who are well educated in either philosophy or the science, the book may seem redundant or simple, but I do not believe such readers are the target audience. The book is not concerned with advancing either of the two disciplines or even arguing for the strong coexistence between the two, it is about the value of these two academic disciplines and moving them from the ivory tower to the average citizen. Pigliucci explains many complicated theories and concepts extremely well so that any competent person should not only be able to understand them, but also see their worth and how knowing them can lead to a more meaningful life.

The work is also one of naturalism, in a sense the book can be seen as a way of showing how atheists/agnostic/skeptics can live meaningful lives without god. Too often are people with a naturalistic worldviews painted as being depressed, angry, and lost. Pigliucci shows exactly why this does not need to be the case, and often is not. It is because of these qualities that I believe it should be given to every person fortunate enough to escape religion and religious beliefs.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact, concise and worth an immediate re-read, December 21, 2012
By 
Steve Wetzel (Cincinnati, OH USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
I highly recommend this book. Many books I choose in areas of science or philosophy geared toward the educated lay person (me) meander about endlessly attempting to support their position for fear they will loose some readers. This book however is concise, clearly written and holds your attention throughout.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good beginning, but a disappointing middle and ending., November 29, 2012
This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
For many centuries philosophy and science have been intertwined. Galileo and Newton considered themselves to be natural philosophers. It wasn't until the 19th Century that they started to split from each other, and science became more dominated by specific results that could be duplicated; while philosophy has become more and more technical, going away from its beginnings. Many books have dealt with the topic of bringing together science and philosophy, since they used to be so close to one another. Massimo Pigliucci attempts to do that in his newest book. Unfortunately it does not work out that well. He examines different concepts, and topics, from both the philosophical perspective and the scientific perspective. He mainly concentrates on the neurosciences, since that has the biggest effect on our brain. Each chapter starts off with examining how philosophers have looked at a particular problem, mainly focusing on the on the giants in the field. Mr. Pigliucci then takes a look at what science has to say, and how that coincides from what we know from philosophy; and how science has changed over the years as well.

This book is a bit of a mess in terms of editing. It is all over the place. He starts off strong but it becomes weaker and weaker throughout the book. He becomes fairly redundant towards the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done But Not Deep, December 8, 2013
By 
Book Fanatic (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
This book is about deep subjects and thinking but the book itself covers such a broad subject that it comes off as very light. Pigliucci favors a philosophy informed by science and that is something that I totally agree with. He offers in this book an overview of what this looks like, but if you are looking for answers they aren't really in the book. The book offers a method by which you can possibly find those answers for yourself.

This book should be considered an introduction to the subject. The thing about this book is that it will probably not be read by the people who really need it and those who do read it will be disappointed to a degree, like I was, that it wasn't deeper and more rigorous. It's an easy read and a enjoyable read and I liked it. On the other hand it didn't affect me much and I don't think I will be thinking about it anymore.

One thing I didn't like was how Pigliucci dismissed with a wave of the hand certain things he doesn't agree with. Certainly quoting a few over the top claims made by some evolutionary psychologist doesn't not refute a whole field anymore than quoting a few over the top claims made by philosophers refute all of philosophy. Neither does referencing a couple of books by feminists claiming men and women are no different refute all the science that tends to show otherwise. Now Pigliucci may or may not be right in either of those conclusions but his *evidence* in this book consists of a couple of paragraphs and a wave of the hand. It is beneath him as a philosopher.

In any case I like the author's writing and his book. Just beware it is lightweight and intended for beginners who probably won't read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and well-written book, July 25, 2013
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This review is from: Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life (Hardcover)
You may not agree with all the conclusions the author reaches--particularly regarding religion--but his reasoning and writing style are highlights of the book.
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