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Does It Matter?: Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality [Kindle Edition]

Alan W. Watts
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This classic series of essays represents Alan Watts's thinking on the astonishing problems caused by our dysfunctional relationship with the material environment. Here, with characteristic wit, a philosopher best known for his writings and teachings about mysticism and Eastern philosophy gets down to the nitty-gritty problems of economics, technology, clothing, cooking, and housing. Watts argues that we confuse symbol with reality, our ways of describing and measuring the world with the world itself, and thus put ourselves into the absurd situation of preferring money to wealth and eating the menu instead of the dinner.

With our attention locked on numbers and concepts, we are increasingly unconscious of nature and of our total dependence on air, water, plants, animals, insects, and bacteria. We have hallucinated the notion that the so-called external world is a cluster of objects separate from ourselves, that we encounter it, that we come into it instead of out of it. Originally published in 1972, Does It Matter? foretells the environmental problems that arise from this mistaken mind-set. Not all of Watts's predictions have come to pass, but his unique insights will change the way you look at the world.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“A fascinating entry into the deepest ways of knowing.” — Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

From the Inside Flap

This is a series of essays representing philosopher Alan Watts's most recent thinking on the astonishing problems of man's relations to his material environment. The basic theme is that civilized man confuses symbol with reality, his ways of describing and measuring the world with the world itself, and thus puts himself into the absurd situation of preferring money to wealth and eating the menu instead of the dinner.

Thus, with his attention locked upon numbers and concepts, man is increasingly unconscious of nature and of his total dependence upon air, water, plants, animals, insects, and bacteria. He has been hallucinated into the notion that the so-called "external" world is a cluster of "objects" separate from himself, that he "encounters" it, that he comes into it instead of out of it. Consequently, our species is fouling its own nest and is in imminent danger of self-obliteration.

Here, a philosopher whose works have been mainly concerned with mysticism and Oriental philosophy gets down to the "nitty-gritty" problems of economics, technology, clothing, cooking, and housing.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily one of my favorites in my Watts library... February 21, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It is subtitled "Essays on Man's Relationship to Materiality"...and my copy perhaps is almost ready for the Smithsonian. So much for my relationship with my materiality, eh? Well, I'm still learning. This book is one of his most accessible collections, his writing style here is so light and readable that it's clear that he is getting a kick out of his own whimsical turning of phrases. The words, the symbols, the images, the numbers in which we define reality are NOT reality and according to Watts, we confuse our descriptive world with what is really going on, thus we are distanced and numbed to real situations in the real world...we become blind to nature, we fail to connect to the living vibrations. These essays--I know, yet more descriptives--are designed for us to recognize the problem. (Money is not wealth. We are not our clothes. Food is not the packaging it is placed in.) These essays tell us ways we can connect to the cosmic consciousness...so we can avoid self destruction. One of the best essays is the short piece on Zen scholar DT Suzuki in which, I find, has the best line about both Suzuki and the Alan Watts of this text...it is "as if he had seen the Ultimate Joke and as if, out of compassion for those who had not, he were refraining from laughing out loud." Well, that is almost the way I have often been described, like I've told a joke that few people get...Anyway one of Watt's best, it's a pity is no longer in catalogue....
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it matters and its important February 26, 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Alan Watts is one of my favorite philosophers. His wisdom is timeless, and his views refreshing in this age of mass media hype and overplayed political propaganda. Does it Matter? That is an important question for everyone to ask themselves. I'm not going to list here the many topics covered in this volume, and certainly I'm not equal to Watts in trying to explain it. The book is worth owning even for his writing about children. One can get a whole new perspective on the Columbine shootings, for example, by reading what Watts said about children several decades before. Columbine wasn't a surprise. It's a great book for those who take time to think about life and the real way of the world.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is 'applied Watts' at its best. December 23, 1999
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Alan Watts is somehow able to turn upside down our most basic assumptions and, by doing so, make more sense of the world. "Does It Matter" is a small collection of essays about Western man's relationship to everyday material things (e.g. food, clothing, money). Watts convincingly shakes us out of rutted thinking. With humor, irreverance, sincerity, and clear writing, he articulates profound ideas without resorting to obscure argument. A theme that runs through the essays is our tendency to confuse symbols with the material things to which they refer(desiring the menu more than the food). I get the feeling while reading these essays that the author is comfortable enough in his own search for truth to enjoy sharing it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired by Matter November 27, 1999
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I particularly love Alan Watts' play on words in his titles, in which this case he does so well. A common phrase 'Does It Matter' is the subject in which the author explores and expresses his ideas of materialism in a materialistic age (more so now than in his own time - appearingly). Discussing his own perceptions in which the way things could be in order to get full advantage of living and being free from oneself as well as anything material. Yet, also expressing the notion that materialism, in all its greed and desires, can be viewed as spiritual and indeed be part of every persons awakening to real life.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes, but only if ... November 16, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You need to be an Alan Watts fan to fully appreciate this book; it is not the place to start if you are just getting into him, but it is important if you want a fully representative collection of this brilliant man's work.

Watts' writings, considered as a whole, come close to providing a workable philosophy of life. This book contains essays, some quite funny, about materialism. But it wouldn't make much sense unless you were already familiar with his more important and serious work explaining and translating Buhddist and Hindu thought and practice into Western terms.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Does Matter! January 5, 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book changed my life. It's a series of essays by the late Alan Watts. Two brilliant essays included in it are: "Wealth Versus Money" (the US government should read this one), and "Murder In The Kitchen". Must reading for all Watts fans, and the best book to start with if you aren't familiar with Watts' brilliant insights into the unspoken obvious! -Paula Martin-
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Matters? July 17, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Another fine book by the deceased author, Alan Watts. After reading this book, I decided that my own ideas of making my life simple were reinforced in a very positive way. Simple living, with a reasonable temper on what that means. A modernist of comfort, I only need one cup, one saucer, etc. Make do and do away with excess. Everything else is a "money" on our back. People move and carry all their "great stuff," with them. Alan has made me re-think what is really needed and what can be dismissed. Took everything out of the closet, gave it a social value, and gave away anything that did not fit my life today. Great idea, great book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars New thoughts to think. Great book.
I wish Alan was still alive. Living in LA now and it would have been fascinating to hear him speak.
Published 1 month ago by Joe Passman
5.0 out of 5 stars Of course it matters
Simply put, Alan Watts was a brilliant man and I would be happy to read anything he penned.
Published 4 months ago by Rev. Nagi Mato
5.0 out of 5 stars HOW DO WE RELATE TO VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD?
Alan Wilson Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as a populariser of Eastern philosophy. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Steven H Propp
1.0 out of 5 stars The first and second chapters were good..
The first and second chapters were good.. but not the rest of the book, which consists on different essays regarding several topics that are not really connected to each other. Read more
Published 14 months ago by nmohamed
5.0 out of 5 stars Essays to take you back to the 1960s/70s
Fun to read from a historical point of view with those wonderful turns of phrase, simplification of complex ideas, and terrific insight that Alan Watts always brought to his... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Dave Bross
5.0 out of 5 stars So very thought provoking!
This book raises numerous issues that are prevalent in our modern society, and the vast majority was written in the 60's! Read more
Published 19 months ago by Virginia Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Philosophy
Just a light, fun read by an old philosopher. Irreverent in ways, thoughtful in others but easy to get into the humor of this great man. Read more
Published on August 9, 2012 by Carl
5.0 out of 5 stars Does it Matter
Very instructive and creatively spiced with humor. An idea worth contemplating yet very difficult to apply. Read more
Published on September 10, 2010 by Z. S. Camenzind
3.0 out of 5 stars Pop lit
To say I was disappointed is putting it mildly. I love the work of Alan Watts. He takes very complex material, and makes it readable and enjoyable and understandable. Read more
Published on February 7, 2010 by Sally Tomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Pick Any Watts Book And Start At Any Page
Watts is the most incredible author I have ever read. He makes difficult Eastern concepts easy to understand, mixes in some humor and often leaves you with a rush of enlightenment. Read more
Published on December 20, 2009 by JazzMann
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