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Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs: Science, Philosophy, and their Histories Hardcover – December 9, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199812691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199812691
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"While utilizing the insights and criticisms of philosophers and scientists before him, the book avoids the literary downfalls of its predecessors; it is succinct, approachable, and immensely enjoyable to read. Each chapter offers up a distinct focus and resolves in a clarifying abstract. The topics addressed inevitably set the book as a spark for debate between scholars and laymen alike, but it serves also as tangible proof of the low belief that philosophy matters every day."--Publishers Weekly


"This remarkable work by Matson can be read on the surface as an engaging journey through intellectual history, rich in details drawn from the author's encyclopedic knowledge of the history of philosophy...For general readers this is an accessible, intriguing history of philosophy. It will appeal to all who seek to understand the ongoing tension between religious belief and scientific theory. Highly recommended."--CHOICE


About the Author


Wallace Matson is Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley. He is the co-author of A New History of Philosophy, Vol. I and II.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Kern on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wrote this email message about "Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs" to the author, Professor Wallace Matson, shortly after the book was published, and two months before he died in 2012 at age 91.

Dear Professor Matson,

I read "Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs" a few weeks ago. My immediate impulse was to write to you about the many things you wrote that I agree with, and the things I had inklings about which you reinforced. But most of my ideas and inklings likely arose from reading about high and low beliefs in the Second Edition of your text books or your "Uncorrected Papers". And you already know these things. So, I'm not sure there is a lot to be gained by going on about how enlightening they are as I have done in the past. But, now, after reading your book again, there are a few things I would like to say about it.

Will Durant wrote that we have become a world of specialists, knowing more and more about less and less. Unfortunately, it seems to me this is so even for many philosophers. You are an exception to that. You have offered an edifying account of the biggest picture of where we are and how we got here. If Hume awakened Kant from his dogmatic slumbers, hopefully you will do the same for many present day philosophers. You make it clear that brilliant men have wasted valuable time in philosophical cul-de-sacs. I admire your ability to see things clearly and your willingness to tell it like it is.

While most religious beliefs are products of wishful thinking, and are intended to help people maintain hope and overcome fear, when beliefs are in conflict with knowledge they begin to lose their value. And when they collide with the beliefs of others, they threaten our peaceful coexistence.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By parmenides on January 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this well thought, informative book. In a sense, it is a history of western philosophy + the intellectual evolution that took place in prehistoric times. That is, in contrast to other histories of western philosophy, it includes a few chapters for intellectual aspects that all human societies shared before their fragmentation into great civilizations.
Low and high beliefs is a nice tool for explaining what unites (low beliefs) and what divides (high beliefs) humanity, and how
the invention of philosophy and science in ancient Greece has the potential of transforming all high beliefs into low and unify all human societies. It explains why this has not happened (i.e. how the classical Greek intellectual tradition gave space to Christianity and religious thinking in general) in a reliable way. Of interest is also the analysis of the recovery of the West from the loss of the Milesian outlook and current efforts towards a new non-religious ethics. In this respect, I found the authors critique of Descartes and Leibniz quite on the spot. The book is mainly about ethics and offers an impressive effort for the reestablishment of the Classical ideal (Aristotle's ethics for example) for a secular, rational and in the end scientific ethics (via evolutionary game dynamics for example) that is connected with the state and not with religion. Such ethics could bind humanity together so I could not recommend stronger this book to young people, and in fact parts of the book could be ideal for even secondary education (let alone university level).

Some minor problems:

(1) It is too short for what is trying to achieve. That is why the discussions in some places are a bit wanting of more data and analysis.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mohammed Alarabi on March 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are a science enthusiast, and you are bothered by how philosophy (although necessary to talk about science) seems like a waste of time in our modern day, this book will provide you with a "satisfying" philosophical view which relies on facts. This view starts by "demarcating" between what's true and what's false, and explains why humans may be the only species with false beliefs. From there, the author guides you through human history to how science was given birth in ancient Miletus, and how philosophy and science were supportive of each other to most Greek philosophers. Until certain "high beliefs" (what the author calls beliefs without connection to reality) started pushing people away from the monist, naturalistic, and rational tendency of Milesian science. This redirection of thought affected philosophy for a very long time, and even explains the motives of Cartesian skepticism. The book uses all these "facts" to provide insights into institutions and how they come about, morality and how it is born, and the future of humans. Most notably, the book states a strong point against Hume's problem of induction, which, to my knowledge, is one of the strongest. All in all, this book is a philosophical master-piece, and the manifestation of hope for us scientists and science enthusiasts in modern philosophy.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner on August 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs is an excellent work by the greatest philosopher of the 20th and early 21st centuries, Wallace Matson, distinguished leader of UC Berkeley's Philosophy department for 40 years. A superb writer and thinker, Prof. Matson will fire your interest with his clear logic and flowing insight into how things work in this world.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
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