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The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions Hardcover – October 3, 2011
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“For those of us who have pondered what David Hume might have said, were he to have had the benefit of all the scientific knowledge that succeeded his death, Alex Rosenberg’s wonderful new book perfectly satisfies.” (Rebecca Goldstein 36 Arguments for the Existence of God)
About the Author
More About the Author
When he's not writing historical novels, Alex Rosenberg is a professor of philosophy at Duke University.
Alex's first novel, "The Girl From Krakow," is a thriller that explores how a young woman and her lover navigate the dangerous thirties, the firestorm of war in Europe, and how they make sense of their survival.
He is working on his second novel, a murder mystery set in Oxford and London in the 1950s that takes the reader back to before, during and after the second world war in New York.
Before he became a novelist Alex wrote a large number of books about the philosophy of science, especially about economics and biology. These books were mainly addressed to other academics. But in 2011 Alex published a book that explores the answers that science gives to the big questions of philosophy that most atheists (and all thinking people) ask themselves--questions about the nature of reality, the meaning of life, moral values, free will, the relationship of the mind to the brain, and our human future. That book, "The Atheist's Guide to Reality," was widely reviewed and was quite controversial.
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Top Customer Reviews
More problematic, perhaps, is his view that if something cannot be explained in terms of biology (chemistry, physics), then it isn't real. What I found disappointing here isn't that view itself, but the absence of arguments for it. For example, he advocates eliminativism about intentionality: that there isn't really any such thing as intentionality or 'aboutness'. But he doesn't argue for this view, from what I could tell. He just stipulates that intentionality cannot be naturalized, and that all the various attempts to naturalize intentionality (or normativity, or autonomy) have failed. He doesn't demonstrate (at least not to this reader's satisfaction) that they have failed. Speaking as someone who favors naturalizing intentionality and agency, rather than doing away with them or endorsing non-naturalism, I was frustrated by the absence of clear rebuttals of the approaches that I favor.
There are, moreover, certain problems in his account of scientism that I would have liked to have seen taken more seriously. For one thing, Rosenberg doesn't distinguish between scientism and reductive physicalism. But presumably one could take one's metaphysics from natural science, and so be scientistic in a broad sense, without taking any position on the reducibility of biology to physics.Read more ›
But, as the author says, it turns out that atheism is more just one big No!
It was science that made me an atheist, that and the problem of evil, for course. And this is where the Atheist's Guide comes in.
What it shows is that by driving to atheism science drives us to a lot of other powerful, unexpected, and important insights about reality too: For example, there's the fact that what Darwin discovered comes right out of physics. The book explains why there isn't even any room for stupid design, let alone intelligent design in the process that makes things look like God put them together.
I wasn't sure I'd be able to live with the author's Nice Nihilism till I got to the last chapter and realized that science makes my politics unavoidable. The road from the biology to the politics goes right through neuroscience, history, economics and the humanities. What a ride!
I was really surprised, as an atheist, after reading The Atheist's Guide I really do end up enjoying life more.
Most of the book hinges on the idea that our thoughts are not "about" anything. On that basis Rosenberg concludes that we don't have purposes; that we don't think about the past or make plans for the future. (Location 2704) He admits that these claims are outrageous, recognizes the need for compelling arguments if we're to be convinced of them, and spends three chapters trying to make his case, starting with this example:
"Suppose someone asks you, "What is the capital of France?" Into consciousness comes the thought that Paris is the capital of France. Consciousness tells you in no uncertain terms what the content of your thought is, what your thought is about. It's about the statement that Paris is the capital of France." (Locations 2809-2811)
"It's this last notion that introspection conveys that science has to deny. Thinking about things can't happen at all. The brain can't have thoughts about Paris, or about France, or about capitals, or about anything else for that matter. When consciousness convinces you that you, or your mind, or your brain has thoughts about things, it is wrong."(Locations 2816-2818)
He goes on to propose that if we know that Paris is the capital of France, then there must be neurons in our brains that encode that information.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's the hard cold truth, even harder than I thought. Can't take life or myself too seriously after this book!Published 4 days ago by Monty Vonn
Philosophy has received much abuse in recent years. Neil deGrasse Tyson described it as a useless enterprise and advised intelligent students to pursue other studies. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jason Bowden
Thoughtful explanation of science and religion. He articulated what I believe in a telling way. He is right: it's no sense prosetilsing - the religionists won't listen anyway.Published 3 months ago by GD 71
A poor title, but provocative text. Rosenberg addresses the committed atheist with a treatise on radical scientism as only valid epistemology in pursuit of truth and 'nice... Read morePublished 4 months ago by John Verster
As a low-excitement atheist (apatheist, I should say), I found this book interesting, exciting, and eye-opening. Read morePublished 7 months ago by booker_t
This is an incredible work, beautifully reasoned and intensely resonating. It has had a profound impact on me, unlike any book I have previously encountered. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Apparently, the key to an atheist's enjoyment of life is trading in one's "illusions" for a big heaping helping of philosophical sloppiness. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jim Rockford, P.I.
The Atheist's Guide to Reality is challenging, exhilarating and downright uncompromising in its central thesis - a reductive ontology that charismatically and stridently proclaims... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Eron
Every once in a while something comes along that brings absolute clarity and focus to one’s life! For me, Alex Rosenberg’s, “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying life without... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer