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The Philosophy Gym: 25 Short Adventures in Thinking Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (December 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312314523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312314521
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British philosopher and editor Law explores 25 of life's Big Questions in a sprightly volume designed to be a "course in thinking philosophically." Categorizing each philosophical "adventure" as Warm-up, Moderate or More Challenging, he addresses queries both grand and eternal ("Does God Exist?" and "Where Did the Universe Come From?" are two of his chapters) and controversial and contemporary ("What's Wrong with Gay Sex?" and "But is it Art?"). Lay readers looking for a comprehensible introduction to critical thinking will benefit from Law's straightforward exposition of each topic; opposing arguments are clearly organized in a tennis match of sorts: Law has two diners, for example, spar over whether eating meat can be morally justified. (Animals eat other animals, one says. But they don't know right from wrong, his companion says. Eating animals comes naturally to us, says the first. But so does violence, says the second. Etc.) In the chapter on morality's supposed dependence on religion, a section titled "An Argument for the Existence of God" is followed by the impressively accessible "Plato's Refutation of the Popular Argument," which is then countered with the "'But God is Good' Reply," and so on. The writing is lively and accessible, thanks to Law's passion for his subject and his creative use of zany conversations between future scientists about the possibility of time travel, for example, and his whimsical examples of strange objects called "fubbyloofers" to demonstrate the difficulty of determining what is art. The best of these essays end inconclusively, encouraging readers to consult the additional resources Law recommends. When Law unabashedly declares his final opinion-"In short, what creationists practice isn't good science-it's bunk"-it has the potential to offend. It detracts, too, from the book's admirable aim to "provide the skills needed to think independently" and "help fortify your courage in making a moral stand."
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Review

"A vivid, enlightening introduction to clear thinking." --Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy


"A vivid, enlightening introduction to clear thinking." (Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy)

More About the Author

Stephen Law (Oxford, England) is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London; provost for the Centre for Inquiry UK; and the editor of Think: Philosophy for Everyone (a journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy). He is the author of numerous books for adults as well as children, including The Greatest Philosophers, Companion Guide to Philosophy, The War for Children's Minds, and Really, Really Big Questions, among other works.

Customer Reviews

This is a good book to read before sleeping.
UL
It introduces the reader to basic philosophical terminology as well as several of the great historical philosophers and their famous arguments.
Rosanne Brinkman
Remember this is not an "answer" book but is a "thinking" book.
Stephen Pletko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
+++++

This easy-to-read book by philosophy lecturer, editor, and author Dr. Stephen Law presents to the reader "25 short adventures in thinking." In other words, this book is a short course in "thinking philosophically." Each of the twenty-five chapters or essays addresses a different philosophical question, "explaining key positions and arguments along the way."

What are the philosophical questions and topics discussed? Below, I will divide the essays into categories and give the question or topic addressed. (Note the order of the essays presented here is different from that in the book):

(1) Logic

(i) Eight everyday reasoning errors. (An error in reasoning is called a fallacy.)
(ii) Seven paradoxes in reasoning. (Presented are plausible arguments leading to seemingly implausible conclusions.)

(2) Morality

(i) Is gay sex morally permissible?
(ii) Can we have morality without God and religion?
(iii) Is it morally acceptable to design children genetically?
(iv) Is it right to sacrifice the life of one conjoined twin to save the other?
(v) Is it morally acceptable to eat meat?
(vi) Is the rightness or wrongness of an act based on our emotional reactions to the act?

(3) God

(i) Does God exist?
(ii) Is creationism scientific?
(iii) Miracles and the supernatural.
(iv) Where did the universe come from?

(4) Consciousness

(i) Could a machine think?
(ii) Are you just a brain in a vat?
(iii) Is consciousness something impossible for science to explain?
(iv) What's essential as far as being you is concerned?
(v) How do you know that there are other minds?
Read more ›
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. Strong on October 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A book like this one isn't about the conclusions that are reached in its discussions. It is about the thought process used to guide those discussions. We all can use help sharpening our thinking and nothing but good can come of it.

Stephen Law presents 25 interesting and accessible philosophy questions and tackles them primarily in the form of dialogs between two people on opposite sides of the issue. Typically one uses a rational, reasoned approach while the other takes an approach based on a softer footing and is inevitably trumped. Often, Law's conclusions are obvious from the outset, but a few times I found my own beliefs challenged and really had to take a step back and reconsider my own position.

If you are interested in honing your own thinking and like open discussions of topics, you will truly enjoy this book and be a better thinker when you finish it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Law deserves all those puffs from academics. This is easily the best introduction to philosophy on the market. It's by someone who knows the subject inside out (Law edits the Royal Institute of Philosophy's new journal THINK). It's ideal for those new to philosophy yet, weirdly, many of the chapters also manage to take you to the cutting edge. I'm doing a Masters in philosophy and I still got a lot from it. "Could a machine think?" is the best thing I've read on the subject.
This book is going to stir up a lot of feeling in many readers - Law doesn't mind saying what he thinks, and what he says will outrage many (like homophobes - see below), but that's part of the fun of it. For anyone with an open mind who enjoys having their preconceptions challenged it's a total blast. I've noticed this is fast becoming a cult book among philosophy students.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The others reviewers (January 9th and 14th 2004) nailed it right on the head. I could have written the first review myself.
I too go back to this book every spare time I get. It is simple and yet quite thorough in its examination of each question's arguments. The author may be biased on some points but, due to the fact that it's so apparent, I think it only added some spice to the content. It pushed my intellect to go further and try to see WHY I disagreed with him and HOW I would retort to his arguments. And THAT's exactly the point of philosophy: open the mind, cultivate curiosity and make up you own decisions.
Another book that is often referenced in this book is "Philosophy: the basics" by Nigel Warburton. It complements this one wonderfully. It's less of a pleasure read but it's also unbiased and VERY thorough for a small book. After reading these 2 small books, I had deep conversations and ended up feeling like a great philosopher myself!
Since then, I've been unable to stop reading philosophy books!
Have a good read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you are fascinated by "big questions" like: Is time travel possible? Where did the universe come from? Could a machine think? and Should we allow designer babies? then you'll find The Philosophy Gym endlessly fascinating. Each short snappy chapter introduces one of these great philosophical conundrums, and gives you the key arguments and concepts through amusing dialogues, entertaining little stories and weird and wonderful thought-experiments. The chapters can be dipped into in any order. It's highly readable, yet also genuinely educational. Judging by the quality of the reviews he gets from academics (some of which are on the back cover) Law knows his stuff. True, he let's rip against the young-Earth creationists, and some religious people will probably dismiss him as "biased" (he's pretty clearly an atheist). But I have to say he seems pretty fair and even handed to me. Whatever your views on life, the universe and everything, you'll find this a hugely stimulating and challenging book, and great fun too.
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