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The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher Paperback – June 27, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For Stelios, the teletransporter is the only way to travel." So begins one of the 100 philosophically based brain teasers in Baggini's clever book. Each entry includes an imagined scenario, which is based on sources from Plato to Sir Bernard Williams, followed by commentary that introduces a series of mind-bending questions and broadens the possible contexts: e.g., if Stelios's body is disintegrated and then recomposed by the transporter, is Stelios still the same person he was? Is it ever ethical to eat animals, even if they want to be eaten? Is there really an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God? Is it right to do something wrong if it doesn't hurt anyone? Is torture ever a good option? Baggini, the editor of the U.K.'s Philosopher's Magazine, offers no firm answers, only hints as to where the discussion might go next. The conceit of the volume forces some repetitiveness and some simplification, but overall, it effectively explores aesthetics, ethics, language, logic, religion, mind and the self. More importantly, it's hugely entertaining. Any one of these thought experiments would serve as a great party game, keeping the conversation going for hours. (July)
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“This book is like the Sudoku of moral philosophy: apply your mind to any of its ‘thought experiments’ while stuck on the Tube, and quickly be transported out of rush-hour hell.”—New Statesman

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452287448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452287440
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julian Baggini is the editor and co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine. His books include Do You Think What You Think YouThink? (with Jeremy Stangroom), What's It All About? - Philosophy and the Meaning of Life and The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, all published by Granta Books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Detra Fitch VINE VOICE on June 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
Here is a book you simply cannot sit down and read in a single afternoon. In fact, I could only read, and really ponder, a few of these "experiments" at a time. This books attacks and/or makes you think about a variety of subjects. Nothing is taboo. I read passages on vegetarian verses meat, religion of all types, the environment, political situations, many moral, social, and personal dilemmas, and even zombies!

The author drew upon many sources. The title of this book is from an issue brought up in the well-known book "The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe" by Douglas Adams. Not impressed? How about just some of the other sources, such as René Descartes, Thomas Nagel, David Hume, Antony Flew, and Bjorn Lomborg?

**** There is no need to be a doctor, professor, or anything else which requires higher education. Each experiment of philosophy is written in such a way that your intelligence will not be offended, no matter your normal or higher education status. If you are looking for a book that will make you actually sit back and THINK, then I highly suggest this one. ****

Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Harkius VINE VOICE on August 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
you can consume the entire thing and still feel that you haven't really gained anything of value.

Don't get me wrong. The author does a good job of placing these concerns in context (although this book of 100 issues really only deals with a half dozen or so -- euthanasia, vegetarianism, utilitarianism, mind/body, theological philosophy, and another one or two minor issues), he doesn't really do much to illuminate them. Perhaps this would have been better produced as a book of 25 issues with cohesive and comprehensive arguments for each side. Instead, he (barely) gives us "talking points" for each of them (and frustratingly leaves us without any references for ANY of them...)

This is a good book to pick up if you want to run your ethical system through its paces, but it really won't change your mind about anything, so it is kind of tepid. In addition, there is little or nothing new here to even an armchair philosopher, whom this is intended to address (the cover says).

Pick it up as a discussion starter over the family dinner table, to get the kids started thinking about these concepts early. But, as others have posted, don't read the whole thing in series. There is too much repitition and too little depth to cause this to be an exercise of any merit.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Oliver on August 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book consists of 100 logical and moral puzzles. For example, a doctor is not allowed to end a patient life, yet if the janitor accidentally pulls the plug, the doctor is not required to put that plug back in. What is the difference?

These puzzles and brain teasers are like a greatest hits album covering the entire history of civilization. Some date back to Greek or Roman times, while others are far more modern, including the title entry which is based on a passage from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Few, if any, of the entries are original, as the author readily admits.

Each entry is occupies a page or less, and is then followed by a page or two of commentary. You can read and think about one entry for five or ten minutes, then put the book down for a while without losing continuity. Of course, these brief discussions are anything but exhaustive. Personally, I had read most or all of these puzzles before. Still, I found it interesting to see them presented in one succinct collection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Suyo on June 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Baggini's collection of philosophical thought experiments, brain teasers that expose the reader to complicated philosophical problems through simple hypotheticals, is not a novel. Because the book is a collection of thought experiments and not a narrative, the five stars awarded to it are not the same as the five stars awarded to the book are not the same as five stars awarded to a literary classic. Still, The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten is a phenomenal read.

Baggini explores philosophical issues from every philosophical discipline, logic, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, anything that can be named that is related to philosophy is addressed in one of the many thought exercises. The deceptively simple situations lead to hours of consideration after reading, as they're all open ended, though Baggini occasionally comes down hard on one side or another.

One of this text's many strengths is the readable way in which it addresses each philosophical concern. Background knowledge of even a passing nature of each problem would be superfluous as Baggini puts each issue into a context that's easily understood by laypeople.

Baggini's collection of thought exercises is a worthwhile read for any and everyone. Important moral and existential questions are raised by the text and it serves as a fantastic reference or coffee table book even after being read cover to cover.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Douglas Adams posed many a philosophical question in his works. For some, the most hilarious - or disturbing, was the meal that introduced itself and recommended certain portions for consumption. In a society fully detached from the processing of living flesh into oven-ready tidbits, Adams portrayal of "the pig that wants to be eaten" seems outlandish. Yet, is there truly a moral issue in developing a food that not only embraces the opportunity to be consumed, but has the capacity to help the diner choose the more desireable cut. ?

Julian Baggini poses this and ninety-nine other questions in this tantalising collection. Many of the topics he raises have been with us for millennia - remaining unresolved today. The author draws the old questions to centre stage, clad in modern finery and make-up. The new appearance helps bring the reader into the questions with a greater sense of comfort, one hopes. But when the last line has been read, it's clear that this isn't just an entertaining recasting of old conundrums, but of serious issues we confront daily. Reading them all in one go could be dangerous to your mental health!

Many readers will have encountered these issues previously: if your brain is transplanted to another body, are you still you? Or if that bastion of "consciousness" is instead placed in a vat of nutrients and wired into a computer that feeds it sensory information, are you still "real"? If your ATM grants you ten thousand dollars when you asked for a hundred, are you "morally bound" to return it [assuming the bank's auditors can't track where it went]? On a lighter note, we might consider whether a sculpture produced by Nature is a work of art. If it is, who sets a value on it? How much would you pay for it?
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