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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 30, 2006
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 37 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 6, 2006
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.

Harkius
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2012
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2008
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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?

Baggini manages to prompt us with [mostly] plausible circumstances and definitely important questions. He does it in a couple of pages dedicated to each, and never provides a satisfactory answer to any of them. That's right and proper, since the questions posed must be applied by the reader to their own circumstances. He raises questions of who can pollute and the options confronting us all on how far our committments can reach in an increasingly interconnected world. The author's style is that of a fellow commuter on the bus or train every morning. The reading is easy, the format is simple. And each question generates long periods of reflection or exchanges over a beer. Few are resolved easily. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
While an interesting effort, more often than not it's an irritating showcase for the author to flaunt his wit rather than truly facilitate an honest examination of perplexing philosophical or theological issues. Of course, Baggini has not reached the level of success he has by restraining his self-expression.

The book is 100, one-page summaries of philosophical, theological, moral and ethical quandries culled from books, films, and various sources dating back to ancient Greece and all the way up to the movie The Matrix. Some of these are fairly intact summaries of their original expression. Others have been modified by Baggini to remove what he feels are familiarizations that might prevent the reader from viewing the issue as objectively as possible. This is ironic, since particularly on theological issues, Baggini is anything but objective in his assessment (and often dismissal) of certain points of view. This editorializing might lead the naive reader into assuming that either Baggini is a genius who has solved the greatest puzzlers of the ages, or that these questions are really not as difficult and challenging as philosophers and theologians make them out to be.

This is a useful book for quickly exposing oneself to various realms of metaphysical and philosophical inquiry. Each one-page scenario is followed with a 2-3 page synopsis of the core issues that are perplexing, and usually a brief examination of the common approaches used by opposing or different schools of thought to resolve the situation. Generally the reader is left to sort out what seems to be the better option on their own, with the understanding that in most cases, there are challenges with any one particular solution.

Frustrations with Baggini center around the theological issues he brings up - and his depiction of the issue is often anything but objective, leading the reader already to determine that a Biblical or supernatural possibility is anything but possible. In addition to skewed renderings of the scenario, Baggini frequently follows up with his own lampooning of religious thought as something that no educated person would consider valid for a moment. This ultimately demeans the book, skews objectivity, and creates more often than not an indoctrination text instead of a genuine effort to honestly present various explanations.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2007
Don't pick this book up late at night -- you'll have interesting questions buzzing around inside your head for hours, and never get any sleep. I'm looking forward to coming back to many of the sections in this book later and following up on them in other books.

Obviously this book contains more questions than answers. Come on, it says it's for "armchair philosophers," it has a picture of a pig on the cover, and there are 100 sections in 336 pages. No great depth is to be expected.

So what? The book does what it should: it gets me interested in classic thought exercises that have puzzled people for hundreds of years, clearly presents major points of view, and does it in a way that's highly accessible and makes me want to read more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2010
JB wants to bring philosophy to the masses and this is the best way to do it: via FUN! You will still have access to the deepest age old conundrums. Many reviewers here missed the mark of what he was trying to do. You don't think JB could write a dry tome for the eschelons of academia if he wanted to? In the same light, don't you think that JB could offer a cut and dry polemic? Many of these posters just don't get it, or more likely, fall prey to their egos. This is maieutics, minus the absolute... or is it?!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2011
There is a strange paradox that our ability to think sets humanity apart, yet for the most part we resist at every opportunity the challenge of actually thinking. I recall a wonderful quotation from Steve Allen
"Impartial observers from other planets would consider ours an utterly bizarre enclave if it were populated by birds, defined as flying animals that nevertheless rarely or never actually flew. They would also be perplexed if they encountered in our seas, lakes, rivers, and ponds, creatures defined as swimmers that never did any swimming. But they would be even more surprised to encounter a species defined as a thinking animal if, in fact, the creature very rarely indulged in actual thinking."

So, to the book. As its subtitle reveals is an invitation to thinking.
Perhaps the most famous thought experiment was conducted by Einstein when he imagined what it would be like to ride on a light beam. Pursuing that thought led him to question well established beliefs and ultimately led to his special theory of relativity, Here are 100 opportunities to explore, prompted by intriguing questions which invite you to challenge your beliefs, values and understanding.

For example the question in the title invites you to consider a future where pigs have been bred not only to speak, but also to desire being eaten as their life's wish. How would this affect people's willingness to eat meat?

Discussion points are offered for each question which broaden and illuminate possible areas to consider. The value of the book is not found by arriving at answers, rather exercising your mind in being able to take the journey.

The 99 other questions provide stimulating brain exercise and plenty of discussion points. As a result you'll probably see a host of things in a new light.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2010
I have said it before, Baggini never disappoints. The guy writes these great little books that are interesting, good, easy reads. Note that I do NOT say they are quick reads. While you could certainly breeze through this book in a couple of hours or two, you would miss the great fun of the work. The questions posed in each chapter should be carefully considered. Personally, I read just one chapter a day.

Each of Baggini's books that I have read to date are composed of short chapters, no more than two or three pages long. In this particular book, each chapter poses a thought provoking question. I hesitate to call these philosophical questions for fear that you may dismiss these questions and this book as irrelevant. Each chapter, however, has an everyday practical implication in how we live our lives.

There is a great line in the movie Animal House where the Dean says to one of the frat boys; "Son, fat and stupid is no way to go through life." Some people are happy going through life without thinking of some of the deeper questions around morality, justice, or self-actualization. While that path may certainly be easier, less stressful, I believe that you miss some of life's greatest rewards as well. Baggini's books, especially this one, cause one to consider these questions, ultimately enriching his or her life experience.
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