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The Truth About Everything: An Irreverent History of Philosophy : With Illustrations Hardcover – January 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 482 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573921106
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573921107
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,175,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The two main branches of modern philosophy, analytic and continental, each attack the other as irrelevant. Matthew Stewart says they're both right. The Truth About Everything is an earnest lampoon by on Oxford Ph.D. set on bursting the bubble of philosophers everywhere. His claim is that philosophy endeavors to reveal the truth about everything, and since this is clearly impossible, the history of philosophy is nothing but a mish-mash of misconceptions, false starts, and blind alleys. His acid humor and frank discussions are a welcome comic interlude for the serious student of philosophy.

Review

"A deliciously iconoclastic and often funny historical survey of Western philosophy. . . . This irreverent tour will goad armchair philosophers to independent thought."
Publishers Weekly
"Anyone thinking of a major in philosophy would do well to read this . . ."
Philadelphia City Paper
"His acid humor and frank discussions are a welcome comic interlude for the serious student of philosophy." - Philosophy and Religion Expert Editor's Recommended Book, Amazon.com
". . . delightful irreverence . . . brilliant ending." - New Humanity

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Michael T. Zeddies on July 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is right about many things, but wrong about some important things. Philosophy certainly has a lot of sacred cows in need of skewering, and Stewart does an admirable job of satirizing popular (and academic) notions of just what philosophy is...however, even he admits in the end that his critique is not only inadequate but somewhat ironically self-refuting...and his exclusive attention to the metaphysical and epistemological traditions leaves out pretty much everything written in ethics, political theory, and aesthetics, all of which are certainly central to philosophy. I find this strange and hypocritical for someone who admonishes us to teach philosophy as a part of other disciplines, rather than as a discipline in its own right. His treatment of certain areas--Kant's ethics, the American pragmatists--is brief and inadequate, and one gets the feeling that the author is out of his league in certain areas (not surprising, since he does try to cover all the big names to at least some degree). But then I'm not sure how seriously the author wishes us to take him...in the end, his closing words of advice "be responsible! be good! be true to yourself!" only beg the questions philosophy wishes to answer: Why should we be good? Why should we be responsible? Why should we be true to ourselves? More importantly, just how does one act good, responsible, stay true to one's self, etc...I get the feeling the author doesn't think these are particularly philosophical questions. But they are--and that's the point. I'm all for recognizing that philosophy isn't merely something professors do at college--it's something we all do, every day. But then, we should take such questions as seriously as possible. So what exactly is it the philosophers are doing wrong? Still, an enjoyable read, and educational, for philosophers of all kinds, whether professional or amateur.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By palvarado@ice.go.cr on August 25, 1997
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Did you ever think of a history of philosophy that was not just interesting but funny? This is that book. Prepare to laugh and to find chapters like "Descartes : I drink therefore I am" and "Sartre : Being-in-the-Cafe". But, in my opinion, this most unusual adjective for a philosophy book --funny-- is not the principal one that I can say of it. Oddly as it may seem, at the end of the book, the adjectives that came to my mind (or body?) were : saddening, shocking, distressful. Because it woke me up from my dogmatic dream : that philosophy was important and useful. This book imposes a dramatic change of view about philosophy and the great philosophers. For example, after reading the chapter on the sophists, I got the impression that they were just "consultants" of their time. If this is true, they contributed much more to the welfare of their society than the lazy Socrates. Of course, nobody is saying that this book contains THE truth about philosophy, but it contains ENOUGH truth for me to unhesitatingly make the decision NOT to read any other philosophy book in my life. Besides, I've already read more philosophy books than I want to remember. If you are an amateur philosophy fan as I WAS, don't miss this book, it might be your last.
P.S. : Whatever you do, don't skip the chapter "Heidegger : Much Ado about Being"
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "arlodriver" on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While Stewart's book is certainly neither exhaustive or perfect in its portrayl of every significant philosopher, it certainly is a rather unique entry into worthwhile philosophy reads. For one its rather humourous, and two, it attempts to be critical. While most introductions to the subject tend to be far to pious and pedantic, Stewart can point out an obvious flaw or two in nearly anyones favorite philosopher (unless your favorite is David Hume). This book is probably a better read for the novice rather than the newbie, but all the same it pokes much needed holes in the rather pompous tradition of the History of Philosophy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on July 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book works on two levels. On one, as a good reminder of Western philosophy (although the author insists that there is no such thing as Western thought, I disagree). If you have never read philosphy, of course, this won't be enough and you'll probably be lost. But if you have, and not necessarily all of the philosophers cited, it will be a very good and quick trip through the fascinating chain of successive explanations given about... well, about everything.

On the other level, it is a demythification of the great philosophers and their complex, sometimes absurd, but always frutiful elucidations (for good and bad). The explicit purpose of the author is to demonstrate that all philosophy is ultimately wrong, for the simple reason that there can be no explanation, once and for all, for everything. There is no system of thought that engulfs absolute answers to every question humanity has posed throughout history. Truth, if it exists, has to be revealed bit by bit, through every discovery, idea, and experience, and we're still very far from absolute truths, if we get there one day. Which, by the way, would be the beginning of total boredom.

Stewart achieves the goal of writing a book at the same time serious, profound and professional, as well as easy to read, funny, mocking and direct. Philosophers are presented as ambitious, jealous, seriously interested in finding the truth, but also in dethroning predecessors and rivals, and in being the new Supreme Priests of thought. Nevertheless, along the pages, between joke and joke, we discover an admirable and sustained cultural enterprise, a systematic and reasonably organized effort to understand every phenomenon, from Time, Being and Nothing, to Cosmos, Soul, Ethics, Science, Art and Human Knowledge.
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