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Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers Hardcover – November 13, 2007
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"A slight and deceptively modest volume, "Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?" is more than a short guide to the history of philosophy.... Written with a graceful simplicity that belies its profundity, this is a book that reconnects philosophy with perennial questions.... Kolakowski's work is exemplary and indispensable."
"A discrete, dialectical wonder, a high-brow, low-key little volume that's strangely synchronous: backward-looking, forward-thinking, and--best of all--wholly free of both condescension and commonplaceness."
Richard Neuhaus, "First Things"
"Each little essay is a masterpiece of exquisitely refined intellectual summary and judgment. One may not always agree, but, in disagreement, one is prompted to think again."
"New York Times"
"With admirable clarity and brevity, Mr. Kolakowski puts these enduring questions within arm's reach of the general reader. If your New Year's resolution is to become a better, wiser person, this may be the place to start."
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Top Customer Reviews
This little book is both challenging and enjoyable to read, a real thought-provoker.
For some hard to fathom reason, Basic Books chose to eliminate 7 of Kolakowski's portraits, portraits that can be found in the Polish original. The seven portraits left on the cutting room floor are those of Aristotle, Meister Eckhart, Nicolas of Cusa, Hobbes, Heidegger, Jaspers and Plotinus. Chiefly for that reason (what in the world were they thinking?), this volume loses a star.
Leszek Kolakowski, once one of Poland's most important philosophers - that is until he was banned from teaching and forced to immigrate to the West -- uses 23 questions here as a platform for probing more deeply into key questions that sit at the center of modern philosophy generally, and at the intersection of rationality and metaphysics in particular, to analyze the arguments of many traditional philosophers. All of this analysis is put to good use as they each prove to be pivotal to understanding the finer points of contemporary Western philosophy.
In each essay a wide range of issues that interest the author are examined and analyzed. And although some of the discussions are clearer and better argued (and thus were more valuable to this reader than others), they all are clear and understandable and coalesce around the very interesting issue of the nature and rationality of the existence of god, therefore the title of the book. Using the history of philosophy and the essays of a slew of philosophers as a guide to established Western philosophical literature, the author combs history to come to some rather unexpected conclusions. The most important of these becomes what could be considered the running theme of the book: that there is an irreducible religious presence in many intellectual arguments, in Western, as well as in non-Western societies.Read more ›
I want to know what does the editor think of us, customers!
The "God of Christianity" is featured far too much here. It necessarily dominates the discussions of many of his selections for study (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, etc.), but he manages to drag Christianity into discussions where it seems completely unnecessary as well. Why is this needed (or even sound) in a book which is a sampling of philosophy? It almost, but not quite, gets to the point where it becomes a serious flaw with the book rather than just an annoyance.
In the introduction, the author states that he will concentrate on one idea in the thought of each philosopher, as trying to summarize each in a book such as this would be impossible. Given the natural space limitations of a book like this, that makes sense. But he nevertheless takes up space on a few of his selections by making controversial generalizations - not focusing on one idea - and then not having to defend these generalizations because of the space constraint. His treatment of Nietzsche was particularly glaring in this sense.
Nevertheless, this book is still a fine introduction to some of the problems which have been wrestled with during the history of western philosophy. And he does have a very nice way of fleshing out questions that are still interesting today. Take a look at his section on Plato for a good sample. Overall a fun and interesting read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having purchased the complete text from amazon.uk, I find this small volume to be an extraordinary insight into the role that philosophy has played in western thought since the... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Scoglio
This book was used as a text in an Introduction to Philosophy class and I think it did a great job of getting the main points of these philosophers across. Read morePublished on April 2, 2013 by Scott Rosales
We are met on the battlefield of a great war. It was a poetic slaughter. Aristotle had to attempt a science of everything, but the essay on Aristotle was left out so the book could... Read morePublished on August 27, 2011 by as baby Babylons do SKITS
I bought the book because its title is the main sentence of Heidegger's great essay on metaphysics.
How can Basic Books sell it without Kolakowski's essay on Heidegger? Read more
If you are really interested in exploring philosophy and critical questions from philosophy i suggest that you avoid this book. Read morePublished on December 4, 2009 by T. Kepler
This book was more than disappointing, it was repetitious and very slanted. I'm not sure why I got it; I think I saw a reference in some other book. Read morePublished on November 12, 2009 by sbissell3
The problem with this book is that it is not good reading.
I am an omnivorous reader who reads everything. Read more