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What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy Paperback – October 15, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0195052169 ISBN-10: 0195052161 Edition: New edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New edition edition (October 15, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195052161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195052169
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A very well written book...great for introducing the topics to an intro-level class. It touches on key issues and brings up the relevant points, yet all in relatively short and easy-to-understand chapters. Would be a great supplement for a course in metaphysics."--Jack Bowen, DeAnza College

"An excellent introduction; it introduces students to some of the important philosophical questions without overwhelming them with terminology or history."--Jason A. Beyer, College of Lake County

"A phenomenal amount of material in a tiny book coupled with humor."--Joan Anderson, Orange Coast College, CA

"A good philosophy book for neophytes. It is penetrable for the beginner and comprehensive enough to elucidate a spectrum of traditional philosophic issues."--David Wolf, SUNY at Albany

"A good, clearly interesting book to use for an Introduction to Philosophy course. Thomas Nagel has done a fine job."--Stephen Joseph, Framingham State College

"This little book by Nagel is quite simply the best introduction to philosophy ."--Graham Oddie, University of Colorado at Boulder

"The perfect title for a writing that offers no answers while helping the student formulate their own responses to life's greatest questions."--JoAnn L. Smith, North Central Bible College

"An outstanding introductory textbook to philosophy. The best textbook I know to give freshmen an idea of what philosophy is."--Ran Lahay, Southern Methodist University

"We are already using this book as a text, and we are enjoying it."--Martin E. Bayang, New Mexical State University

"An outstanding introductory framework to many of the most important problems in philosophy. It is clear and simple--even my freshman can read it--yet never simplistic...Ties in well with many traditional theories."--Richard M. Wolters, Doane College

About the Author

Thomas Nagel is at New York University.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Nearly anyone can read this book.
ewomack
This is a very readable introduction to philosophy, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has done no previous reading in philosophy.
Carey Allen
The author also has a great sense of humour which added to the pleasure of reading this book.
WC

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Carey Allen on September 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very readable introduction to philosophy, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has done no previous reading in philosophy. It is a little short, but should serve to stimulate interest and provide a basis for further reading.
Topics covered are:
1. introduction
2. how do we know anything?
3. other minds
4. the mind-body problem
5. the meaning of words
6. free will
7. right and wrong
8. justice
9. death
10. the meaning of life
After reading this, you might wish to take a look at these books:
a. The Problem of the Soul (author: Flanagan)
b. The View from Nowhere (author: Nagel)
c. Language, Truth and Logic (author: Ayer)
d. Life and Death (author: Hackett)
e. The Meaning of Life (author: Klemke)
f. The Examined Life (author: Nozick)
g. The Symbolic Species (author: Deacon)
These books should serve to stimulate further interest in philosophy, and introduce you to some good writers. They are all written for the non-specialist, and are available as low-cost paperbacks.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Mark I. Vuletic on January 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
I am a doctoral candidate in philosophy, and I still enjoyed reading this book. Never before have I seen such a brief, lucid introduction to some of the key problems of philosophy: Is there really an external world? Are there other minds? How does the mind relate to the brain? Is there such a thing as free will? What is the nature of morality and justice? How do words manage to refer to things? How should one feel about death? What is the meaning of life? Nagel offers short, engaging discussions of each.
One will not find in this book all of the major problems one is typically introduced to in a philosophy class - notably absent is the problem of induction and, except for a side note or two, the question of whether or not there is a god. However, one will find more than enough to stimulate much deep thought and many restless nights. Heartily recommended to all.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think highly of Thomas Nagel as a serious philosopher. If you don't have a clue about philosophy, this is probably about as good an introduction as you can get. Nagel writes about philosophical problems that have haunted human minds throughout the ages. It is intentionally ahistorical for the good reasons that Nagel gives.
If you have had exposure to philosophy in, say, a college level course, this book will be much too simple for you. But if you want something to grease the neurons to start thinking in the abstract way that is philosophical in character, then this book is for you. It's probably a great text for kids in a high school course or adults who are just realizing the benefit of stepping back from life for a moment or two to reflect on what it all means.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Textcontext on January 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
During that first week of the first semester of the freshman year, before the social fraternities might have planned and executed their first parties, before the sports tryouts, play auditions, talent shows, and football games can begin in earnest, for those very few days, the meaning of college and a scholarly endeavor can still be shaped by a teacher. In those two or three class meetings, while others are still defining the field, deriving the Greek origin of the course title, explaining his/her own teaching approach, reading the syllabus, updating roll books, and breaking the ice, in those few days I try to capture students' attention. I will need it for the rest of the semester and I see it as an important part of my job to win it. But I have only a few days to hook them. Those who I can not ensnare are usually lost to the hard stuff, hookah, and hormones. So it's vital that I catch them, and fast. Luckily, I teach Philosophy and History.

Understanding this challenge, the first assignment should both engage and prepare the student for the next readings. Getting through the initial chapters should be an encouraging experience. If an advanced high school student could complete the readings for the second class meeting, spending about three hours to do so, and then successfully use the material in the next class discussion, then that reading is a perfect first selection.

And a broad description of philosophical thinking, in language that provides a freshman with better than even chances to succeed, can still be found in Thomas Nagel's _What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy_. Nine chapters of about ten pages each make this readable little book ideal for the first week of an introductory course in Philosophy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Here is perhaps the best book to give to someone who asks "what is this philosophy stuff all about anyway?" In this short 100-page book the basic problems of philosophy receive coherent, meaningful, and very down to earth treatment. Nearly anyone can read this book. It includes no large imposing technical terms or obscure opaque theories. The language and subject matter of the book take aim at the true beginner and hit every time. Anyone with no background in philosophy, but with a curious streak for the subject, should read this book cover to cover.

Another interesting approach this book takes involves the complete absence of the names of eminent philosophers. Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Nietzsche, Russell, Quine; none of their names appear. This focuses the book on the nitty gritty subject matter, not the "big names" that pack most introductory philosophy texts. It also focuses readers on themselves. The questions asked and subjects covered can be directly related to the reader's own experience and life. One doesn't have to have read Descartes' "Meditations on The First Philosophy" to follow the first four chapters. They can be read and related to one's own experience, for some very basic questions get unearthed here: How do I know anything? How do I know that other people have minds? Am I a mind and a body or just a body? How do I figure out what words mean? And so on. This makes for a very welcoming introduction for newcomers. The book empowers those with little background rather than batting them down with "great names" or "great theories". Hopefully the text will whet the appetite for more (don't stop here by any means).

For those with a philosophy background (I have a B.A.) the book can still be refreshing in its simplicity.
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