From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Scientific American
Baggini, founding editor of the Philosophers Magazine, makes the rationalist-humanist assumption that reason and evidence are to be employed in the attempt to understand why we are here. He then proceeds to argue that inquiry into human origins and future human prospects does not reveal a purpose for human existence. Most confrontational to readers may be his skepticism about a God giving purpose to life. Is it plausible, he asks, to suppose that we are here to "be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Genesis 1:28)? Why do we need to do this? And why would an all-powerful God create us to have us serve or worship him? Doesnt that suggest that God is an egotistical tyrant?
The conclusion that life lacks a "higher" purpose is often accompanied by great angst. Without such an overarching direction, life seems worthless. Baggini, however, challenges this view and provides some rough guidelines about what in fact makes life valuable to people. Helping others can give life meaning, insofar as it makes for an uplifted quality of life. Happiness, construed as something other than mere immediate sensual pleasure, is also a good thing. Success in parenting, in ones profession and in leading a morally decent existence can give life direction, too.
There is much to recommend Bagginis book. It is clearly written and reasoned, setting out the sober view that life can be meaningful even if purposeless. The principal shortcomings are those imposed by the genre of popular philosophythe reader is likely to fi nd that his or her particular views are not given the full attention they deserve. Nor are the authors positive views worked out in much detail. What this means, of course, is that Whats It All About? is only a starting point for reflection.