To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener Paperback – August 21, 1999
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
“Gardner [is]...at the glorious zenith of his diversified powers.” ―The Boston Globe
“Martin Gardner is one of the greatest intellects produced in this country in this century.” ―Douglas Hofstadter
“For more than half a century, Martin Gardner has been the single brightestbeacone defending rationality and good science...He is also one of the most brilliant men and gracious writers that I have known.” ―Stephen Jay Gould
“Martin Gardner is that rarest of all contemporary species: a scholar in nobody's pocket; a sparkling, pellucid science and mathematics writer who can discuss Sigmund Freud, Sherlock Holmes, and proofs of God with equal fluency.” ―Stefan Kanfer, former book editor of Time Magazine
“Martin Gardner's contribution to contemporary culture is unique.” ―Noam Chomsky
From the Publisher
"For more than half a century, Martin Gardner has been the single brightest beacon defending rationality and good science.... He is also one of the most brilliant men and gracious writers that I have known." - Stephen Jay Gould
"Martin Gardner's contribution to contemporary culture is unique." - Noam Chomsky
"Martin Gardner is that rarest of all contemporary species: a scholar in nobody's pocket; a sparkling, pellucid science and mathematics writer who can discuss Sigmund Freud, Sherlock Holmes, and proofs of God with equal fluency." - Stefan Kanfer, former book editor of Time magazine
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
All of Gardner's compilations are worth reading and may represent a better introduction to Gardner's thought than the present volume. Nevertheless, this book has a charm that cannot be denied. The book is unlike anything else I have ever read. It is basically a series of musings about various philosophical issues: free will, evil, economics, politics and the nature of god. Gardner begins by giving a simple, understandable summary of the area, including the arguments of the great thinkers on the subject. Gardner then moves to a thorough analysis of the weight of the arguments, and concludes with his own position on the issue.
In general reading this book has the feel of being included in the private musings of a great intellect. Gardner is careful to develop his arguments thoroughly and simply so that the neophyte philosopher will not be left behind. (Though in fairness, some terms are not defined, an a Dictionary of Philosophy would be useful in getting the casual reader up to speed.)
Gardner's style is charming. He takes up a topic such as determinism versus free will and examines the philosophical arguments that have been raised against the existence of free will. Having admitted the power of the arguments arrayed against free will, Gardner confesses that he believes in free will anyway.Read more ›
I recommend this book to readers versed in philosophy as well as to those with no background in the subject. As far as his political and economic views, I'm thoroughly sympathetic with Gardner, but have no background in these matters. I leave it others to judge the worth of these portions of the book. But I would suggest that the dated examples don't seriously undermine his arguments.
With that epigraph, Martin Gardner begins his wonderful book, The Whys Of A Philosophical Scrivener--a book that has been, for me, one of those special ones I keep at my bedside so I can repeatedly browse it and scribble notes in its margins.
Gardner is a prolific author of over 70 books on mathematics, puzzles, skepticism, science, and philosophy. He wrote for Scientific American from 1956 to 1981, and has been a key figure in the modern effort to debunk pseudoscientists and paranormalists of all stripes. A founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, he wrote a column for their magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, from 1983 to 2002. He has been a loud critic of creationism, and has earned the respect and friendship of the likes of the late Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, as well as Michael Shermer, James Randi, and Douglas Hofstadter.
In short, he's just the sort of brilliant mind and gifted writer that we freethinkers love to have in our corner. But here is the surprise: Martin Gardner is a theist. And this book, in which he attempts to set out and justify all of his philosophical positions, is mostly about his personal religion, and how he tries to reconcile it with his considerable rational prowess, skepticism, and education.
Before I address the theological topics that comprise the bulk of the book, I'll briefly gloss over some of the other subjects he considers. Each chapter title is of the form "Why I Am Not An ( X )".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have known about Martin Gardner since the 1970's when I was in High School. Until recently, I had only read one of his books - "Relativity Simply Explained" - which did not... Read morePublished 20 months ago by D. Krajnovich
This was a very readable and wonderful book. I had known that the late-and-great Martin Gardner was a mathematician who wrote an entertaining column for Scientific American for... Read morePublished 23 months ago by James A. Magner
I can't say enough about "Whys." Gardner asks all the big questions and believes that most of them cannot be answered except from the heart. Read morePublished on November 16, 2013 by Thomas B Smith
His career of writing on mathematical games, magic, puzzles, and philosophy spanned 70 years. (Confession: I knew him personally. Read morePublished on March 26, 2013 by Kate Jones
I have not read all of the a book yet I want to read so I got started have not finished it but I believe it will continue to interest me very much.Published on January 2, 2013 by Joyce Turner
I'm a fan of Gardner, having grown up with his Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. His Relativity Simply Explained is the book I always recommend to people who want... Read morePublished on June 2, 2010 by Benjamin Crowell
The book arrived pretty much as described and very quickly! I would definately do business with this seller again.Published on September 11, 2009 by Joshua A. Donovan
I am a long-term admirer of Gardner's writings, starting with his "Mathematical Games" columns in "Scientific American," his "Annotated Alice" and "Annotated Ancient Mariner," and... Read morePublished on May 28, 2009 by Eugene R. Walker