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If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers Paperback – March 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Imagine speeding along the freeway while your driver, Ludwig Wittgenstein, dissects and reassembles the bumper-sticker "wisdom" on passing cars. That’s the kind of trip it is to read If You Can Read This."—Tom Cathcart and Dan Klein, authors of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar
"In the sense of being pregnant with meaning, this book has a baby on board."—Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great
“Readers may find themselves involved in fender benders once they realize how much fun it is to think about the messages in bumper stickers and start tailgating in order to read and analyze them. A fantastic contribution to philosophy as it occurs in the real world.”—John Perry, co-host of the nationally syndicated Philosophy Talk, professor emeritus of philosophy at Stanford University
"If you love twitter (and even if you don't), you're going to love Jack Bowen's insightful and hilarious romp through the pre-twitter world of bumper sticker sloganeering. On every page I had two reactions: (1) a vigorous horse laugh, and (2) a curious 'uh, I didn't know that.' Humor and insight: what more can you ask from a book? Sex. Yes, it has that too. Read this book."—Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, author of Why People Believe Weird Things
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Top Customer Reviews
But it works, it really does. I thought it was very clever of Bowen to use something we all know (and mostly love), something as simple as a bumper sticker, to delve into some pretty tough topics. This small work covers just about everything: "reality", "the self", "values", "morality", even "the big questions". Each chapter has one of these general titles, then we get the bumper stickers.
For example, under the chapter "God and Religion", there are bumper sticker slogans ranging from "God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It." to "God, Please Save Me, From Your Followers!". No sticker is safe, and Bowen discusses the philosophy behind them all. And brings up some valid points that I hadn't really thought about, either. Such as when he discusses the sticker "When You Pray Get Off Your Knees". I'm pretty sure I've seen this one somewhere before but have never really given it much thought. Bowen talks about the driver's selection of this sticker, that this person most likely believes that you need to do something to change things other than pray. Or that you can pray, but still need to get off your butt and do something to help yourself as well. Bowen uses a quote from Frederick Douglass to illustrate this point: "I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs." Perhaps the driver would have the companion sticker on the other side of the bumper (just my thinking here....Read more ›
Also, the vignette-like structure makes it really easy to pick up and put down. However, I found myself saying "oh just one more" whenever I finished one, so maybe not super easy to put down.
I highly recommend this book for...
- philosophy students
- intellectually curious kids
- all book clubs
- birthday/graduation presents
- anyone who needs to go to the bathroom and wants something to read
I guess I'm highly recommending it to just about everyone. I'm putting it in the rare category of "can't miss."
The book does not really do what the jacket blurb purports it does -- "dissects and reassembles the bumper-sticker 'wisdom' on passing cars." Rather, it uses bumper-sticker slogans as points of departure for (in the manner of the mechanicals in "A Midsummer Night's Dream") a sequence of brief, tedious musings that largely present center-left conventional wisdom. Being somewhat center-left myself, I didn't see terribly much to disagree with, but the fact is, I learned nothing new -- nor was any new light shed on old truths. In the end the clever premise for the book was rendered trite.
At first I imagined that my reaction stemmed from the fact that I was not the intended reader of this book, that it was aimed more at the young who are still forming their ideas about life and so on. But the further I got into the book, the more I wondered who the intended reader might be. The writer's voice is initially genial in this book, and charming at times, but it too often descends into glibness and mockery, the sign of someone less interested in persuading others than he is in asserting his own intellectual superiority. It's clear the writer has a quarrel (as do I) with Christian fundamentalists, but does he imagine that taking such a stance is going to change any of their minds? In my experience, it only hardens them.Read more ›
The treatment of religion is particularly inarticulate. Bowen generally seems to mean conservative/fundamentalist, American Protestantism when he's not: (1) posing the shallow "If all religions claim to be right, are any of them?" question (p. 95, 210, etc.) or (2) reminding us that Muslim women are victims of honor killings "often carried out publicly" (p. 181). Ha! Ha! Ha! Love the humor! On pages 92 - 94 he writes about the Ichthys, inaccurately transcribing it as I-X-O-Y-E, thus missing both the Theta and Sigma (which he transcribes as O and E), also missing the alliterative-phonic origins of the symbol I for Iesous, X (chi), for Christos, etc.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting perspective on getting at the social attitudes and opinions of bumper-sticker sloganeers. And humorous, to boot. And a good introduction to Philosophy 1A.Published 16 months ago by Java Man Carlini
The book is a wonderful masterpiece of witty philosophy that can be handled by high school kids up though senior citizens. Read morePublished on August 4, 2011 by bhaaland
When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's a surprisingly good read with lot's of fun and thought-provoking perspectives and arguments. Read morePublished on May 27, 2011 by blpate
I'm a huge fan of books with perspective and philosophy and this book is just that. The reading isn't difficult, it's quite entertaining. Read morePublished on April 8, 2011 by Cristian
Nice title, promising premise but clichés conquer. Tedious thinking wrapped in polemic and ad hominem. Read morePublished on October 2, 2010 by Douglas Fairbanks
As a number guys, I'm not inclined to read many books on philosophy but Bowen's light romp through the world of bumper stickers is both fascinating and entertaining. Read morePublished on August 17, 2010 by Jeffrey Ma
The book had me laughing out loud from the humor the author uses, and the pace is nice because the short, concise analysis the author provides on some complex topics from bumper... Read morePublished on May 15, 2010 by S. Riley