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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Further travels with Dick Feynman, May 1, 2007
This review is from: "What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character (Paperback)
What Do You Care What Other People Think? is sort of a sequel to Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman. As a whole this book is not as good as Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman. Part 1 of What Do You Care What Other People Think? is excellent and is very similar in tone and content to the earlier book in that it contains anecdotes of Feynman's youth, travels, and work at Los Alamos, and a touching account of the untimely death of his first wife Arlene. I recommend it highly (with only one qualm, see below).

Part 2 is an account of Feynman's work investigating the space shuttle Challenger disaster. This part contains some interesting material but it seemed incomplete, technical in odd ways, and I found it hard to follow--actually impossible to understand fully.

Feynman's epilogue on the value of science is simple-minded, and IMO unworthy of publication.

Let me repeat: Part 1 is fascinating and is a valuable supplement to Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman, but one thing that bothered me is Feynman's hostile attitude to philosophy. Here is a particularly annoying example: Feynman is discussing how he helped Arlene with her philosophy homework. Feynman attacks Descartes' proof for the existence of God. Feynman has Descartes' argument summarized fairly accurately and gives one of the standard refutations (offered as his own brilliant idea). All of this is sophomoric, literally, in that it is standard fare in intro to philosophy courses, but Feynman presents it as though he is this daring iconoclast, uprooting the stuffy philosophers. I quote: "Arlene understood me. She understood, when she looked at it, that no matter how impressive and important this philosophy stuff was supposed to be, it could be taken lightly--you could just think about the words, instead of worrying about the fact that Descartes said it." (p. 29)

Of course this is just what philosophers teach in intro to philosophy. This is philosophy! Take nothing for granted, question everything, "The unexamined life is not worth living" (Socrates). Feynman is a brilliant physicist and wonderful story teller, and he's had a wild life, but his attitude to philosophy is uneducated and uninformed. Feynman especially should appreciate our philosophical heritage. One of Feynman's valuable contributions is that he has been something of a gadfly in the spirit of Socrates, the founder of philosophy in the Western tradition.

Finally I find the title annoying. Of course you care what other people think, and so do I and so did Feynman. Why else would he relate his anecdotes, tell us the story of the death of Arlene, and so on? Indeed, Feynman strikes me as quite sensitive and concerned about other people and their thoughts.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 19, 2007 4:32:58 PM PST
Ed says:
I think you just interpret "care what other people think" in your own way, not in Feynman's original way.
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