- Series: Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press (March 15, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0822957558
- ISBN-13: 978-0822957553
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,126,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Luck: The Brilliant Randomness Of Everyday Life Paperback – March 15, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Luck, an unpredictable, uncontrollable force bringing good or ill fortune into our personal lives, has a vast impact on human affairs, declares University of Pittsburgh philosophy professor Rescher. In a wise, sensible inquiry that throws a floodlight on a topic shrouded in misconceptions, he explores the role of luck in accidents, windfalls, lost or gained opportunities, flukish victimizations; in work, love, daily affairs, elections, war, games and science. Citing Spinoza and the Book of Job, he mulls the unmerited misfortunes that befall good people. Using Pascal, Leibniz and game theory, he interprets gambling as a microcosm of life. Rescher believes that astrology and superstitions are a waste of energy. Instead, he argues, people can guard against bad luck through common caution, insurance, keeping the odds on one's side and extending one's knowledge. He further urges alertness, preparedness and thoughtful timing as means to create and seize favorable opportunities.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the roll of the dice in a craps game to the questions that show up on the SAT, our lives are constantly affected by luck. But what is the nature of luck? What role has it played in history? These questions and many more are tackled in this unique book, which looks at luck from multiple perspectives, including how language shapes the way we think about luck; the differences between luck, fortune, and fate; the history of the idea of luck in the Western tradition; and the impossibility of shaping or directing luck. Rescher has no use for such superstitions as rabbit's feet or knocking on wood, but he supports the belief that luck favors the prepared. He encourages the reader to take reasonable, carefully calculated risks, assuming that luck will run favorably more frequently than unfavorably. Finally, he contends that, without luck, life as we know it would be unsustainable, that the randomness of good and bad luck gives life the spice that makes it palatable. This is a fascinating look at an underexplored topic. George Needham --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Much of Mr. Rescher's book is an engaging, well-researched series of observations about the role of luck in human affairs, many of which are used to make the frequent point that nothing is 'responsible' for the operation of luck. "Luck pivots on unpredictability," says the author, and backs this up with both historical and hypothetical events in which fate acts in defiance of what its object deserves--either for good or ill.
Yet in making these points, the author either avoids or ignores larger questions that naturally follow from his examples. While he observes that chance frowned upon the passengers of the Titanic and the Jews of World War Two-era Poland, he avoids the related observation that chance frowned more heavily upon the poor passengers and Jews than upon the wealthy and influential. The author defends as rational the impulse to buy a lottery ticket, since a chance at a fortune is better than no chance, yet he ignores that a person who is already wealthy has no need of this fortune, and thus feels no such 'rational' urge.
About two-thirds of the way through the book, the author considers that individual traits bestowed or withheld by luck might have some moral significance, yet--in a tone that seems directly the opposite of the book's previous chapters--he satisfies himself with an oddly bourgeois rule: we are responsible for our moral virtue, regardless of how much of that virtue has been chosen for us by luck or fate. The author wants to insist on this rule so that villains can be condemned for being villains before they perform any wicked acts. Yet this seemingly common-sense position leads to a far more puzzling question: to what degree can one reasonably separate chance from intent? The author points out that a drunk driver who gets home safely is lucky, while a sober driver who kills another motorist by accident is unlucky, but does this distinction of luck really make the drunkard more morally reprehensible than the killer? What if the sober driver was an alcoholic, but had simply not had the chance to get drunk?
The toughest questions arise when the author sternly observes that "We are not morally responsible for _choosing_ our bad character (character is not the sort of thing that is up for choice), but we are morally responsible--and morally reprehensible--for _having_ it." If we are somehow responsible for having bad character chosen for us, are we also responsible for bad circumstances chosen for us? Is a poor child somehow morally responsible for being born into poverty rather than wealth? "Identity must precede luck," states the author. But where environment informs identity, and luck informs environment, can such a statement remain true, if it ever was?
What the author ends up doing in this book is brushing the snow away from around a Great Question: how is justice possible in a world where chance is the predominant force for action? By failing to consider this question and the lesser questions that attend it, Mr. Rescher's book, while enjoyable, remains less than what it could have been.
Rescher's narrative, while mildly academic in tone, brims with the engaging and imaginative scenario-spinning that is a brilliant philosopher's forte (Rescher is a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh.)
Whether he's writing about luck's role in war, finance, sports, Vegas, love, or death, Rescher, with this book, shows us how fascinating a learned philosophical reverie can be. LUCK is heartily recommended to readers whose intellects permit them to look beyond the notion, "Luck -- either you have it or you don't."