What's It All About?: Philosophy & the Meaning of Life Kindle Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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.
Ken Aizawa --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00D2JDPH6
- Publisher : Granta Books (July 11, 2013)
- Publication date : July 11, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 335 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 215 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #347,589 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Julian does this with several common ideals we reflexively proclaim as "the meaning of life". One of them that comes to mind is altruism. Overall, it's a good book that gave me new insight. I recommend it to anyone who likes reading intelligent people's thoughts to expand their own thinking.
Ideas are one of the cheapest and easiest forms of happiness out there. Never stop consuming them. If it's not your cup of tea, at least you got a chance to see a rather intelligent/rational person's thought process regarding a timeless issue.
The conclusion that meaning of life could be found in finding a satisfying activity that will last a lifetime is just OK. It could work for a lot of people but many others would still be left overboard. True, just because not everybody can be happy doesn't mean that the author's conclusion is wrong, but I would have enjoyed the book much more if I saw some acknowledgment that life can really, well, suck and there could be nothing we could do about it. That would make the discussion more honest. One just needs to think about the great number of those sick, oppressed, tortured (right this moment), deeply depressed, unjustly imprisoned, etc. Their suffering might be too all-consuming to think about anything but putting an end to it. Can they find a meaning to their lives?
I think it would be more honest if we said that there is a tremendous degree of chance and luck involved in our ability to make our lives bearable. We might know the recipe for a good life but our brain constitution could be such that implementing the plan would be anatomically/neurologically impossible. Even if some of us do find a way to get enjoyment out of our lives, it hardly has any significance after our death, because that enjoyment (or any other emotion for that matter) doesn't transcend our being.
Death erases all signs of our lives as Marcus Aurelius kept telling himself in his "Meditations". Our feeling of enjoyment is just a function of our brain (made possible by our dopamine based reward system) and so just another animalistic function that stops working the minute we are dead. How we felt during our lives has zero significance. Except our brains make us feel better when we do something that they think is good for us. A hard question for me is: if it doesn't matter how we feel during our lives, why not just enjoy our lives since it feels better (i.e. generates dopamine)? It sure is an enticing proposition but strangely enough, hurting gives its own pleasure. In the end, happy or unhappy doesn't change anything after our death and in that sense Camus' question "Why not commit suicide?" still stands -- at least for those whose suffering is hard to bear.
In my opinion, the best take on life, its meaning or lack thereof was given by Schopenhauer despite all the criticism his philosophy has received. Yes, his philosophy is pessimistic, but just because it is pessimistic doesn't make it wrong.
Good for an initial reading before more deep books about this subject
Baggini does not pre-suppose any deep philosophical knowledge on the part of the readers. So, he explains any philosophical concepts that he brings up. In this way, the book is also a good introduction to philosophy. As other reviewers and even Baggini himself have mentioned, Baggini provides no clearcut prescription but a framework which can be used to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Baggini discusses and identifies a number of components of the purposeful life, but it is up to the readers to work out the specifics and to bring it to fruition. I find this approach very hopeful and motivating although I can understand that it can also feel daunting.
For someone who is already well versed in philosophy, this book might not be a satisfying read. Baggini does not spend more than a couple of pages (small pages and large print!) on any of the philosophical concepts/theories that he introduces. But for the layperson looking to read her first book on the meaning/purpose of life, this book is great.
Top reviews from other countries
I hope you find my review helpful.
However it occurred to me that the author neglected to consider the meaning of life from an evolutionary point of view.
We are part of the natural world - an advanced mammal - so therefore the basic behavior of simpler species should be contrasted with us.
When we examine other animals, birds and fish etc. their aims are clear - survival and fundamentally reproduction.
Our thoughts and sense of self lead us to speculate on a whole range of loftier purposes for our lives. Despite this we are basically little different from other forms of life in our key motivators.
So in effect, I would suggest that to reproduce is the purpose in life coded in our DNA. So perhaps, at an instinctive level, having offspring is what makes all organisms most happy and complete.
Starting a family may be what it's all about.
Baggini does't try and lead you into a way of thinking about life and its purpose. He simply (but thoroughly) offers the reader all of the possible reasons we can live a meaningful life.
I have read this book many many times. In fact I originally ordered the paperback but then later ordered it in hardback.