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📙 Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn — free epub


I have never taken a formal class in philosophy but have for a long time been interested in the problems and methods studied by it. So I had to experiment with introductory books including Blackburn's Think. I present here a brief review of the book along with other ideas for the interested reader. Think is an introduction to philosophy organized around the following main philosophical themes:: 1 - Knowledge - Descartes' evil demon and the "cogito"; 2 - Mind - if I am not a brain in a vat what can I tell about your conciouness; 3 - Free Will - versus determinism; 4 - The Self - souls and credulism; 5 - God - ontological, cosmological, intelligent design and miracle based arguments; 6 - Reasoning - language and logic; 7 - The World - a wrap up. Each theme is discussed in a chapter supported by quotations from classical philosophical texts from Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, among others. Each chapter increases in complexity to the point that, in many cases, I had to go back a few pages and re-read entire sections to make sure I was following the thought exercises. I struggled the most across the "Self" chapter, and by going back a couple of pages at a time I probably ended up having read the entire chapter three times or more. Not that the chapter was specially convoluted but because the ideas and thought exercises were very difficult to me. The best chapter in my opinion was the one about God which evaluated the ontological, cosmological, intelligent design and miracle based arguments for and against God's existence. I believe the choice of quotations, the didactical construction of explanations and the pace of the book were all very good but I was not too impressed by the quality of the prose. So my conclusion is that it is a competent though not memorable book. Since it is slightly more expensive than other introductory tomes please consider these other ideas:: 1 - Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder - An excellent introduction more appropriate for teenagers and young adults (I read it when I was about 20 years old); 2 - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - An Inquire into Values by Robert Pirsig - Criticized by some, loved by many. Could be the Sophie for grownups (I read it last year at 36 years old); 3 - The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers by Will Durant - This is my all time favourite. Will Durant, the historian, has an admirable prose; 4 - History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell - History of philosophy by a leading philosopher and mathematician and also an engaging writer. If you decide to go with "Think" you may want to check out as a companion book "The Blank Slate" by Steven Pinker. The Blank Slate is a book on behavioural science, it carries a praise by Simon Blackburn and maybe not coincidentally both books discuss the same main themes but, at times, from different perspectives making for a good complement. The Blank Slate is a five star book and was a Pulitzer finalist. I have written a review on it. Leonardo Alves - Brazil - 2010

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