From the author of The Latest Answers to the Oldest Questions, a philosophical guide that’s “great for sounding cleverer than you really are” (Men’s Health).
For those who don’t know the difference between Lucretius’s spear and Hume’s fork, Zeno and the Tortoise explains not just who each philosopher was and what he thought, but exactly how he came to think in the way he did.
In a witty and engaging style that incorporates everything from Sting to cell phones to Bill Gates, Fearn demystifies the ways of thought that have shaped and inspired humanity—among many others, the Socratic method, Descartes’s use of doubt, Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism, Rousseau’s social contract, and, of course, the concept of common sense. Along the way, there are fascinating biographical snippets about the philosophers themselves: the story of Thales falling down a well while studying the stars, and of Socrates being told by a face-reader that his was the face of a monster who was capable of any crime. Written in twenty-five short chapters, each readable during the journey to work, Zeno and the Tortoise is the ideal course in intellectual self-defense. Acute, often irreverent, but always authoritative, this is a unique introduction to the ideas that have shaped us all.
“A large, crafty bag of brilliant tools . . . an academic arsenal of philosophical weapons that are keen for slicing and stabbing through the slippery profoundities of day-to-day decision-making and right into the middle of dinner-party conversations of which you would have otherwise been left out.” —Philosophy Now
This slick attempt to make philosophy accessible offers some basic information, but suffers from being either confused or obvious. U.K. journalist Fearn starts from the dubious, undefended premise that the "most enduring contributions of the great philosophers" are "thinking tools, methods and approaches" rather than "theories and systems." This premise becomes weaker as the book gets down to cases, including Fearn's reduction of Plato to someone who developed analogy as a tool, and his treatment of Nietzsche's "hammer" as though it were an identifiable tool at all. These and other selected philosophers from Thales to Derrida are surveyed in chapters that each focus on some "tool" that a particular thinker invented or wielded: the Socratic method, Ockham's razor, Descartes's demon, Hume's fork, etc. Many of these purportedly useful tools are essentially claims (such as Kant's account of noumena or Dawkins's account of memes) that, if false, are not useful, yet their grounds are only spottily examined. Readability is aided through pop references to the likes of Sting, Bill Gates and Batman, but impaired by capsule biographies that sound like encyclopedia excerpts and by philosophical meditations lacking in originality and force (as with some object lessons on now "common sense" varies across cultures and eras) The book may offer instruction for the novice, but is more likely to bore and mislead. Better to get a good philosophical dictionary.
Piece Of Sh*t Writing
This is philosophy from the viewpoint of someone you don’t care about. Completely useless, but entertaining enough to keep you awake.