Friday, January 11, 2013

More of the best of 2012

Here's The Philosophers Magazine on the best philosophy books of 2012. As I recall they particularly wanted relatively accessible books. With that in mind, this was my recommendation:
Jim Holt, Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story, Liveright.
This book is written mostly as a series of interviews with philosophers, physicists, and theologians, with lots of scene-setting information about Holt’s travels and thoughts between interviews. The story is personal as well as philosophical, especially at the end when he addresses questions of love and death as well as the big metaphysical question that drives the book. Constantly returning to the same issue could seem repetitive, but on the whole Holt avoids this trap, and I can’t imagine a more accessible and likeable introduction to the question of why there is something rather than nothing.


  1. Duncan, I've recently been made aware of this book that's grabbed some philosopher's attention and has attained cult status. What are your thoughts on "The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia" by Bernard Suits, assuming you're familiar?

  2. Thanks, Thanks, J. (Sorry, couldn't/didn't resist.) I'm familiar with it in the sense that I've heard of it and read some reviews, but I haven't read it.

    1. Yeah I have no memory of creating that handle. I know it was years ago. In fact it just was there one day when I went to comment on one of these blogs I came across. Guess I hadn't been going to blogs that use that name. Btw, I love the name of this website. And the design.
      That book, "The Grasshopper", supposedly offers an account of "games" that includes features common to all games.

    2. Thanks! I've seen "The Grasshopper" recommended as a book that proves Wittgenstein wrong, and criticized for trying but failing to prove Wittgenstein wrong. Someone wrote a fairly long and careful review of it that persuaded me it wasn't worth reading. But I couldn't find that review when I looked again today, and I found various recommendations that made it sound as though it really might be worth looking into. So I guess it's another to add to my reading list.

    3. My reading list is... the books would fill a small library. This saddens me. I'll never get round to it. (Maybe with feakish breakthroughs in medical science and I can live to be about 300 yrs old, plus some intelligence increasing and memory enhancement treatments)
      Part of me wants to take Wittgenstein's advice he sometimes apparently gave to people and just focus on practical work. A trade. I'm already a blue collar dude and philosophy is too hard. Lol. Well it IS! All these geniuses fighting.. I don't know why I'm telling you this. At least I tied it back to Wittgenstein with his anti-philosophy, pro-work talk.

  3. Yes, philosophy is (too) hard, and it's a weird business to be in. I can see wanting to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay and then philosophizing only when you had to, when some problem occurred that you couldn't shake. It's hard (or perhaps too easy) to complain about having a comfortable academic life, but I think I understand what Wittgenstein didn't like about the academy. Not that I'm about to quit and move to Ireland or Norway.

    And there is way too much to read, but that ought to be a good thing. Like everything else, you just have to go at the reading list one day at a time. All progress is a victory.