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Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy [Paperback]

Simon Blackburn
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 18 2003 0192854259 978-0192854254 1
This is a book about the big questions in life: knowledge, consciousness, fate, God, truth, goodness, justice. It is for anyone who believes there are big questions out there, but does not know how to approach them. Think sets out to explain what they are and why they are important. Simon Blackburn begins by putting forward a convincing case for the study of philosophy and goes on to give the reader a sense of how the great historical figures such as Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein have approached its central themes. Each chapter explains a major issue, and gives the reader a self-contained guide through the problems that philosophers have studied. The large scope of topics covered range from scepticism, the self, mond and body, and freedom to ethics and the arguments surrounding the existence of God. Lively and approachable, this book is ideal for all those who want to learn how the basic techniques of thinking shape our existence.

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From Library Journal

Blackburn (philosophy, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) has written this book "for people who want to think about the big themesAknowledge, reason, truth, mind, freedom, destiny, identity, God, goodness, justice"Abut, more importantly, to think about them philosophically. His method is to introduce what other philosophersAprimarily Plato, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Leibniz, Hume, and KantAhave had to say about these themes. To make the arguments more understandable to the lay reader, he presents the problem and then makes extensive use of analogies to ordinary situations, thus making the philosophical point more perspicuous. To read this book is to sit down with an engaging, highly learned conversationalist; readers new to the subject could very well be captivated. Highly recommended for academic and public library collections.ALeon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, DC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Sensing that many people are daunted by the big questions in philosophy, university professor Blackburn supplies this primer. Its capital weapon is logic, but Blackburn shrewdly postpones discussing that until he explores such areas as the self, free will, the reality of sensory perception, and God. Doubt, either initially or continually, infuses anyone who reflects on those spheres, and Blackburn illustrates ways to begin thinking about them by using the example of Descartes. Descartes gave yes answers to the question of whether the four spheres exist or not, through a logical process with which, after Blackburn has mapped it out, one can agree or not. One spoil sport was eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume, and Blackburn deploys further disputations of Descartes' beliefs, as in mind-body dualism. Blackburn does, however, subscribe to a species of free will, which he describes as "revised compatibilism." Finding out its definition is sufficient reason to consult Blackburn's book, written with exemplary concision and with conviction that philosophy needn't be an ethereal subject, alienated from practical concerns. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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PERHAPS THE MOST unsettling thought many of us have, often quite early on in childhood, is that the whole world might be a dream; that the ordinary scenes and objects of everyday life might be fantasies. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars okay for a first book Jan. 2 2002
There seem to be two main kinds of "introduction to philosophy" books out there. The first kind, like Anthony Gottlieb's The Dream of Reason, Will Durant's Story of Philosophy, and Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, are not actually introductions to philosophy but introductions to the history of philosophy. After reading several of these I have become convinced that while they have their place, they are not a good introduction to philosophy. When was the last time you took an introductory science class that focused on the history of science rather than science itself?
The second kind of introduction is unfortunately much rarer. This kind attempts to explain the ideas that philosophy attacks and some of the arguments surrounding the various theses. Anthony Flew's Introduction to Western Philosophy is one of these (unfortunately it also suffers from a perverse desire to keep some kind of chronological narrative and is far too dense for an introduction). Simon Blackburn's Think is yet another. I think this is a much more fruitful approach for someone actually interested in an introduction to philosophy rather than merely learning how to drop names at parties to sound educated.
Think has much to commend it. It clearly delineates a number of key topics. It attempts to show a back and forth of the various ideas held on these topics. For the most part, the writing is light, the explanations easy to understand. There are a number of brief excerpts from actual source material along with commentary on them to help us understand what is meant and how it might fit in to the modern world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Introduction to Blackburnism Aug. 4 2001
By W.C.S.
Simon Blackburn has a talent for bringing complex ideas down to a level the neophyte can understand, and his wit and style are worthy of applause. Blackburn puts these skills to work in his short "introduction to philosophy." However, it quickly becomes apparent that Blackburn's talents are not directed toward what his subtitle seems to promise.
Blackburn's gripping introductory chapter gives the newly interested hope. He claims that his aim is to make philosophy understandable and enjoyable to readers who are taking a first look at the "big themes," and that he intends to "introduce ways of thinking about the big themes." However, it would have been more accurate (and not to mention more honest) for him to write that he intends to introduce "a way" of thinking, namely his own.
Blackburn zips through the "big themes" at a frantic pace, quickly brushing aside any school of thought that does not resemble his brand of materialism and scepticism. The problem is not so much his worldview, but, rather, it is the way he goes about promoting it. Throughout the book, he gives his opposition a very limited and inadequate voice, and, then, presents his view on a particular issue as the decisive winner in the debate.
Blackburn's positive arguments for his positions are formidable, but, this particualar book is simply not long enough to give his opposition a fair opening statement or rebuttal. His "introduction to philosophy" does not give a comprehensive enough vantage point from which to adequately begin thinking about the issues. Hence, it is not a true "introduction" in the first place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read! June 1 2001
Gertrude Stein observed of Ezra Pound that he was a village explainer, and very good to have around if one happened to be a village. Simon Blackburn merits the same level of praise. This book's stated intention is to give readers some sense of how philosophers approach the really big questions of knowledge, free will, God, reasoning, and so on. That's a tall order. Think is better appreciated as a chrestomathy of thought-provoking quotations and asides. The book's strongest points are its useful tips on formulating and analyzing arguments. Incidentally, the politically correct reader will be delighted at Blackburn's bows to gender-neutral language, his digs at the religious right and his sly elbow in the dead ribs of Edmund Burke. We [...] recommend this book for anyone interested in philosophy but short of time, or merely out to impress friends, colleagues and clients by dropping names of celebrity philosophers into conversations or sales pitches.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making philosophy relevant Feb. 4 2000
Neither a history of philosophy nor a dry, scholarly work, Simon Blackburn's book will appeal to those who have some knowledge of the subject and want an up-to-date primer on the big questions in philosophy. Using references to and quotations from the 'big names', Blackburn nevertheless ensures that the topics are always related to real life (including a hilarious reference to Microsoft when discussing the Problem of Evil), showing both the contemporary relevance of philosophy, and the current 'consensus' on the topics in question. A must read for non-philosophers interested in philosophy, or anyone interested in rejecting the 'unexamined life'.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking is not as easy as it once was
Blackburn has written this book as a defense of philosophy as a practical tool for making sense of the world in which we live. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2002 by StalkingGhostBear
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not an Idiot's Guide to Philosophy
Blackburn takes a different approach to introducing philosophy: rather than provide a chronological survey (a la Will Durant) or a cartoon-&-sidebar summary (a la the Dummies... Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2001 by Zeldock
1.0 out of 5 stars Think Like I Do
Think like I do would be a better title for this book . It is clearly an indoctrination into the leftist,liberal,atheist mind set . Read more
Published on July 16 2001 by FuDog
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, I'm Thinking - Now What?
Simon Blackburn's "Think", which must have taken him several days to write, is a wonderful book. Read more
Published on June 24 2001 by "rickdamilano"
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read book
A well-written and thought-provoking book that hits upon many of philosophy's big topics. "Think" is as entertaining as it is educational.
Published on May 19 2001 by Troy McCullough
3.0 out of 5 stars bang then fizzle
I was eager to read this book...The beginning was terrific with fascinating original characters and what appeared to be an original plot. I hunkered down full of anticipation. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable introduction to philosophy's main haunts
This is a thoughtful, easy to follow book introducing some of the major topics of philosophical thought. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2000 by Peter
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let that first review keep you from this book!
I was looking for a "primer" on philosophy...who said what, when and so on. Though this wasn't the book I was looking for, I found it engrossing and interesting. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2000 by ChrisNY
2.0 out of 5 stars If not compelling, then at least original.
Whether or not this introduction is compelling is a matter of dispute. It is beyond doubt, however, that Simon Blackburn has written an immensly original book. Read more
Published on Nov. 5 1999
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