The Philosopher at the End of the Universe demonstrates
how anyone can grasp the basic concepts of philosophy while
still holding a bucket of popcorn. Mark Rowlands makes philosophy
utterly relevant to our everyday lives and reveals its most
potent messages using nothing more than a little humour and
the plot lines of some of the most spectacular, expensive,
high octane films on the planet...
Philosopher at the End of the Universe is
a pretty ingenious concept. Take a bunch of popular summer
blockbuster movies (of which almost everyone on the planet
will have seen or be familiar with the plots of) and use them
to illustrate one of the many great (or not so great) philosophical
first big mistake that author Mark Rowlands makes is trying
to justify why he is using popular movies instead of arthouse
cinema. He claims that he is a big fan of these forms of movies
- that entertain the masses - because they are films that
you can just sit back and enjoy without having to think too
much. But isn't that what he then does in this book? If these
movies are indeed, as he claims, mindless fun, then he's spent
an entire book waffling on about nothing. Wouldn't it have
been more honest for him to admit that it is because he is
hoping to reach a wider audience and sell more books? This
is a philosophy book for the novice and as such he needs to
start with a common base with which everyone is familiar.
problem is that the movies don't all feature that prominently
in his arguments. He tackles a film, takes an idea and then
goes off on a tangent, leaving the reader confused as to how
we got to where he's taken us.
said that, this book is supposed to be a simple introduction
to those who have always thought that philosophy was above
them. And for that, Rowlands deserves much praise. He always
shows several sides to the arguments so that you can make
up your own mind, or come up with your own theory.
of the other problems I have are to do with some of the philosophical
arguments themselves. There is a great explanation about Libet's
experiments (basically he asked people to randomly move their
finger while looking at a clock. They were asked not to think
about it, but do it spontaneously. The results showed that
the subjects brains recorded a response before (in some cases
several seconds) their finger moved. This, they concluded,
meant that the issue of freewill was under question. Actually
it proves nothing of the kind. As the subjects knew that they
had to move their finger they were already subconsciously
aware of the fact that they would move the finger at some
point - it was just a question of when. So surely your brain
would be thinking about moving your finger because the subjects
knew it was an act they had to do.
also brings around the question of free will. There is a philosophical
argument that goes something like this: We are a product of
our past. We have been shaped and formed by our past experiences
and so therefore for me to be sitting here now writing this
review thousands of different events have had to happen. If
just one of those had failed to have occurred I would be doing
something else. This implies that our life's are mapped out
for us and we can't change our future. But what if to disprove
this theory I do something completely out of the ordinary
like type a random rude word in this review? Well, no. Apparently
my past experiences have also pushed me towards that rather
silly action. This is a fantastic philosophical argument,
because you can't disprove it. Of course our pasts will shape
our future, but whether the arguments presented our credible
question of death and the soul is raised. The author clearly
believes that when we breath our last breath there is nothing
more. How sad a view that is. It makes a mockery of why we
are here. To live and die and that be all we have seems pretty
also tries to explain about moral values and states that if
murder were seen as a good thing, and everyone was out there
killing each other all the time we would never leave our homes.
I see his point, but if we truly believed that murder was
a good thing we would not fear for our lives as we would be
out there killing too. And surely if we saw murder as an acceptable
act then the consequence, death, would not be feared.
have always taken great comfort in the fact that, as since
the day I was born I have seen the world through my eyes,
the way I see the world is unique to how every other living
thing sees it. Of course my personality and views are also
shaped by those that I come into contact with, but at the
end of the day if I haven't experienced something I can never
be certain that it existed. To this end, when I die the world
will die with me. As far as I am concerned the world will
cease to exist too.
criticisms about this book are not to be taken negatively.
It's like having a philosophical argument with a friend. You
can argue into the small hours of the morning and not see
eye-to-eye, yet the next day you won't think any less of them.
Some things will fit your perception of the world as it is,
and others won't. This book should be used as a starting point
to entice you into your own philosophical take on life, the
universe and everything.
is certainly one of the most interesting and thought provoking
releases I have read in a very long time. Let's hope it inspires
many who would previously have stayed away from any philosophical
thinking to stretch their mind a little bit further.
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