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What's It All About?: Philosophy And The Meaning Of Life [Kindle Edition]

Julian Baggini
5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)

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"Useful and provocative."--Wall Street Journal

"Looking for a clear guide to what contemporary philosophy has to say about the meaning of life? Baggini takes us through all the plausible answers, weaving together Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mill, Monty Python, and Funkadelic in an entertaining but always carefully reasoned discussion."--Peter Singer, author of How Are We To Live

"A work of popular philosophy that is simple, serious and devoid of ostentation. The question of the meaning of life has long been a byword for pretentious rambling. It takes some nerve to tackle it in a brisk and no-nonsense fashion." --New Statesman

"Informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining in the process.The book takes a refreshingly personal approach and offers an encounter with a vigorous mind at work, puzzling through the issues in a trenchantly argued but subtly reasoned way."--New Humanist

"It's egalitarianism of style and content is admirable. There is nothing here to put off someone who has never read a book of philosophy, yet the book is doing philosophy, not just talking about it."--Scotland on Sunday


This book is aimed at the reader who is serious about confronting the big issues in life but is turned off by books which deal with them through religion, spirituality or 'psycho-babble'. It is for people who want an honest, intelligent discussion which doesn't hide from the difficulties or make undeliverable promises. It aims to help the reader to understand the overlooked issues behind the obvious questions and shows how philosophy does not so much answer them as help provide us with the resources to answer them for ourselves.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 951 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 216 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: B000WMWDQA
  • Verlag: Granta Books; Auflage: New edition (11. Juli 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B00D2JDPH6
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #151.951 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
With this book Julian Baggini continues to qualify himself as a contemporary successor of Bertrand Russell. In a clear and entertaining prose he shows us the contribution philosophy and philosophers can make, if we look for the meaning of (our personal) life. Baggini blows metaphysical fog away but doesn't oversimplify. Let me mention especially chapter 4 "Here to help", where he discusses the proper place altruism may have in a meaningful life. "If the meaning of life is to help others, then only those doing the helping can lead meaningful lives. The people being helped are thus mere instruments to the end of giving purpose to the altruists." (p. 65) Baggini doesn't deny the importance of altruism but emphasizes that altruism makes sense in defending values which go beyond itself. "Becoming a contender" (chapter 7) is an extraordinary good read too. Here Baggini follows more or less the old bumper sticker saying "Life's a mountain, not a beach" but pleads for not choosing a mountain of exaggerated height in relation to your personal capacities. "To raise a happy family, or live your life pursuing your passion, no matter which recognition you get, should be seen as a success." (p. 123) That's a good example for the overall line of differentiated common sense the book follows. In criticizing the promises of ideological and religious beliefs (see especially chapter 9 "Lose your self") there is also a strong democratic and egalitarian commitment in the book: you don't need (or even more: beware of) any guru or esoteric knowledge to find the meaning of your life - just look and struggle yourself.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Klug, ausgewogen. 11. März 2014
Von Maria
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Erfreulich distanziert, Ein kluger Blick aus der Weitwinkelperspektive auf den "Sinn des Lebens" . In leicht verständlichem, klaren Englisch geschrieben. Ich werde es in Etappen lesen, weil ich viele Anregungen zum Nachdenken bekomme. Und ich werde es immer wieder nachlesen.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  21 Rezensionen
29 von 32 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen excellent introduction to philosophy 10. November 2005
Von Wyote - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I once thought that perhaps Will Durant's book was the best introduction to philosophy, and then I thought "Sophie's World" was. Now both of those books are well worth your time if you intend to get a peek at the Western philosophical tradition.

However, I think this is the best introduction to philosophy, not merely as what philosophers think about, but as thought about meaningful stuff.

Baggini's arguments are concise to the point of dismissive, so anytime you disagree you'll long for a consideration of your objections, but he moves along briskly from one issue to the next. Even though I disagree with about 1/4 of his opinions, so I understand the feeling, I think he's got the picture in sharp focus; someone who believes (like, say, Cottingham) that religion is key to meaningful life will probably be too frustrated by this book to finish it. For a longer consideration and rejection of the theistic POV, I suppose you've got to go to Sartre.

Anyway, the point of my review is that, if you're a layperson (like me) who's interested in thinking about the meaning of life (and stuff) (like me) then this is a very good book for you. Even if you disagree with his conclusion, everyone recommends the process of thinking through your adversaries' positions. Baggini and I both went through Cottingham, and he through several others as well, for instance.

Another good feature of the text is that if you move on to other modern philosophy books, directed at the philosophy crowd rather than at laypeople, you'll find that this book has prepared you for the arguments you encounter.

A difficulty of reviewing this book is that, frankly, it has to be read to be appreciated. No concise summary is possible. Except, the meaning of life is, like, to live. You want to see it discussed intelligently?

Then I highly recommend this book.
23 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A lot of fuse, not much firecracker, but still quite good. 12. Dezember 2005
Von M. Strong - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
As it turns out, Baggini might have been better off calling this book "What's it not About?" He spends about 95% of the book examining about ten of the major philosophies surrounding the meaning of life - helping others, being happy, Carpe Diem, being successful, and advancing the species among them. Using logic, he convincingly dismisses each of these concepts as inadequate for defining the meaning of life while lifting a couple valuable points from each philosophy.

As he sets up and knocks down each philosophy, a sense of anticipation grows - you feel like you're building up to a final payoff of Baggini making the meaning of life clear to you. Of course, if it were that simple, or Baggini that brilliant, you wouldn't need to read this review to get a sense for this book. Either you wouldn't need to read it, or Baggini would be more famous than Plato.

As you might expect, Baggini gives a more complicated - and simple - description of the meaning of life that is somehow meaningful despite not being what you were expecting.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in philosophy or just a curiosity about the topic.
19 von 23 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Yeah, what IS life all about? 20. April 2007
Von Erik Olson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I recently finished an eye-opening 8-week course at my church's School of Theology entitled "The Meaning of Life." Each class consisted of an animated Sunday afternoon two-hour round-table discussion about the topic. I stumbled across "What's It All About?" after the first session, and found it a helpful addition to the class.

The author focuses on six possible answers to the central question, "What is the meaning of life?" They are: 1) helping others, 2) serving humanity, 3) being happy, 4) becoming successful, 5) enjoying each day as if it were your last, and 6) freeing your mind. I was intrigued with his diagnoses of the motivations people bring to these answers. In addition, his assertion that the answers can (and usually must) be combined with each other made sense. However, Mr. Baggini suggests that the question, "what's the meaning of life?" may be invalid, since there's no way to know if life itself has meaning or not. To that quandary, he responds, "[life] means something to us (p. 166)." Therefore, a better question would be, "How can or does life mean something to us (ibid.)?" Sounds reasonable to me.

Mr. Baggini is not religious, so he doesn't believe in spiritual realities outside of the physical universe. But unlike some others who share his beliefs (or lack thereof), he's not condescending or demeaning towards people of faith. As a Christian, I've seen some serious negativity from non-believers (cough*Sam Harris*cough), and it was refreshing to read a book that didn't try to blast my faith out of the water and make me feel stupid. Indeed, after reading "What's It All About?" I felt like the author respected my spirituality. That challenged me to critically evaluate my own Christian-based motivations, and to also apply grace to other folks with different strokes.

Given my above statement, it's ironic that the book's biggest flaw is Mr. Baggini's missteps concerning some key Biblical passages. For example, he writes that Abraham could've fallen back on the Ten Commandments as an excuse to avoid sacrificing Isaac (p. 49). However, the Ten Commandments weren't in existence until much later in history, so that point is not valid. Also, he takes the position that the resurrected Jesus humiliated the doubting apostle Thomas by having him touch His wounds (p. 45). However, I and other Christians consider Jesus' actions as meeting Thomas where he was, vs. an attempt by Christ to denigrate His skeptical disciple. Christ knew that most who believed in Him would be forced to do so by faith, which in this rationalistic age is a lot tougher to maintain without a Thomasian experience.

Despite the above issues, "What's It All About" is a well-written and thought-provoking discussion of a central human question. Recommended.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining and thought provoking philosophy 23. Januar 2011
Von Simon Laub - Veröffentlicht auf
According to Jean-Paul Sartre: ''Purpose and meaning are not built in to human life, we ourselves are responsible for fashioning our own purposes. It is not that life has no meaning, but that it has no predetermined meaning.''

Which to many might ring a bit hollow: ''Ok, we can't see any meaning out there, so we are just going to make one up for ourselves....'' Really, is a made-up meaning a real meaning at all?

Yes, according to Baggini, assigned purposes are not inferior to predetermined purposes! He thinks that we should ''grow up'' and accept that there is not some hidden or secret purpose that we have not yet discovered.
Instead, our decision making should be based on what is out in the open for everyone to see: ''The whole problem of lifes meaning is not that we lack any particular piece of secret information ... It is rather to be solved by thinking about the issues on which the evidence remains silent....''

So what could life's purpose then be? Some might claim that life is all about having a good material standard of living or becoming successful someday in the future. Others claim that life is about helping others, serving humanity, being happy, enjoying each day or freeing the mind. According to Baggini there might be some truth in these answers - but not the whole truth.
The rest of the book (an entertaining and thought provoking journey) walks us through some of these ideas that people have (on lifes purpose). Trying not to be dogmatic, he doesn't reject anything completely, but does point out weak spots in a lot of the reasoning. In the end the reader should decide for himself, as long as he makes a ''Moral'' and ''Ethical'' choice....

In the end the reader should not think that he will really ever be any wiser. Indeed, we might end up wanting more knowledge and more input.
But Baggini doesn't think it will change much. Instead we should ''confront and accept the limits of human understanding'' - Thats the mature approach according to Baggini. And with that Baggini closes the book.

At least this reader isn't completely satisfied with this....
Well, well - maybe we don't know anything, and maybe we are really reptiles from Tau Ceti inside some virtual reality gear that makes us think that we are earthlings - Then surely the Buddhist are wise to state that reality is a fuzzy thing, and that we should keep working to improve our minds - maybe there might even be some purpose in that. And surely Baggini will agree that it will be ok for us to decide our own purpose, as long as we don't hurt anyone else in the process.

10 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Um, could you repeat the question, please...? 17. Juni 2008
Von Kerry Walters - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the computer Deep Thought is asked "What's the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?" After ruminating on it for millions of years, the computer responds: "42." Deep Thought is infallible, so there's no doubt that the answer is correct. The problem is that it doesn't fit the question very well--which means that the question needs to be rethought. The moral? Unless you ask the right questions, you won't understand an answer if it bites you on the kneecap.

Julian Baggini's What's It All About? takes the importance of asking the right questions as its starting point. Ironically, the title question probably isn't the one to ask, precisely because, like the question asked Deep Thought, it's just too abstract. Baggini is convinced that one won't find THE meaning of life, either by examining origins (chpt 1) or by focusing on ultimate purpose (chpts 2 & 3). Meaning isn't about discovering a big secret, but about "thinking about issues on which the evidence remains silent" (p. 3), and it's those issues that are the heart of Baggini's treatment.

Consequently, his approach is what he calls "deflationary." He demythologizes the Big Question into a series of smaller ones that deal not with THE meaning but with a variety of meanings that emerge from the experience of living. For at the end of the day, Baggini argues, what makes life meaningful is the simple (but not easy) recognition that it's worth living (p. 177).

Baggini argues that elements of meaning arise in moments of happiness, service to others, gratitude for the present moment, and achieving goals, although he also examines each of these to philosophic scrutiny to eliminate common misunderstandings of them and, even more commonly, the tendency to reduce meaning to any one of them (chpts 4-9). He approaches the issue from a naturalistic and humanistic perspective, which forestalls the possibility of convenient deus ex machina accounts of deep meaning--or, in other words, which forestalls asking what Baggini considers to be the wrong question.

Baggini, who has demonstrated his acuity in several books now, provides some equally sharp reasoning in this one. But for all his individual insights, What's It All About? somehow never seems to quite get off the ground. Baggini's good at spelling out what he considers to be false starts, but much less vague about the alternatives to them. It simply isn't terribly illuminating to conclude that life is meaningful to the extent that we recognize it's worth living. One need not insist on asking huge questions that will only result eventually in a cryptic "42." But by the same token, one need not so deflate the question that the only response which fits it is a tiny one indeed.
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