What does Anthony Grayling think about atheism? Adrian Moore about infinity? For the last three years, some of the world's leading philosophers have held forth on their favorite topics on the immensely popular website philosophybites.com. The site now features more than one hundred short conversations, has had some 7 million downloads to date, and is listened to all over the globe.
Philosophy Bites brings together the twenty-five best interviews from this hugely successful website. Leading philosophersincluding Simon Blackburn, Alain de Botton, Will Kymlicka, Alexander Nehamas, and more than twenty othersdiscuss a wide range of philosophical issues in a surprisingly lively, informal, and personal way. For instance, Peter Singer, arguably the world's leading animal rights philosopher, states that for people living in the western world, vegetarianism is the only moral choice, but he allows that this would not be the case for an Inuit who lives by killing fishcausing an animal to suffer must be balanced against the necessity to survive. Julian Savulescu talks about the "yuk factor"the natural revulsion that keeps us from practicing incest or cannibalismattacking its use as an argument against gay rights and abortion. Anthony Appiah discusses cosmopolitanism, the idea that emphasizes that people around the world have much in common, and that we have to be able to live with people despite our differences. And Stephen Law shows why it is unreasonable to believe in an all-powerful, all-good deity.
Time, infinity, evil, friendship, animals, wine, sport, tragedyall of human life is here. And as these bite-sized interviews reveal, often the most brilliant philosophers are eager and able to convey their thoughts, simply and clearly, on the great ideas of philosophy.
This thoughtful and highly readable collection of conversations with philosophers on a broad range of topics, from the perennial problems of skepticism to the epistemological questions raised by wine tasting, put together by editors Edmonds (coauthor of Wittgenstein's Poker and documentary maker for the BBC World Service) and Warburton, senior lecturer at the Open University, displays an admirable grasp of a variety of issues. The editors' conversations with Alain de Botton on architecture and Peter Singer on animal rights manage to be accessible for the nonspecialist while still maintaining critical bite. Inevitably, the quality of thought on offer varies from one interviewee to the next, but standouts include Don Culpit's nonrealist view of God and Wendy Brown on how modern notions of tolerance can disguise severe limitations on freedom and equality. More disappointing is the volume's Anglo-American bias and its lack of interviews with non English-language philosophers. If, as the editors say, "the spirit of philosophy is at its most apparent in conversation," then they would be well served by widening their scope. Nonetheless, as introductions to philosophy go, these bite-size dialogues add up to a surprisingly substantial whole. (Nov.)