Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life

Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life

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by Massimo Pigliucci
     
 

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How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science. In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered bySee more details below

Overview


How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science. In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered by Aristotle offers us the best possible tool for understanding the world and ourselves. As Aristotle knew, each mode of thought has the power to clarify the other: science provides facts, and philosophy helps us reflect on the values with which to assess them. But over the centuries, the two have become uncoupled, leaving us with questions—about morality, love, friendship, justice, and politics—that neither field could fully answer on its own. Pigliucci argues that only by rejoining each other can modern science and philosophy reach their full potential, while we harness them to help us reach ours. Pigliucci discusses such essential issues as how to tell right from wrong, the nature of love and friendship, and whether we can really ever know ourselves—all in service of helping us find our path to the best possible life. Combining the two most powerful intellectual traditions in history, Answers for Aristotle is a remarkable guide to discovering what really matters and why.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this careful examination of the surprising connections between science and philosophy, CUNY-Lehman College philosopher Pigliucci (Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk) begins with "sci-phi," the "idea that philosophy and science can be combined to give us the best possible knowledge about the world and how to act within it." He links Aristotle's observations on the striving for moral and physical happiness against the desire for immediate gratification with recent research on weight loss, demonstrating the physical limits of most treatments. Using the often-discussed "trolley dilemma," in which one person must be sacrificed if the majority are to be saved, the author explains how most people follow a utilitarian approach toward moral decision-making—pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. They follow a different theory, however, if the situation requires them to actively harm someone in order to save lives. Brain scans of healthy people support these tests, showing that different situations provoke reactions in sections of the brain associated with either emotion or abstract reasoning. This is a witty and insightful look at the relevance of philosophy today. Agent: Judy Heiblum, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

Philosophy Now
Answers for Aristotle is a lively, impressively-argued foray into topics ranging from Kepler’s improvement of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, to the discovery of Neptune, to Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment, to Kantian duty ethics.... Answers for Aristotle is a veritable Cook’s Tour of science, philosophy, and the curious meeting ground of the two. The best approach, as the author intended, is to sit back in a quiet hour or two and take it all in, then look back afterward to behold the vast terrain you have covered.”

The Philosopher’s Magazine
“Wide-ranging and very readable.... [Pigliucci provides] fascinating and well-thought-out examples...he shows us that philosophy and science can together become greater than the sum of their parts.”

Choice
“Pigliucci is proof positive that the reports of philosophy’s death have been greatly exaggerated.... This book is a refreshing, sympathetic look at how philosophy can enlist the help of science to answer enduring questions.... [A] highly enjoyable book.”

San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review
“[A] very important book.... It is a fascinating book and great reading.... [Pigliucci’s] knowledge is astounding.”

Brain Pickings
Answers for Aristotle explores diverse yet uniformly fascinating and essential subjects we’ve previously explored and will continue to explore for the foreseeable lifetime—love, morality, what it means to be human, the meaning of life, the limits of science, and much more.”

Skeptical Inquirer
“[Pigliucci] is that rare academic…who is both an evolutionary biologist and philosopher (he has doctorates in both fields), and so he knows, better than most, that both science and philosophy are essential to understanding ourselves and our world.... [A] lively discussion.”

New Scientist
“[Answers for Aristotle] will make you reflect on both the meaning of science...and of your own life.”

Publishers Weekly
“[A] careful examination of the surprising connections between science and philosophy.... [Answers for Aristotle] is a witty and insightful look at the relevance of philosophy today.”

Booklist Online
“Bravely renewing the entire Aristotelian project, Pigliucci surveys the latest scientific research in primatology, psychology, and neurobiology, always integrating the researchers’ empirical findings into a meaningful philosophical perspective. This scientific-philosophical (or “sci-phi”) perspective opens onto particularly provocative interpretations of human morality.... Remarkably versatile.... A book sure to spark debate.”

Kirkus Reviews
“A useful introduction to sources on both sides of the science-philosophy divide.”

Dario Maestripieri, Professor of Comparative Human Development, The University of Chicago, and author of Games Primates Play
“Massimo Pigliucci’s beautiful mind and encyclopedic knowledge are on full display in Answers for Aristotle. He is as comfortable discussing quantum physics and cognitive psychology as he is explaining the complexities of evolutionary biology and moral philosophy. Answers for Aristotle is a stimulating, entertaining book that demonstrates that we need both science and philosophy to make sense of who we are and how we live our lives.”

Glenn Branch, Deputy Director, National Center for Science Education
“From ethics to epistemology, from the self to the state, from the hormones of love to the heavens above, Massimo Pigliucci’s Answers for Aristotle argues for the mutual relevance of science and philosophy in understanding the world in which we live. Enthusiastic, enlightening, and enthralling.”

Kirkus Reviews
A look at why both science and philosophy are necessary to "approach the perennial questions concerning how we construct the meaning of our existence." Pigliucci (Philosophy/CUNY-Lehman Coll.; Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk, 2010, etc.), who holds doctorates in both biology and philosophy, provides an overview of relevant philosophic arguments about virtue, beginning with Aristotle's thoughts on how to achieve a happy and fruitful life: "doing the right things for the right reason" while rising above "weakness of the will." Pigliucci compares this with the views of utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and the rule-based prescriptions of Immanuel Kant. He also looks at how neuropsychologists deal with the putative existence of free will by constructing experiments (using fMRI scanning devices) that show brain activations of muscles before a subject is aware of making a conscious decision to act. Warning that experiments often do not simulate realistic situations, he argues that the relationship between science and philosophy is highly complex. We must "let philosophy (informed by science) guide us in principle, and to use science (steered by philosophy) as our best bet for implementing those principles," he writes. Pigliucci applies Aristotle's four causes principle to illustrate the nature of religious belief, which "is made possible by the neurobiological characteristics of the human brain that make us prone to superstitious thinking." A useful introduction to sources on both sides of the science-philosophy divide.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465021383
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
437,467
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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