Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe

Overview

Humankind, scientists agree, is a tiny and insignificant anomaly in the vastness of the universe. But what would that universe look like if we were not here to say something about it? In this brilliant, insightful work of philosophy, beloved novelist and playwright Michael Frayn examines the biggest and oldest questions of philosophy, from space and time to relativity and language, and seeks to distinguish our subjective experience from something objectively true and knowable. Underlying all revelations in this ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$14.43
BN.com price
(Save 9%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (33) from $1.99   
  • New (17) from $1.99   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   
The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - First Edition)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

Humankind, scientists agree, is a tiny and insignificant anomaly in the vastness of the universe. But what would that universe look like if we were not here to say something about it? In this brilliant, insightful work of philosophy, beloved novelist and playwright Michael Frayn examines the biggest and oldest questions of philosophy, from space and time to relativity and language, and seeks to distinguish our subjective experience from something objectively true and knowable. Underlying all revelations in this wise and affectionately written book is the fundamental question: "If the universe is what we make it, then what are we?"

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The target audience: anyone who enjoys gaping at the complexities of existence. The topic: everything . . . Fantastic."--Entertainment Weekly (grade: A)

"Michael Frayn's exultant prose entices and ultimately overwhelms you. Reading his arguments, I felt as though I were floating down a warm river, caught up in its playful, whirling eddies. . . . Beautifully written."--Los Angeles Times

"Immense erudition . . . and more than a dash of wit . . . What makes The Human Touch so rewarding is the subtlety and humor with which he examines 'the great mutual balancing act.'"--The New York Times

"His command of current scholarship in physics and biology is impressive; his discussion of psychological issues is discerning. . . . Witty and ingratiating style."--The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"An inviting introduction to modern cosmology and philosophy with no prerequisites other than the willingness to entertain counterfactuals, imponderables, and leaps of faith. Nicely done."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Absolutely riveting . . . Read it, and you may come to look at the world differently."--Newsday

"Erudite, imaginative, funny, and dazzlingly clever . . . [Frayn] unbolts, chapter by chapter, the fabric of the universe."--The Sunday Times (London)

Jim Holt
Frayn, though, is no neo-Hegelian lotus-eater. He has a healthy respect for the power of external reality to constrain our world-making. Indeed, what makes The Human Touch so rewarding is the subtlety and humor with which he examines “the great mutual balancing act.” There may be something godlike in the way we “bring into their various forms of existence all the receding ontological planes of the world we inhabit,” but we are also at the mercy of that world’s whims. A brick to the head and the whole show comes to an end.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
British playwright and novelist Frayn has nursed a serious interest in philosophy since studying it at Cambridge in the 1950s, a fact that won't surprise fans of the writer best known for his 1982 farce, Noises Off, and award-winning 1998 drama, Copenhagen. This bold, original spin on the role of the human imagination in the construction of reality reflects the same robust intellectual curiosity, keen powers of observation and ingenious sense of humor that characterize all his work. Ranging over science, mathematics, philosophy, psychology and linguistics-with a grasp that would be admirable in a professional but is astounding in a self-confessed amateur-Frayn rigorously exposes the human scaffolding propping up what we like to see as a detached, neatly ordered universe. Gazing both outwardly at the indeterminate cosmos suggested by relativity and quantum mechanics, and inwardly at the slippery constructions of consciousness and our sense of self, he focuses on the narrative compulsion that arises from the continual "traffic" between human beings and their ever-changing, ephemeral surroundings. Frayn's dogged unraveling of determinist assumptions and the occasionally mind-bending minutiae of theories, arguments and counterarguments can get taxing, despite lucid and witty prose. But Frayn's ecstatic embrace of a human-made universe is a fascinatingly persuasive ride. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
London-based novelist, playwright, and self-proclaimed amateur philosopher Frayn (Headlong) tackles the big questions of human understanding in this profound work. Beginning with a description of the continual "traffic" between humans and the universe, Frayn shapes a cohesive introduction to philosophy that includes elements of science, determinism, physics, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, and epistemology. Throughout, he makes great use of articulate and witty examples to supply answers (or, more often, lines of thought that provide paths to satisfying nonanswers) without leaving the general reader too far behind. In the end, Frayn succeeds in peeling back the layers of both the external and the internal thought processes of humans, and he conveys an illuminating proposition that establishes human intellect as a distinct, necessary mediator of our universe. At times the content is overly tedious, but given the subject matter and depth, this is easily overlooked. Recommended for medium and large public and academic collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/15/06.]
—Jason Moore
Kirkus Reviews
A vade mecum for head-scratchers by the multifaceted Frayn (The Copenhagen Papers, 2001, etc.), whose philosophical concerns are notably many and well attested in his body of work. Humans were born to gaze at the stars and wonder, and when we do, most of us tend to be humbled by the vastness of the universe. But humans shouldn't be daunted, counsels Frayn; instead, we should take courage from the fact that "the world has no form or substance without you and me to provide them, and you and I have no form or substance without the world to provide them in its turn." The technical complexities of the Bishop Berkeley/tree-falling-in-the-forest argument and its counters are legion, but Frayn does a very nice job of adumbrating, observing along the way such legendary trip-ups as the principle of uncertainty and observational distortion and revisiting the questions that used to keep college students awake at night: How do we know that we know? Do we ever really make decisions? Why do we say that there's a present when the present is already the past? Why is it that "the conscious subject that gives meaning to the objective universe cannot give meaning to itself"? Frayn takes clear pleasure in considering questions that make the heads of lesser mortals spin and pulsate, and he takes leisurely detours that sometimes lead to the neat destruction of philosophical positions and schools of thought; his dismantling of Chomskyan transformational grammar, for instance, is a masterpiece of gentle subversion, in keeping with Frayn's overall playful and user-friendly approach. He spins out some nice apothegms, too: "The decisiveness of decisions is as elusive as the decisions themselves. It recedes like theintentionality of intention." Indeed, and though the universe may spin merrily along without us, it requires us to interpret it-or, if nothing else, finds it congenial that we do so. An inviting introduction to modern cosmology and philosophy with no prerequisites other than the willingness to entertain counterfactuals, imponderables and leaps of faith. Nicely done.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426286
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/22/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 995,584
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the bestselling Headlong, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, and Spies, which won Britain’s Whitbread fiction award. He has written fourteen plays, among them Noises Off, and Democracy, as well as Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in 1999. A philosophy graduate of Cambridge University, Frayn is also the author of Constructions, a collection of philosophical meditations. He lives in London.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)