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Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines

Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines

Paperback

By (author) Julian Baggini

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  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks
  • Format: Paperback | 312 pages
  • Dimensions: 138mm x 186mm x 18mm | 340g
  • Publication date: 15 January 2004
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0192805061
  • ISBN 13: 9780192805065
  • Sales rank: 675,084

Product description

Making Sense examines the philosophical issues and disputes that lie behind the news headlines of the day. We read about what is happening in the world, but how do we know what the truth is, or whether there is one 'truth' at all? A president has his private sexual affairs discussed and analyzed by everyone, but is the private life of anyone the proper moral concern of others? A war against terrorism is declared, but what justifies the use of armed forces with its inevitable loss of life? Making Sense draws out these philosophical disputes and shows how we can use the techniques of philosophy and the insights of its greatest practitioners to understand the issues behind the headlines better. It explains the proper role of philosophy in this respect, showing both the limits and the reach of philosophical analysis of current affairs. It also argues that applying philosophy to news stories can and should inform our wider understanding; what we know, believe and value. A philosophically informed reading of the news creates a two-way process where philosophy sheds light on the news and the news, thus illuminated, sheds light on our philosophy. The book covers themes such as war, truth, morality, the environment, religious faith, the ending of life and the meaning of value. It examines such news stories as the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the war against terrorism, the siege at Waco, the genetically modified foods debate and advances in human therapeutic cloning. The discussions interweave philosophy and current affairs to create a compelling narrative that challenges how we make sense both of the world around us and of our own beliefs.

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Author information

Julian has both an academic and journalistic background. He was awarded a PhD in philosophy from University College London in 1997 for his thesis on personal identity. However, he decided not to then embark on an academic career and focused instead on The Philosophers' Magazine. He has published as a freelance, with his reviews and comment pieces appearing in, among others, the Independent, Independent on Sunday, Times Educational Supplement and New Humanist. He also has a regular column in The Skeptic

Review quote

In this excellent book, Baggini takes ten news stories from recent years and uses them to illustrate a constructive relationship between philosophy and real life. The stories that make the cornerstone of his discussions have been well selected, providing clear access to an impressively uncomplicated tutorial on the underlying arguments. The key point is that the philosophy has a valuable part to play in deciphering the media, and that the media can show us which of our intellectual tools are really useful. A pudding proved, in this case, in the eating. Good Book Guide, February 2003 An excellent book that brings a good breath of philosophical fresh air into consideration of the philosophical issues behind the headlines... The book is well written and will appeal to those wishing to get behind the headlines with some clear thinking. Scientific and Medical Network, 2002 ...a compelling narrative that challenges how we make sense both of the world around us and of our own beliefs. Publishing News, July 2002

Editorial reviews

In this excellent book, Julian Baggini takes ten news stories from recent years and uses them to illustrate a constructive relationship between philosophy and real life. Although not exactly a call to arms, the book is asking for a rethink of the way we view both: to paraphrase Baggini, philosophy informs life and life shapes philosophy, and it's about time we recognized the useful links that can be forged between the two. A brief concern with debunking the myth of philosopher as unworldly intellectual being, an equally quick chastisement of the intellectual community for encouraging the propagation of this image, and he's off and running: it is evidently Baggini's style to do rather than say, and he does well with the material he has chosen. Ethical, political, scientific and 'classical' philosophy (embodied, in this case, by the problem of knowledge) all get a fair play, with a perceptible leaning towards the ethical. The stories that make the cornerstones of these discussions have been well selected, with major media talking-points providing a clear access to the underlying arguments Baggini constructs for each example. As the book progresses more general philosophic themes are replaced by fairly technical concepts and subtle distinctions - the calculation of value, for one - which are dealt with in a manner that belies their complexity. For the most part the familiarity of the news stories paves the way for an impressively uncomplicated tutorial on sometimes intractable ideas: and this, of course, is basically the point of the book, and a practical man's return to the rebuke visited on the academics and the media in its introduction. The point is that philosophy has a valuable part to play in deciphering the media, and that the media can show us which of our intellectual tools are really useful. A pudding proved, in this case, in the eating. (Kirkus UK)

Table of contents

Introduction: Philosophy behind the headlines ; 1. Knowing the truth ; 2. Doing the right thing ; 3. The thinking voter ; 4. The call to arms ; 5. In the wake of science ; 6. The environment ; 7. When faith meets reason ; 8. Calculating value ; 9. The life and death of the self ; Conclusion: Philosophy beyond the headlines ; New Afterword: The 2003 Iraq war