A leading American philosopher brings the tools of his trade to contentious contemporary debates. How can we have meaningful debates with political opponents? How can we distinguish reliable science from overhyped media reports? How can we talk sensibly about God? In What Philosophy Can Do, Gary Gutting takes a philosopher's scalpel to modern life's biggest questions and the most powerful forces in our society - politics, science, religion, education, and capitalism - to show how we can improve our discussions of contentious contemporary issues.
Gutting introduces listeners to powerful analytic tools in the philosopher's arsenal that they can use to make new sense of current debates. One such tool is a crucial distinction between inductive and deductive reasoning that explains why both sides on a disputed issue often are sure they have compelling cases for their views. Another is the principle of charity, which requires opposing parties to present each other's arguments in their strongest forms - a tool that would make critiques both more respectful and more effective. Gutting also shows how concepts introduced by philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Michel Foucault and John Rawls can clarify public discussions about morality, the economy, and medicine.
From informed assessments of scientific claims to careful analyses of arguments for and against religious belief, Gutting brings a calm, clearheaded approach to some of the most divisive issues on the table today. He scrutinizes our relationships to work and freedom in capitalism; our modern understanding of happiness and the good life; the value of liberal arts education and the humanities; the role of science and politics in shaping public policy today; and the value of art and popular culture. Perhaps most meaningfully, Gutting shows how we can talk about our own deepest beliefs clearly and directly while listening to what others have to say to us. What Philosophy Can Do makes a powerful case for philosophy's importance to public discussions and shows us that this ancient tradition of inquiry may yet have much to say about our future.
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Intellectual Maintenance Made Easy
I think this book would be a good candidate for a friend interested in philosophy, but perhaps doesn't have the time or volition to tackle the intimidating body of literature surrounding it. The book seems remarkably accessible and with such profound topics its sure to make a good first impression.
The idea of using philosophy not to win debates, but as a kind of intellectual maintenance, to clearly define our own values and refine them when compelled to. Gutting makes room for both the political left and the right at the table, capitalist and socialist, pro-life and pro choice, even atheist and theist. The way he makes sound sense of tense and often intractable issues offer a glimmer of hope for getting past our more deadlocked disagreements.
Yeah he read Wranghams "Catching Fire". He's pretty good, reads it like he wrote it,
Really enjoyed hearing another perspective on the "God" and "Free Will" debates, didn't agree with everything he said, but I would be splitting hairs. Offering a balanced approach, even when criticizing an argument, he engages in a practice of improving the argument. With equal opportunity, political hardliners, religious fundamentalists, and even Richard Dawkins, all take a smack or two in this one.
- Dubito Ergo Sum "Super skeptic, reality poet, mega geek, & science nerd extraordinaire."