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The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics, and Physics
Synopses & Reviews
In the wake of his enormously popular books The Armchair Economist and More Sex Is Safer Sex, Steven Landsburg uses concepts from mathematics, economics, and physics to address the big questions in philosophy: What is real? What can we know? What is the difference between right and wrong? And how should we live?
Widely renowned for his lively explorations of economics, in his fourth book Landsburg branches out into mathematics and physics as well—disciplines that, like economics, the author loves for their beauty, their logical clarity, and their profound and indisputable truth—to take us on a provocative and utterly entertaining journey through the questions that have preoccupied philosophers through the ages. The author begins with the broadest possible categories—Reality and Unreality; Knowledge and Belief; Right and Wrong—and then focuses his exploration on specific concerns: from a mathematical analysis of the arguments for the existence of God; to the real meaning of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the Godel Incompleteness Theorem; to the moral choices we face in the marketplace and the voting booth.
Stimulating, illuminating, and always surprising, The Big Questions challenges readers to re-evaluate their most fundamental beliefs and reveals the relationship between the loftiest philosophical quests and our everyday lives.
"With an folksy style and overly reductive economics, Landsburg (The Armchair Economist) solves, to his own satisfaction, a host of such philosophical problems as the limits of knowledge, what reality is and why we should reject liberal social policies based on fairness. With a founding claim that mathematical objects are 'real' (albeit real in a way that is never made quite clear) the author argues for the necessity of the universe, before offering refutations of intelligent design and St. Anselm's proof for the existence of God. The possibility of knowledge is demonstrated by familiarizing the reader with a few ideas the author simply knows to be true such as Gdel's theorem and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Sections on morality and 'the life of the mind' apply the 'Economist's Golden Rule' to questions of right and wrong before advising the reader not to bother studying English literature. While serving up plenty of sound economics, the book falls short on the philosophy, displaying not only conceptual inconsistencies but an intolerance for the irrational dimensions of human existence." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Steven E. Landsburg writes the popular "Everyday Economics" column in Slate magazine and has also written for Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He is the author of The Armchair Economist, which has been published in five languages. He teaches in the department of economics at the University of Rochester.
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