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the Complete Review
the complete review - philosophy / dialogues

Philosophy Bites

David Edmonds
Nigel Warburton

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the authors

To purchase Philosophy Bites

Title: Philosophy Bites
Author: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton
Genre: Dialogues
Written: 2010
Length: 252 pages
Availability: Philosophy Bites - US
Philosophy Bites - UK
Philosophy Bites - Canada
  • '25 philosophers on 25 intriguing subjects'
  • Q & As with: Julian Savulescu, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer, Michael Sandel, Alexander Nehamas, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Miranda Fricker, Anne Phillips, Will Kymlicka, Wendy Brown, Adrian Moore, David Papineau, Barry Stroud, Hugh Mellor, Tim Crane, Tim Williamson, Derek Matravers, Alain de Botton, Barry C. Smith, Alex Neill, Don Cupitt, John Cottingham, Stephen Law, Keith Ward, and Anthony Grayling

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Our Assessment:

B : nice variety, quite entertaining

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Chronicle of Higher Ed. . 6/12/2010 Carlin Romano

  From the Reviews:
  • "As might be expected, these "philosophy bites," almost all shorter than 10 pages, whet appetites more than satisfy them. But inevitably given the quality of participants, the philosophical savvy of the editors, and the range of subjects, the 25 sections provide ideas worth mulling over, as well as some intended and inadvertent amusement." - Carlin Romano, Chronicle of Higher Education

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Philosophy Bites is a collection of transcripts of twenty-five 'podcast audio interviews' from the philosophy bites-website, which features: "top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics" (though, in fact, it's not the topics that are necessarily bite-sized, but rather the responses). This collection is divided into five main sections -- 'Ethics', 'Politics', 'Metaphysics and Mind', 'Aesthetics', and 'Atheism and the Meaning of Life' -- and each piece focuses on a narrower (though not necessarily very narrow) bit of these, from 'Moral Relativism' and 'Time' to 'Wine' and genetic enhancement in sport.
       The volume also offers an introductory section collecting responses to the question: 'What is philosophy ?' from these and other interview-subjects, which is a nice way of showing the many different approaches to the subject-matter (and to an understanding of what the subject-matter is). There's a nice range here -- well, aside from a few too many who react with a laugh --, from those with a clear, precise answer to some who just try to give a sense of what they understand by it; there are also some distinctly unhelpful responses, notably: "I think it's something you have to do to understand its essence."
       The twenty-five Q&A's each come with a few brief introductory sentences -- in which the interviewers occasionally try to get a bit too cute: for the piece on 'Infinity' they introduce A.W.Moore as a man whose: "knowledge of the infinite knows no bounds", for example, or they write: "Dr Alex Neill has the happiest of roles as the University of Southampton's foremost expert on tragedy". Almost all the interviewees are academics (though Alain de Botton gets asked about 'the Aesthetics of Architecture'), and the majority -- though not all -- are affiliated with philosophy departments. The limited time/space allotted to each means the treatment of most of these subject-matters remains fairly superficial -- but it has the advantage of forcing the interviewees to focus on the hearts of the matters; for most of these subjects, one at least gets a sense of the major issues and why they are worth thinking about.
       There's more to some of these subjects than one might initially think: Timothy Williamson makes a good case for why 'Vagueness' deserves closer attention, for example. Others make their cases less convincingly ('Wine' ? really ?).
       The biggest issues are, of course, hardest to tackle. A.C.Grayling on 'Atheism' (a term he doesn't much like since: "it makes matters look as though there is something worth denying the existence of") is bracingly clear and efficient, but Hugh Mellor has a harder time conveying 'Time' and the problems surrounding that concept. But even narrower subjects don't necessarily prove easier to convey the gist of: Michael Sandel rather flails about on 'Sport and Enhancement'.
       It is the range of Philosophy Bites that is most admirable, usefully prodding readers to consider philosophy more broadly, and to think about a wider variety of issues from a 'philosophical' point of view. These are, ultimately, little more than summary pieces, but quite a few are thought-provoking and stimulating -- as philosophy at its best should be (a process of thinking about questions, not just accepting pat answers). Much here is very theoretical and abstract, but most of the philosophers do a good job of explaining why such issues are still important to consider -- and quite a few do well in illustrating the practical consequences of how one treats a particular subject.
       Philosophy Bites isn't a philosophical primer, but it is an entertaining volume -- and because of the range of subjects that are addressed (and some of the takes on them) should be of some interest even to those who are already well-read in philosophy.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 January 2011

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Philosophy Bites: Reviews: Nigel Warburton: Other books by David Edmonds under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       David Edmonds has written and co-written several books.

       Nigel Warburton lectures at the Open University

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© 2011 the complete review

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