Answers for Aristotle

Answers for Aristotle

How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life

Book - 2012
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Baker & Taylor
A philosophy professor and blogger explains how science and philosophy can combine to help make daily decisions, how to determine right from wrong, how to figure out one's personal identity and also build a just society. 20,000 first printing.

Perseus Publishing
How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science.
In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered by Aristotle offers us the best possible tool for understanding the world and ourselves. As Aristotle knew, each mode of thought has the power to clarify the other: science provides facts, and philosophy helps us reflect on the values with which to assess them. But over the centuries, the two have become uncoupled, leaving us with questions—about morality, love, friendship, justice, and politics—that neither field could fully answer on its own. Pigliucci argues that only by rejoining each other can modern science and philosophy reach their full potential, while we harness them to help us reach ours.
Pigliucci discusses such essential issues as how to tell right from wrong, the nature of love and friendship, and whether we can really ever know ourselves—all in service of helping us find our path to the best possible life. Combining the two most powerful intellectual traditions in history, Answers for Aristotle is a remarkable guide to discovering what really matters and why.

Consider the following scenario: you’re walking on a bridge and notice a trolley on the tracks below. To your horror, the trolley is hurtling directly toward five innocent bystanders. You also see a lever nearby: if you pull it, you can divert the trolley to a different track. The catch is that diverting it will guarantee the death of a sixth person nearby. Would you pull the lever?

Most people unhesitatingly answer yes—happy to sacrifice one life to save five—but balk if, instead of simply pulling a lever they were required topush a person off the bridge to stop the trolley—even if the result stays the same. A philosopher would claim that the two problems are identical from a moral perspective, but a neuroscientist would argue otherwise: in the first instance, the major decision-making role is played by a brain area usually involved in rational cognition, while in the second, an area related to the experience of emotions takes over. Science reveals that the two problems, apparently similar in form and content, are processed very differently by the brain—we are human beings, after all, not robotic moral calculators.

The trolley dilemma provides a good example of how we can combine science and philosophy to fruitfully inform our decision making—the ambitious goal of philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci’sAnswers for Aristotle. He shows how we can combine these modes of thinking to begin to understand how we make certain decisions (science), but also why those decisions may not be for the best (philosophy). Pigliucci argues that we need to reclaim both science and philosophy as guides to understand and navigate the world, to help us construct our own individual pursuits of happiness.

Answers for Aristotle covers six classic areas of philosophical interest:
• How do we tell right from wrong (morality)?
• How do we know things (epistemology)?
• Who are we (personal identity)?
• What are love and friendships (interpersonal relations)?
• How do we build a just society (politics)?
• Do gods exist or make a difference to our lives (metaphysics)?

In exploring these questions Pigliucci provides no facile answers, but instead furnishes the reader with the best tools that human intelligence has devised so far, ranging from the insights of Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant to modern research in neurobiology and evolutionary biology.

Rejecting the traditional polarity of science and philosophy, as well as the tidy triteness of self-help,Answers for Aristotle combines the two most powerful intellectual traditions in human history into a remarkable guide to making up our mind about what really matters and why.

Publisher: New York : Basic Books, c2012
Description: 312 p. ; 22 cm
ISBN: 9780465032808
Branch Call Number: 100 Pig


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