Uncommon Sense

The Strangest Ideas from the Smartest Philosophers

By (author) Andrew Pessin

Publication date:

19 June 2012

Length of book:

234 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442216082

In Uncommon Sense, Andrew Pessin leads us on an entertaining tour of philosophy, explaining the pivotal moments when the greatest minds solved some of the knottiest conundrums—by asserting some very strange things. But the great philosophers don’t merely make unusual claims, they offer powerful arguments for those claims that you can’t easily dismiss. And these arguments suggest that the world is much stranger than you could have imagined:
  • You neither will, nor won't, do certain things in the future, like wear your blue shirt tomorrow.
  • But your blue shirt isn't really blue, because colors don’t exist in physical objects; they’re only in your mind.
  • Time is an illusion.
  • Your thoughts are not inside your head.
  • Everything you believe about morality is false.
  • Animals don’t have minds.
  • There is no physical world at all.
In eighteen lively, intelligent chapters, spanning the ancient Greeks and contemporary thinkers, Pessin examines the most unusual ideas, how they have influenced the course of Western thought, and why, despite being so odd, they just might be correct. Here is popular philosophy at its finest, sure to entertain as it enlightens.
A key to understanding this book is furnished by the author's claim that 'common sense is what we believe about things when we haven't given them much thought.' So Pessin (Connecticut College) turns to what he calls strange claims of philosophers to introduce such topics as free will, God, morality, minds, and reality. The usual names appear--Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, and Hume. Also featured are Malebranche and Leibniz on the question of mind-body interaction, Berkeley on the nature of the external world, and Nietzsche's program for rewriting the grounds of morality. Pessin also includes contemporary philosophers John McTaggart on time, Wittgenstein on private language, Hilary Putnam on the nature of thinking, and David Lewis on possible worlds theory. The last of 18 chapters considers the view of Thomas Nagel and David Chalmers that something like mind permeates all reality. The chapters are short, the writing clear, and the tone entertaining. Each chapter contains primary and secondary sources, and the book has a good index. Looking for a book to give to someone to create interest in philosophy? This is it. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-level undergraduates; general readers.