Book Review: What More Philosophers Think (Edited by Julian Baggini and Jeremy Stangroom)

A Book Review Over a Year in the Making

Sometimes you just slowly …. ever slowly…. so very slowly… finish a book. For many reasons it happens. The book has to go back to the library, you lose it, misplace it, forget about it, set it down in lieu of another newer, cooler, more sparkly book, you spill a drink on it and need to get a new copy, etc, etc.

This was just a case of simply setting it down to read other things and I kind of piece meal read parts of it, slowly devouring it. There were several reasons for that, some because of the book (faults or not) and some because of me (faults or not).

I had picked this up in 2019 at Mid-Town Scholar in Harrisburg. Waiting for the author speaking and presenting (I forget which one it was I was there to see), I snooped around the store and found this and picked it up. Primarily on the basis of Slavoj Zizek and Robert M. Pirsig as well as even seeing Phillip Pullman which I found interesting. So I got this, sat in attendance for whichever speaker it was that day (might have been the time I was there for the speaker about Benjamin Rush) and then took it to ZeroDay Brewing afterwords to read a little…. and from there… it slowly drifted further and further down my “to read” or “reading” pile. (Which is a very complicated mass of a ton of books and is constantly shifting with books falling in and out of the ‘top ten’ of the reading piles.)

This is a selection of interview essays with numerous philosophers , some well known (like Pirsig, Zizek, Foot), and some lesser known (or at least to me anyway lesser known) philosophers as well. The front cover lists the following philosophers for essay – interviews in the book: Igor Aleksander, Philippa Foot, A.C. Grayling, Ted Honderich, Oliver Letwin, Alexander McCall Smith, Onora O’Neill, Bhikhu Parekh, Robert M. Pirsig, Philip Pullman, Mary Warnock, Bernard Williams, and Slavoj Zizek.

The back blurb has a few quotes from Zizek, Grayling, Parekh, and Honderich. Zizek on the topic of tolerance says: “I am more and more convinced that the very notion of tolerance secretly endorses precisely its opposite, a certain kind of intolerance.” Grayling comments on philosophy and public understanding: “Philosophy, for all its apparent abstraction and technicality, is really just a membrane away from ordinary, everyday, practical concerns.”


Personally, philosophy for me, is one of my ‘hobbies’, or things I do for fun. This includes, reading, writing, and thinking (or philosophizing) about philosophy. I went to school for a bit for Journalism and Philosophy (which helps me out tremendously in a field dominated by Mathematics… …to a degree, it actually does despite the joke of it all). So I enjoy finding and picking up esoteric philosophy works, as well as the classics (Aristotle’s Ethics, Plato’s Republic, Spinoza, Kant, etc.). Some topics I especially engage in and find interesting are free will, ethical debates, philosophy of the mind, philosophy of time, and numerous other debates and topics. I typically steer clear of the ‘semantic’ and ‘language’ based philosophies, but I’ll still read them, and you still need to have some understanding of them, as a basis and an underline for much of philosophy in common.

I happened to find this volume – ‘What More Philosophers Think’ randomly in the basement at The Midtown Scholar after a book event there one night, relatively cheap (cheaper than its original pricing), and decided ‘why not’. Has some interesting philosophers included – like Slavoj Zizek, Robert M. Pirsig, Philippa Foot, and even has Philip Pullman.

List of Philosophers in this Work

There is an impressive list of philosophers in this work, interviewed by Julian Baggini and Jeremy Stangroom. The list includes:

There is also a round table discussion about September 11th and post – September 11th with various philosophers. You can click the links on the names above to go to their Wikipedia pages for more information on each philosopher.

Sadly, as you’ll see from going to each of their pages, since the publication of this work, several of these writers have passed (by 2021). Philippa Foot, Robert M. Pirsig, Mary Warnock, Bernard Williams, have all passed.

Book Review

This is a series of interviews with the listed philosophers / writers / authors / (and one politician) above. So the book varies by interview, and how well it goes. Your mileage may also vary depending on your thoughts of the writers / philosophers and their works, and if you agree with their philosophies as well. The editors / interviewers even kind of throw Robert M. Pirsig under the bus in their preamble to his interview, discussing how difficult of an interviewee he was, how they had to do it over e-mail and online exchange, etc.

I enjoy getting to read more from Philippa Foot, most famous for her ‘trolley problem’ – which has become such a central ‘mind thought’ for much of philosophy, and an important part one of my recent favorite shows (The Good Place).

Slavoj Zizek is also always interesting and entertaining in his own right. I feel like interviewing him is more or less just unlocking a cage, and seeing what damage is done to the city while fleetingly throwing whatever escaped some morsels and taking notes of what it does with them.

All and all, the interviews are well done, there is a brief description of each writer / philosopher, and the work should be engrossing for any interested in their thoughts. It is somewhat dated, but in general, most interviews themselves become dated. It also works as a historic anchor for thoughts and feelings from its time as well.

My GoodReads rating: ***
Global Average GoodReads Rating: 3.04 (as of May 23rd, 2021)
My LibraryThing rating: ***.5

recent posts

you might also like

Go to Top