Book Review – The Pig that Wants to be Eaten

The Pig that wants to be Eaten (By: Julian Baggini) is a moderately confusingly titled book that is exactly what its subtitle says it is, 100 experiments for the armchair philosopher.

I think the cover I got is the best design-wise

I think the cover I got is the best design-wise

These experiments are mostly one-page summaries of philosophical dilemmas, followed by two pages of explanation. Usually the explanation covers both sides of the problems that are usually one way in and two-ways out. There are a few of them where three options will get you out, but that is generally discouraged. And in the context of the book, if you can find four or more ways to solve the problem, you’re thinking about it too much. These experiments are meant to force you to solve a specific problem to your satisfaction, not skirt around the issue.

To the author’s credit, he does provide a generally non-biased explanation of either side, and good comparisons to reality where one is not often present in the more abstracted and fanciful way the stories are placed. They are very metaphorical, and a lot more fun to think about that way. Their parallels are oftentimes difficult to guess, and aside from a rather heavy-handed abortion metaphor, this can make guessing where this would apply in one’s life part of the fun. 
And the book is quite fun. I hope it wasn’t meant to be very serious, because if it was it failed.

Its simple language and short section format make it easy to understand. And it still makes one think rather deeply about things that seem quite simple. While some of the topics may be absurd, that is the point. By eliminating a factor, and all natural variations that would occur, one can present a scenario that gets to the real heart of the problem being discussed, and since it is all in one’s mind, the usual methods for getting out of a hard decision are gone, and one has no choice but to provide an answer within the guidelines of the question.

If you read the book and do not question what each person in their various scenarios should do I’m not sure why you picked up this book. Though the limitations of presenting these “experiments” in a single page can be frustrating, the amount of complexity is surprising for the small size.

In other words I quite liked the book, and if you fancy yourself an armchair philosopher, or would like to look a little deeper into why you make the decisions you do I’d give it a try. Philosophy is something everyone can dip their toes into. I might even look into getting the sequel.

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