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ANSWERS FOR ARISTOTLE by Massimo Pigliucci

ANSWERS FOR ARISTOTLE

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

By Massimo Pigliucci

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-465-02138-3
Publisher: Basic

A look at why both science and philosophy are necessary to “approach the perennial questions concerning how we construct the meaning of our existence.”

Pigliucci (Philosophy/CUNY-Lehman Coll.; Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk, 2010, etc.), who holds  doctorates in both biology and philosophy, provides an overview of relevant philosophic arguments about virtue, beginning with Aristotle's thoughts on how to achieve a happy and fruitful life: “doing the right things for the right reason” while rising above “weakness of the will.” Pigliucci compares this with the views of utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and the rule-based prescriptions of Immanuel Kant. He also looks at how neuropsychologists deal with the putative existence of free will by constructing experiments (using fMRI scanning devices) that show brain activations of muscles before a subject is aware of making a conscious decision to act. Warning that experiments often do not simulate realistic situations, he argues that the relationship between science and philosophy is highly complex. We must “let philosophy (informed by science) guide us in principle, and to use science (steered by philosophy) as our best bet for implementing those principles,” he writes. Pigliucci applies Aristotle's four causes principle to illustrate the nature of religious belief, which “is made possible by the neurobiological characteristics of the human brain that make us prone to superstitious thinking.”

A useful introduction to sources on both sides of the science-philosophy divide.