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In the first global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought. One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of In the first global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought. One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures in different parts of the world. What we call 'philosophy' in the West is not even half the story. Julian Baggini sets out to expand our horizons in How the World Thinks, exploring the philosophies of Japan, India, China and the Muslim world, as well as the lesser-known oral traditions of Africa and Australia's first peoples. Interviewing thinkers from around the globe, Baggini asks questions such as: why is the West is more individualistic than the East? What makes secularism a less powerful force in the Islamic world than in Europe? And how has China resisted pressures for greater political freedom? Offering deep insights into how different regions operate, and paying as much attention to commonalities as to differences, Baggini shows that by gaining greater knowledge of how others think we take the first step to a greater understanding of ourselves.


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In the first global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought. One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of In the first global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought. One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures in different parts of the world. What we call 'philosophy' in the West is not even half the story. Julian Baggini sets out to expand our horizons in How the World Thinks, exploring the philosophies of Japan, India, China and the Muslim world, as well as the lesser-known oral traditions of Africa and Australia's first peoples. Interviewing thinkers from around the globe, Baggini asks questions such as: why is the West is more individualistic than the East? What makes secularism a less powerful force in the Islamic world than in Europe? And how has China resisted pressures for greater political freedom? Offering deep insights into how different regions operate, and paying as much attention to commonalities as to differences, Baggini shows that by gaining greater knowledge of how others think we take the first step to a greater understanding of ourselves.

30 review for How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Indrani Ganguly

    It would have been more appropriate to name this book 'How Some People Think' given it's largely the viewpoint of a middle-class Anglo-Saxon male. Women are dismissed with a summary comment ''women's voices are almost entirely absent from the world's classical traditions'. This is true but doesn't warrant leaving out the contributions of Indian women like Gargi, Maitreyi and Lopamudra who were well known for their learned and spirited debates with men and Greek women like Hypatia. It would have It would have been more appropriate to name this book 'How Some People Think' given it's largely the viewpoint of a middle-class Anglo-Saxon male. Women are dismissed with a summary comment ''women's voices are almost entirely absent from the world's classical traditions'. This is true but doesn't warrant leaving out the contributions of Indian women like Gargi, Maitreyi and Lopamudra who were well known for their learned and spirited debates with men and Greek women like Hypatia. It would have been interesting if Baggini had compared their thinking with the males. The term 'Indian philosophy' is misleading, though to be fair it is also used by many Indians. The correct term is Vedic philosphy, for two reasons: it is found in many other countries in South and South-East Asia. Secondly, there are other philosophies in India including Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, Sikh etc. Baggini presents Marx as influencing Gandhi by leading him to 'balance the traditional emphasis on spirituality with concerns for social justice'. It is more appropriate to say Marx might have influence Gandhi through his trenchant criticism of the 'barbarity of British colonial rule, its loot and torture, clearly acknowledging that “the misery inflicted by the British on Hindustan is of an essentially different and infinitely more intensive kind than all Hindustan had to suffer before'. And Gandhi is unlikely to have supported the violent methods propagated by Marx and his followers. The 'fabled spirituality' of which Baggini and countless others before him have highlighted is very much that: a fable. This is a myth which helps Westerners hide the fact that it was the fabled material wealth of India that has attracted traders and invaders from the West and elsewhere. The book is replete with facile generalisations, e.g. the reference to extreme deference by Indians to authority which is contrasted with Western notions of argument and debate, all based on his experience in one conference. If Baggini had looked beyond his narrow view to the writings of historians and sociologists, it is the argumentative nature of Indians that has led to its amazing diversity. Amartya Sen, the Nobel-prize winning Indian economist, illustrated this in his book 'The Argumentative Indian'. Baggini also refers to the 'resistance to secularism in the Islamic world'. There is no single Islamic model of government. Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Turkey and others were historically secular states though there have been infringements in recent times. Conversely, Western countries are not as secular as they claim to be. Western missionaries still invade other cultures seeking to buy converts under the guise of altruism and the only public holidays are those dedicated to Christian festivals. True to form Baggini refers to the poverty of the part of India he visits. Equally true to form is the failure to discuss if he and others like him would be willing to pay fair prices for the goods and services extracted from India, Africa etc. There are some moments of insight such as the quote that philosophers live in two times and two places. But they are lost in a morass of unstructured arguments peppered with many irritatingly predictably generalisations and stereotypes. The book definitely required a good editor who has some knowledge of the content and the ability to cull ruthlessly!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Reading this book aloud in the car, discovering gems together over Kopi and Roti Prata, letting a stranger skim through it just before the start of a lecture, discussing it with my boss after a workshop, trying to explain its gist to a curious 7-year-old. These were my favourite memories of reading this one. And as I travelled for work and play, through car and taxi rides, brought it from café to café, drunk cups of Caramel Latte/Kopi-C Peng/Genmaicha while I nibbled on doughnuts, woke up early Reading this book aloud in the car, discovering gems together over Kopi and Roti Prata, letting a stranger skim through it just before the start of a lecture, discussing it with my boss after a workshop, trying to explain its gist to a curious 7-year-old. These were my favourite memories of reading this one. And as I travelled for work and play, through car and taxi rides, brought it from café to café, drunk cups of Caramel Latte/Kopi-C Peng/Genmaicha while I nibbled on doughnuts, woke up early to get some chapters in before starting on work, gave thanks for late turn-ups and having to wait for the little one at ballet classes that let me pore through the book, Baggini took me through East Asia, Europe, America and Africa, through the ages from the time of Confucius, Socrates and Buddha to the world of today. I took a long time to get through this one because it kept me pausing to reflect and rexamine my own thinking and what has shaped it. Often I found myself needing to reach out to discuss with other minds. And now, having completed it, I feel simultaneously nourished and hungry. Gratifying read

  3. 4 out of 5

    E.

    Ever since I began teaching philosophy in the 1990's I've tried to expand the canon and to include non-Western elements in my teaching. These movements have gained momentum more broadly in the academy in recent years, and so I've been trying to expand my understanding so I can be a better philosopher and a better teacher. I hadn't yet seen a good introductory text one might use for global philosophy. And this book still isn't that, but it quite good. This is not a book one could assign in an intr Ever since I began teaching philosophy in the 1990's I've tried to expand the canon and to include non-Western elements in my teaching. These movements have gained momentum more broadly in the academy in recent years, and so I've been trying to expand my understanding so I can be a better philosopher and a better teacher. I hadn't yet seen a good introductory text one might use for global philosophy. And this book still isn't that, but it quite good. This is not a book one could assign in an intro class, because it requires some familiarity with philosophical traditions, but it is a fascinating exploration in comparative philosophy. Baggini writes that the different philosophical traditions are different, with different emphases, ideas, and values. And that you can't just pick and choose from those traditions, you need to understand how the ideas hang together and have developed through history. But he does believe that the various traditions can learn from each other and can see how one might think differently if different ideas are emphasized. Plus, he thinks this is the way the world is going anyway, with globalization bringing the various cultures into closer communication, such that in the future global philosophy will be a cross-cultural conversation with roots in the various traditions. One feature of the book that was enjoyable was the way he discussed contemporary events--such as the election of Donald Trump or the policies of Xi Jinping--through the lens of their culture's philosophical traditions. My only negative feedback is that some of the chapters and sections could have been edited and structured differently. And a few others could have been expanded. But overall I found this a very helpful guide in understanding how our current world thinks and what it's primary values are.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike Steinharter

    I so wanted to learn from this book; Understanding philosophies from around the world sounded quite interesting and it grabbed my attention at the bookstore and no doubt the author’s experience is extensive, but the writing just didn’t invite me in to learn and understand. To be fair, i enjoyed a number of parts of the books, such as the chapter on Japanese relational self and the anecdotes that illustrate it. But he jumps around way too much for me and I found myself skimming more often than I I so wanted to learn from this book; Understanding philosophies from around the world sounded quite interesting and it grabbed my attention at the bookstore and no doubt the author’s experience is extensive, but the writing just didn’t invite me in to learn and understand. To be fair, i enjoyed a number of parts of the books, such as the chapter on Japanese relational self and the anecdotes that illustrate it. But he jumps around way too much for me and I found myself skimming more often than I prefer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    There have been few times I've clicked the "five star" option as quickly as for this book. 'How the World Thinks' has moved me in ways I did not anticipate through shining a light on philosophies from East Asia to the subcontinent of India and from the Islamic world to Western philosophy. It included a very neat distinction between European and American philosophy I did not see coming but phrased all the floating ideas I had about why North-America (and the US in particular) occasionally confuse There have been few times I've clicked the "five star" option as quickly as for this book. 'How the World Thinks' has moved me in ways I did not anticipate through shining a light on philosophies from East Asia to the subcontinent of India and from the Islamic world to Western philosophy. It included a very neat distinction between European and American philosophy I did not see coming but phrased all the floating ideas I had about why North-America (and the US in particular) occasionally confuses me to no end. This book connected all these different strains of philosophy (not forgetting oral histories from around the world) by focusing on a few key questions when trying to figure out "how the world thinks". It helped me start to understand other cultures and gave me a newfound perspective on my own. In short: it has "wow'ed" me and I highly recommend it. Quote from the very end of the book: "Inattention to the peculiarities of a philosophy's own place and to philosophy in other places confuses the admirable aspiration for greater objectivity with a misguided ideal of placeless universality. Ideas are neither tightly tethered to specific cultures nor free-floating, universal and placeless. Like people, they are formed by a culture but can travel. If we truly aspire to a more objective understanding of the world, we have to make use of the advantages to be gained by occupying different intellectual places. Doing so with reverence but not deference to the past and present of other cultures could help us transform our own philosophical landscapes."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    A book on, well, how people think around the world. At least assuming that the countries' philosophies reflect onto the people (and vice versa). Not the most rigorous approach, and the author's western bias can be noticed at several places, even though he specifically critiques western philosophy of doing exactly that. That being said, the book did give me an idea of which values the various Indian, Muslim, Chinese, Japanese, (native) Australian and some African countries' philosophies. One thing A book on, well, how people think around the world. At least assuming that the countries' philosophies reflect onto the people (and vice versa). Not the most rigorous approach, and the author's western bias can be noticed at several places, even though he specifically critiques western philosophy of doing exactly that. That being said, the book did give me an idea of which values the various Indian, Muslim, Chinese, Japanese, (native) Australian and some African countries' philosophies. One thing that stookd out was that western philosophy, which we arrogantly simply call "philosophy", is the only type of philosophy treated in this book that relies solely on logical argumentation (which is not necessarily a good thing), whereas feeling, perception, religion and subjectivity takes on a larger role in almost every other philosophy (again, out of those treated in this book).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    There are a few reasons to read this moderately-sized work from Julian Baggini on philosophy from around the globe, and a few more reasons not to read it. Firstly, this book does more in one volume than any I have encountered to treat the philosophical thought of India, China, Japan, and the Muslim world as genuine philosophy without pedantically and in condescendingly unlettered fashion equating any of that with mysticism, theology, or spirituality. Though there certainly is overlap from philos There are a few reasons to read this moderately-sized work from Julian Baggini on philosophy from around the globe, and a few more reasons not to read it. Firstly, this book does more in one volume than any I have encountered to treat the philosophical thought of India, China, Japan, and the Muslim world as genuine philosophy without pedantically and in condescendingly unlettered fashion equating any of that with mysticism, theology, or spirituality. Though there certainly is overlap from philosophy in those fields, "The East," is hardly the only area where this happens. Also, Baggini does lay out a lot of these concepts very clearly so those with little experience in this area will be mostly caught up on the history and appropriate terminology. Lastly, the function of philosophy in these regions on the larger cultural zeitgeist and more practically that societies' political and social functioning is well-detailed. Where the book has issues is mainly the speed with which it works in all of these areas. I can certainly give the work the benefit of the doubt as it treads where few philosophy texts for the layman have, however because so much history and philosophy is discussed within a mere 400 pages there are some sweeping generalizations and simplifications. Even though Baggini is providing a service by showing this work in equal light as, "Western," philosophy without resorting to the soft-bigotry of relativist pandering; by talking about so much in a single volume there are some culturally stereotypical remarks thrown around that have the best of intentions but a somewhat numbing effect on the reader (at least this one). These instances are few but certainly noticeable upon rereading especially. So while I really don't find this to be, "A Global History of Philosophy," it did serve as an effective expository work for several areas of philosophy which I have not found in many other works for the layman. Likely, this would have been much more effective as a series, giving a volume in that series to each culture/philosophical tradition discussed. In short, he certainly accomplishes the goal of introducing several concepts and inspiring you to look for more sources, but he also makes you think that much more seeking and finding should have been possible within this volume itself.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jelger Beltman

    Capturing the wisdom of this book in a review is next to impossible. The mind-expanding collections of philosophies really paint a beautiful picture of the world. The differences between individual freedom and social harmony explain the shortcomings of the western ways of thinking. The idea of total responsibility of the self that is becoming more common around the world is broken down. For it is ignorant to assume that the self is something indepentent. This book is one of the best summaries of Capturing the wisdom of this book in a review is next to impossible. The mind-expanding collections of philosophies really paint a beautiful picture of the world. The differences between individual freedom and social harmony explain the shortcomings of the western ways of thinking. The idea of total responsibility of the self that is becoming more common around the world is broken down. For it is ignorant to assume that the self is something indepentent. This book is one of the best summaries of the different ways of thinking I have ever read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    AnnaG

    It is a strange irony that at the beginning of this book Baggini points out that there are many cultures which have no need for secular philosophy. Many languages didn't organically develop a word for it until it was imported from the West and their home-grown scholars follow "philosophical" traditions that don't meet the purity test of philosophy being too close to theology. This raises the interesting question of whether modern secular philosophy actually has a history at all in any part of th It is a strange irony that at the beginning of this book Baggini points out that there are many cultures which have no need for secular philosophy. Many languages didn't organically develop a word for it until it was imported from the West and their home-grown scholars follow "philosophical" traditions that don't meet the purity test of philosophy being too close to theology. This raises the interesting question of whether modern secular philosophy actually has a history at all in any part of the world, let alone a global one. Have societies really tolerated such useless spongers for 2,500 years or were the schools of Athens and the great thinkers in other cultures pre-Enlightenment doing something fundamentally different to today's philosophy departments? The answer would appear to be the latter and whilst Baggini tries to downplay the practical and theological aspects in the work of, say, Aristotle, it rapidly becomes obvious that modern Western philosophy has sprouted from the impractical and useless results of the pursuit of technical knowledge (science), higher purpose in life (theology) and community cohesion (traditional stories) amongst others; it comes from the dead-ends of intellectualism if you will. Things which had practical application eg capitalism or psycho-analysis rapidly disassociated themselves from philosophy and the narrow, inflexible, arbitrary constraints of axioms, propositions and inductive reasoning - i.e. rationality. Whilst navel-gazing has a long tradition (cf the book of Ecclesiastes), it clearly hadn't been tolerated by any society on a large scale until the wealth and abundance of 18th century Europe allowed such wasters to make a living spouting drivel of no practical use to anyone. I'm heartened to read that many societies reject secular philosophising even to this day and can only hope that in the West we will also come to our collective senses and realise that it is a fool's errand to derive meaning or anything of practical benefit to the world by reason and/or logic alone.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ingolf

    A decent high-level overview of philosophy around the world (mostly non-western). Interesting and eye-opening read for someone who is not well versed in philosophy - not sure how useful it is for someone who is.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve Murphy

    A comparison of western and eastern philosophy highlighting strengths and weaknesses of respective beliefs. I found it a great look at multiple philosophies for a first time reader of any philosophy book. Don't expect an ultimate conclusion on what to believe but convincing case for the idea that our western philosophy isn't the most superior

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Review This book is excellent at getting you to question the way in which you think and how this underpins your belief system in regards to life. Western thinking with its colonial racism often views its scientific enquiry for truth and progress as superior to eastern respect for knowledge and tradition. Where in the east focus is on the holistic view of reality, the west are argument based, logical and scientific. Western scientific enquiry admonishes knowledge in search for new understanding a Review This book is excellent at getting you to question the way in which you think and how this underpins your belief system in regards to life. Western thinking with its colonial racism often views its scientific enquiry for truth and progress as superior to eastern respect for knowledge and tradition. Where in the east focus is on the holistic view of reality, the west are argument based, logical and scientific. Western scientific enquiry admonishes knowledge in search for new understanding and asks questions to extend knowledge, whereas eastern thinking respects tradition and the divine. Before the internet we had to trust those more knowledgeable than ourselves and so the technological advancement making education more accessible can be argued to be detrimental, as there is with it a lack of experience; knowing something and understanding something fully, are not the same. Implied causation and actual causation are not the same. Eastern thought is less focused on conceptual understanding and more on feeling and intuition, which the west often disregard as being unscientific; words are for meaning: when you’ve got the meanings, you can forget the words. Although just because you can posit a question does not make it testable, for example ‘what is the colour of the wind?’ will likely lead to no answer because there simply isn’t one, therefore the other questions we ask may be similarly futile. Eastern society values right conduct, politeness and harmony with others and unlike the west are not affronted by their limitations but celebrate their humanness; they see a person is only so through other people. The east see things differently; they focus on the space between things and are sensitive to changes in background whereas the west don’t notice empty spaces as their focus is on the foreground. Europe can be seen as an aggressive culture who sees other societies in decline or poorer and weaker than they, as they merit progress and individualistic advancement and yet it is due to this that we will likely kill ourselves off with consequences such as climate change. The west rejects the importance of theology and how religious buildings are machines for people to think. Eastern cultures may lack technological and societal advancement but they can be argued to be superior due to their capacity for sustainable survival. The western mind is dichotomous and inflexible in its thinking and the antagonistic spirit of enquiry antithetical to cooperation and seeking common ground; it is focussed on winning arguments often to a cavalier ilk. There is often a common sense approach that distrusts intellectuals and has popular discontent with elites. The focus on democracy and where the majority vote is the truth often illustrates groupthink and mediocracy and explains why communism never prospers. That said, corrupt people are tolerated if they are capable of moving things forward as virtue which bears no fruits is useless. Westerners enjoy thinking for themselves as this makes them feel they have a freedom to direct their own lives whereas Easterners have a fatalism in relation to karma. The west are the truth seekers who are not satisfied with conceptual vagueness whereas the east are the way seekers who believe skills come from practise and cannot simply be conveyed by instruction. A very thought provoking book however it was very dense and somewhat superfluous at times; the start is better than the end.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liedzeit

    I admit that for me Philosophy is identical with "Western Philosophy". All the rest, so my prejudice was, is basically religious thought with some pseudo-philosophical amendments. But I was not very happy with this. So I read this admirable book. I said admirable because I admire Baggini for his braveness in tackling such a task. I do not think he has succeeded. At least not if his task was really to show that there is genuine philosophy outside the West. (I am not sure that this was his task. Ma I admit that for me Philosophy is identical with "Western Philosophy". All the rest, so my prejudice was, is basically religious thought with some pseudo-philosophical amendments. But I was not very happy with this. So I read this admirable book. I said admirable because I admire Baggini for his braveness in tackling such a task. I do not think he has succeeded. At least not if his task was really to show that there is genuine philosophy outside the West. (I am not sure that this was his task. Maybe he really wanted to show that Western Philosophy is superior. If so, he did succeed, at least with me.) There is really little I learned. And already it begins to fade, li and qi and moksa and mono no aware. Okay, you are supposed to say yinyang and not yin and yang (and it originally meant the different shades of a hill as the sun moves along). And Confucianism is a term the Jesuits invented. The Chinese do not believe in hero worship. And westerners do not recognize the things in the background of a picture. Easterners do. Maybe, and hopefully, I am just too old to learn new concepts. Or maybe Baggini did not try hard enough.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rav

    Although the premise is extremely tantalising, I must say this book leaves a tad to be desired. The writing style results in a constant back and forth, dispersing your thoughts amongst multiple (interesting and complex) topics. I did enjoy the book, it took me longer than I'd have liked to get through and yet still offered many chances of widening perspective. I'd often find myself skim reading more than I'd like, as a lot of in depth areas were mentioned in passing and I would have to take it u Although the premise is extremely tantalising, I must say this book leaves a tad to be desired. The writing style results in a constant back and forth, dispersing your thoughts amongst multiple (interesting and complex) topics. I did enjoy the book, it took me longer than I'd have liked to get through and yet still offered many chances of widening perspective. I'd often find myself skim reading more than I'd like, as a lot of in depth areas were mentioned in passing and I would have to take it upon myself to look in to the topic of discussion further before being able to carry on reading and making sense of what Julian was trying to convey. An insightful, lengthy and complex dive in to a multitude of areas which truly show the complexity of the human mind and behavioural characteristics of which are deeply rooted from cultural norms developed over thousands of years and presenting a view of the world which helps allow one to appreciate the diverse multicultural aspects of the world and how they intertwine with previous, modern and developing philosophies.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Araújo

    What a philosophical journey! We've all heard, read and learned about what makes the Western Philosophy Canon. What Julian Baggini achieves here is a journey through Chinese, Indian, African (even Samoan) philosophy perspective on many topics like "emptiness", "morality" and so on. It's incredibly well written and easy to digest, but you will surely have to stop and do a lot of side reading given the amazing interest of so many of the perspectives discussed. Will definitely re-read at some point What a philosophical journey! We've all heard, read and learned about what makes the Western Philosophy Canon. What Julian Baggini achieves here is a journey through Chinese, Indian, African (even Samoan) philosophy perspective on many topics like "emptiness", "morality" and so on. It's incredibly well written and easy to digest, but you will surely have to stop and do a lot of side reading given the amazing interest of so many of the perspectives discussed. Will definitely re-read at some point in time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    A very interesting comparative study of world philosophy, I found the portions about Japanese and Chinese culture and modes of thought especially fascinating. Will probably be something I need to reread in order to get the most out of it. Must say I gave a wee whoop at the mention of Rawls and his veil of ignorance- my favourite lesson of University philosophy study. :)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Max Havenga

    A good book which logically presents itself. Personally, I think the book gives a lot of general information of philosophy around the world. Keep in mind that it is written from a western perspective, but looking through that can help to truly understand the philosophy of the culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Torrens

    I think it’s extremely difficult to cover such an extensive area in one single book but at least for me it was very interesting to learn about non western philosophy. Have to admit that my knowledge about Indians or Far East philosophy was very scare. The most impressive part was the two different ways of the relational self as integrity or intimacy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aïcha

    Fascinating

  20. 4 out of 5

    Esme Leaf

    Save ya self the time and just read the conclusion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy by Julian Baggini (Academic Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy) is a fascinating book that explores a myriad of philosophical thoughts from across the globe. Offering deep-insights into how other regions operate and how an expanding of philosophical boundaries across cultural divides can initiate a greater understanding of ourselves. It is quite the intellectual treat! Philosophy can be a daunting subject to explore, particularl How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy by Julian Baggini (Academic Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy) is a fascinating book that explores a myriad of philosophical thoughts from across the globe. Offering deep-insights into how other regions operate and how an expanding of philosophical boundaries across cultural divides can initiate a greater understanding of ourselves. It is quite the intellectual treat! Philosophy can be a daunting subject to explore, particularly when travelling far from familiar Western-centrism, yet Baggini has manged the remarkable feat of unravelling the esoteric secrets of global philosophy, rendering them comprehensible to the philosophic layperson. Yes, How the World Thinks is academic in both structure and tone. Arguments are built through comparative analysis and encapsulate the many philosophical terms and techniques that abound in global niches. Not only that, How the World Thinks also contextualises how and why global philosophies have developed, delving into world history, ancient and recent, as well as the history of philosophies themselves. Even writing this brief synopsis hints at a certain academic impenetrability. Yet this perceived impenetrability is no detriment to reading as Baggini brings a compelling clarity to philosophy through the practical application of philosophical principals to relevant real world examples and consequences. A western-centric example, for instance, is how populism, Trump or Brexit arose from the inherent dichotomy of implementing the Law of the Excluded Middle in Western Logic (it leads to a clear distinction between propositions that are true and those that are false). Under western thought there is an ‘either/or’ binary, a ‘for/against stance’ as opposed to a ‘and/both’ dynamic. It is by now painfully obvious that aspects of western culture are permeated with the negative consequences of such a dualistic ideology underpinning the culture. Think of the Clinton/Trump debates or how the UK political polity is classified as either gammon faced Brexiteer or Remoaner traitor. Baggini’s argument immerses the technicalities of philosophical Logic into recent western political history, it is philosophy in action, and it provides a clear perspective of how the western world thinks. Spinning out from this example is a comparison of Western Logic with Classical Indian philosophy from the Theological Vedas. The religious Vedas merge observation and deduction within its conceptual structure of Logic (very simplified: there is no untruth in Veda), in difference to western concepts of Logic that keeps theses aspects strictly apart. The resulting philosophical difference has implications for how one perceives their own rationality. It is a great use of comparative philosophy to highlight how a difference in emphasis is not the enemy, but a fellow tool to help reach enlightenment. There are of course, less western fixated examples to be drawn from How the World Works, the emphasis on harmony in Eastern Cultures, particularly Confucianism in China and its devaluing by Maoism. The implications and consequences of authority in both Eastern and Indian philosophy, specifically moral corruption within Guru’s or the complete entwining of Islamic religion into Islamic Philosophy. All are dealt with the same academic scrutiny, the same comparative analysis, the same objective criticism that both fascinates and illuminates on how the world thinks. Baggini’s open-minded grasp of global philosophies imbues the reader with the cognitive means to reject the trite prejudices and typecasting of other regions and in its erudite pages How the World Thinks offers a valuable lesson on humanity.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Olga Kovalenko

    What I liked most in this book on philosophy is a comprehensive and engaging description of Eastern traditions, like Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto. I don’t have any structured knowledge of any of them, and this book is a great starting point for further explorations. There is also a description of Indian and Islamic traditions, but they didn’t strike me as very detailed or engaging. Maybe that’s because I’m into Asian cultures though. ☺️ There were great examples of Western approaches What I liked most in this book on philosophy is a comprehensive and engaging description of Eastern traditions, like Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto. I don’t have any structured knowledge of any of them, and this book is a great starting point for further explorations. There is also a description of Indian and Islamic traditions, but they didn’t strike me as very detailed or engaging. Maybe that’s because I’m into Asian cultures though. ☺️ There were great examples of Western approaches to life and knowledge, which helped me systemize my own knowledge. Thumbs up. The author is a comparative philosopher and in How the World Thinks he views and compares the leading philosophies of the world according to their tools of finding knowledge, like insight, logic, divine message, etc., and their attitude toward such ideas as time, nature, self, virtue, harmony, morality, transience, impartiality, and so on. I liked that Julian Baggini views different cultures as having every idea and tool in them but to various degrees, which actually makes them different and focused on, sometimes, opposite values. I also liked his impartiality (yep, you’ve got me, that’s a Western value!) towards their differences. What I really missed is, as the author himself conceded, more than a passing mention of Russian (or even Post-Soviet block) philosophy. I also admit that Indian and Islamic philosophy left me disinterested. I don’t know to what extent it is a lack of my interest or the author’s. 4/5⭐️ and recommending it if you are interested in world cultures and their ways of thinking and living. 👍

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anri

    He elaborates seemingly-indifferent concepts of different parts of the world together under certain blanket words (as in index), and it works. I found some chapters boring, as they seem to be a mere array of thoughts by using the corresponding words in foreign languages. Sometimes I could hardly follow what he says because they were too foreign to me, both the styles and the concepts. However, I was fascinated most of the time and especially by his explanations of Japanese philosophy. Although a He elaborates seemingly-indifferent concepts of different parts of the world together under certain blanket words (as in index), and it works. I found some chapters boring, as they seem to be a mere array of thoughts by using the corresponding words in foreign languages. Sometimes I could hardly follow what he says because they were too foreign to me, both the styles and the concepts. However, I was fascinated most of the time and especially by his explanations of Japanese philosophy. Although almost all the ideas he introduced as Japanese philosophy were something familiar to me as a Japanese person raised in Japan for twenty-something years, he shed new light on them, and it was really exciting to come in touch with them. Some of his attempts still looked like he is trying to present 'culture' as 'philosophy' for me, but his way of shaking my definition of philosophy, which recognises only the western philosophy as philosophy, was enjoyable. I especially liked him mentioning Bertrand Russell at the end of 'ineffable' chapter.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Suraj Kumar

    In How The World Thinks the author Julian Baggini takes the reader along to dive into the cultures of different places and provide a glimpse of how people across the globe live their lives, what ideas and values do they believe in and how these ideas inform their existence. Dismissing the claim of the universal nature of the western philosophy, the author sets out on a journey to explore the ideas and beliefs that fall under the rubric of philosophy at a global level. ... expand[ing] our Western- In How The World Thinks the author Julian Baggini takes the reader along to dive into the cultures of different places and provide a glimpse of how people across the globe live their lives, what ideas and values do they believe in and how these ideas inform their existence. Dismissing the claim of the universal nature of the western philosophy, the author sets out on a journey to explore the ideas and beliefs that fall under the rubric of philosophy at a global level. ... expand[ing] our Western-cenrtic understanding of philosophical thought, [Julian Baggini explores] the philosophies of Japna, India, China and the Muslim World, as well as the lesser-known oral traditions of Africa and Australia's first peoples. Baggini has structured his book around four major questions pertaining to philosophy in general. These four questions are: (i) How the World Knows, (ii) How the World Is, (iii) Who in the World are We, and (iv) How the World Lives. He approaches these questions from different sides and thereby shows how different regions operate. Having addressed these four questions, in the fifth and the last part of the book, he addresses the titular question of How The World Thinks. Baggini's acumen not just as a philosopher but also as a student of global philosophy reflects very well in his writing. He structures his arguments in a very systematic manner linking one point with another. There are several passages that are worth underlining and that provide fascinating insights. In the concluding part of book, Baggini sums up the whole book in a very lucid manner. Sadly, this lucidity is missing in most part of the book due to which certain sections of the book are not engaging at all. Baggini aims at showing the differences and the similarities in how different people view different values and ideas, so that what we have here is not so much an account of global philosophy as a sort comparative study of the philosophies of different regions. I certainly feel that I would have gained more from the book had the book been structured in a geographic or perhaps chronological manner (since the subtitle claims it to be a history). Although this book is quite informative and I did learn a lot from it, I didn't quite get what I was expecting from this book. Baggini doesn't provide his definition of philosophy which was problematic for me. I was expecting this book to be about different philosophical schools around the globe, something on the lines of Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy. On the contrary, there is little mention of any -isms and in place it Baggini has provided an analysis of these from his contemporary position. Lastly, like several other readers, even I feel that to call this book a 'global history' is wrong. The reasons being that there is hardly any element of history in the book and that there are several other regions and philosophical thoughts that find no mention in the book. Even the African and Australian philosophies (mentioned on the back cover) are overshadowed by other major strands of philosophies. My Rating: *** (3.25/5) *I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed are entirely personal and unbiased.*

  25. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    According to How the World Thinks by Baggini (2018), philosophy and religion are not always neatly separable. In the Middle Ages, Islamic philosophy, falsafa, and religious philosophy, kalām, battled for supremacy. Kalām succeeded in claiming religious priority over reasoning. However, where the Qur’ān is not used for political gain, it is perceived metaphorically. Interestingly, orthodox Christianity took a more close-minded approach, and the Hellenic scientific outlook was disallowed due to ex According to How the World Thinks by Baggini (2018), philosophy and religion are not always neatly separable. In the Middle Ages, Islamic philosophy, falsafa, and religious philosophy, kalām, battled for supremacy. Kalām succeeded in claiming religious priority over reasoning. However, where the Qur’ān is not used for political gain, it is perceived metaphorically. Interestingly, orthodox Christianity took a more close-minded approach, and the Hellenic scientific outlook was disallowed due to extreme adherence to the word. Individualised and collectivist cultures are summed up as self-conceptions of either the atomistic self, known as integrity or the relational self, known as intimacy. Moreover, one’s overriding self-conception is that they are either bound to other people, lands, cultures and languages or that they are one discreet unit. It is important to understand that both concepts are found in all cultures and that, as in yin-yang theory, diversity can promote the fairest harmony. Indeed, striving for harmony should not be put above individual rights. Flourishing is not necessarily happiness, flourishing is to live fully by your nature. Some may be happy most of the time but not truly flourishing because their pleasure is shallow. Patriarchy is identified as fostering a sense of belonging that many culturally fragmented Western populations are missing. Baggini fails to explore patriarchies partiality to certain populations. It is for this reason, I rated the book with four stars instead of five. To be fair, the book later highlights Kravinsky's unsavoury attitude to his wife's concerns with his utilitarianism approaches. Harmony is cultivated from deliberate effort to find the appropriate space between vice and virtue ethics sensitive to context. Similarly, Confucius is said to uphold that extravagance leads to insubordination, and parsimony to "meaness"; however, it is better to be mean than insubordinate. Buddhism warns a fool becomes evil even if little by little. Baggini tells us moral exemplars such as Mother Teresa should be remembered for their achievements. Interestingly Baggini also says that Christianity is the only dominant religion where the founder is also the spiritual leader. This could be construed as a personality cult. It would seem wise to remember human beings do not need to be perfect to be their wonderful best. In regards to liberation, Baggini finds salvation in Indian religion and philosophy expressing abstract truth is not the highest good and it is better to speak what is beneficial than what is true. Unfortunately, karma is often misunderstood to mean one should accept their lot in life. Indeed, most philosophers agree life is fragile, transient, and imperfect. Knowledge, not wealth enables emancipation. Ultimate truth is beyond language. Baggini demonstrates how Western reductionist theory can fracture society and is likely to be soon swallowed by more holistic philosophical approaches of collectivist cultures enabling greater understanding and compromise.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Travis Rebello

    Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks offers a much-needed tour of different traditions of thought from around the world. Though Baggini is not an expert in all of these traditions, as he readily admits, he takes the approach of a “philosophical journalist,” drawing on material from dozens of interviews he’s conducted across the globe to craft an introduction to non-Western thought for Westerners. The result is, well, mixed. How the World Thinks can’t quite decide whether it’s a piece of travel Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks offers a much-needed tour of different traditions of thought from around the world. Though Baggini is not an expert in all of these traditions, as he readily admits, he takes the approach of a “philosophical journalist,” drawing on material from dozens of interviews he’s conducted across the globe to craft an introduction to non-Western thought for Westerners. The result is, well, mixed. How the World Thinks can’t quite decide whether it’s a piece of travel writing or a scholarly text for a lay audience. In the end, it doesn’t do a great job at being either. Though it tries to fit as many of the world’s big ideas as it can between two covers, it manages this only by saying very little about most of them. Occasionally the book gets distracted from its advertised purposes by vaguely-related themes: a chapter on time, for instance, flirts briefly with the metaphysics of time before getting lost in some mumblings about the idea of progress; a little while later something similar happens in a chapter on unity; again in the discussion of personal identity. More often the book gets distracted in putting down the West whenever it gets the chance (something the author perhaps feels duty-bound to do). Don’t get me wrong; the West certainly deserves some chastising! The trouble is that when Baggini tries his hand at anthropology or cultural history, the result is cringingly amateurish. He makes an effort to balance his sermonettes about the West with a few critical remarks on concepts and practices from outside the West. But there, too, it often takes the form of some half-baked diagnoses of social ills—this time in India (blame karma), the Middle East (blame the Qur’an) and China (blame “harmony”). Keep to the philosophy, please! Despite all this, it’s hard not to learn something from this book. There are certainly a number of gems to the found amidst the junk—including illuminating discussions of the aesthetic character of Japanese philosophy; pramãnas (“sources of knowledge”) in Indian philosophy; the peculiar brands of naturalism embodied in Confucianism and Daoism; and the Buddhist concepts of anattã (“no-self”), pratītyasamutpāda (“independent origination”) and nirvāṇa. Besides, really, there’s no alternative out there yet for those of us who want a general overview of global philosophy but lack the fortitude to trudge through a much thicker, denser volume like The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy. And, to Baggini’s credit, I found that swapping thoughts on How the World Thinks with a friend who had read it led to some very worthwhile conversations, which is perhaps all the author really wanted. I wanted more, though, and was rather disappointed.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne Phi

    I enjoyed reading it. Knowing nothing in particular about philosophy - apart of my 1 year of high school education in the subject and reading Sophie‘s world when I was 12 - it was a nice introduction to it. But it is still popular science and nothing more than an entry point to the subject. Also, the book is clearly written by a European. What the author makes out to be the defining characteristic of Western philosophy: the aspiration to universality and objectivity, is also what the author appar I enjoyed reading it. Knowing nothing in particular about philosophy - apart of my 1 year of high school education in the subject and reading Sophie‘s world when I was 12 - it was a nice introduction to it. But it is still popular science and nothing more than an entry point to the subject. Also, the book is clearly written by a European. What the author makes out to be the defining characteristic of Western philosophy: the aspiration to universality and objectivity, is also what the author apparently strives for with his work, as can be seen in the final chapter (but also intermittently). He does not present the different philosophical concepts for their own sake, their own value, but to invite the reader „to see a bigger picture“; to pick and choose, combine, etc in pursuit of a more complete philosophy. To me, this looks like the exact thing he claims he wants to overcome. I also realized, that the chapter on logic is missing some key points. It made me wonder if the same might be the case in other chapters. Baggini talks about the either-or property of truth or falsehood of propositions. He states „not(p and not(p))“, which clearly means that „a proposition may never be true and false at the same time“. So far so good. He then says, this is equivalent with „not(p) or p“. While this is technically true in classical logic, it is only so by definition. Unlike he states, „or“ is usually not considered to be exclusive. What he has actually stated by „not(p) or p“ isn’t that a property has to be either or, but that it has to be „at least one of true or false“. The fact that „not both at the same time“ and „at least one of them“ are both tautologies(always true) and equivalent (they imply each other) in classical logic, is what constitutes the either-or property, what creates it. He focuses on the „cannot be both“ and leaves out the „has to be one“ aspect, which is probably more interesting. Of every proposition, you can say whether it is true or false. Not only is there only one right answer to the question, there always IS an answer to it. Apart from that, he obviously leaves out non-classical logics as well as the fact that Aristotle‘s syllogism wasn’t actually propositional but one rule of predicate logic, and so on, making it an incomplete survey at best. I can only do this for logic, because I have been trained in it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if such shortcomings were present throughout all the chapters of the book. In conclusion: it was a nice read, a good introduction, but I will be looking for better sources to fill in the gaps. I’d recommend it to people trying to get a foot in the door, but not to anyone looking for accurate information.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anjali B

    Written in an academic style, initially found this challenging and wasn't sure if I would persist. Later chapters were less challenging than Section 1. I did learn quite a lot, so I am glad that I did not give up. The book speaks from a Western/European orthodox philosophical perspective, and compares this to philosophy in other parts of the world. This comparative approach mainly focuses on Chinese philosophy and Indian philosophy. Also discussed (but more briefly) are Japanese philosophy and I Written in an academic style, initially found this challenging and wasn't sure if I would persist. Later chapters were less challenging than Section 1. I did learn quite a lot, so I am glad that I did not give up. The book speaks from a Western/European orthodox philosophical perspective, and compares this to philosophy in other parts of the world. This comparative approach mainly focuses on Chinese philosophy and Indian philosophy. Also discussed (but more briefly) are Japanese philosophy and Islamic philosophy. African philosophies are mentioned occasionally, as are Aboriginal Australian and there is a short afterword on Russian philosophy. Any ways of thinking from the Latin American world are notably absent and I think the minimal treatment of African and Aboriginal philosophies could have been expanded upon. Additionally, looking to other indigenous cultures (e.g. inuit or Native American) would have been interesting - as I think a critical appraisal of the Western heterodox way of thinking against the way that these groups conceptualise the world (in particular the human 'self' within the natural world) would be illuminating and might give rise to interesting reflections on the climate crisis. Of course, you can never include everything, and the book does argue that it has covered the majority of the world's population in terms of numbers, so... I found the chapter on Islamic philosophy very interesting and did illuminate how the threads of philosophy and religion weave together. Gave me more insight into Islamic culture and how/why certain ways of living and politics can be linked back to this philosophy. Section 3 of the book goes through concepts such as the self, virtue, transience, etc. and examines these in each of the philosophical perspectives. I found this section the most interesting. The chapters on definition of the 'self' in the various philosophical traditions give much to reflect on and I feel were the strongest at showing how internalised ways of thinking about these concepts give rise to different cultures and political systems. Overall, I did learn a lot from the book but be prepared for a little bit of a dense read! It is all very well referenced, sourced, etc.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Millie

    I was excited to read this book - I've always been interested by philosophy so this seemed to be a good starting point. 3 stars may seem a bit harsh considering I did genuinely enjoy this book, however I think that enjoyment may have been due to the topics discussed rather than the writing itself. It started off strong: changing my perspective on what we mean by "philosophy" and how Westerners often disregard and generalise non-Western philosophy. However, by midway I realised that the same point ( I was excited to read this book - I've always been interested by philosophy so this seemed to be a good starting point. 3 stars may seem a bit harsh considering I did genuinely enjoy this book, however I think that enjoyment may have been due to the topics discussed rather than the writing itself. It started off strong: changing my perspective on what we mean by "philosophy" and how Westerners often disregard and generalise non-Western philosophy. However, by midway I realised that the same point (the world thinks in a multitude of ways) was going to be repeated every single chapter... and it was. I don't doubt that that point is right but it really started to feel repetitive by the end. In addition, I was intrigued by the introduction when Baggini said oral African and Aboriginal Australian philosophies were going to be explored, but I found that if they were ever mentioned, they were just clumsily tacked on to the end of a chapter without any deep exploration or comparison. The conclusion and final chapters knocked it down from 4 to 3 stars for me: for some reason completely new concepts to the book like Russian philosophy were introduced in the final few pages without any chance of it being discussed properly, which was slightly confusing and frustrating. On a positive note, this is a great introduction to international philosophy for beginners (like me!), particularly if you want to learn how philosophy influences everyday life around the world without anyone knowing. I also particularly loved the discussion about the relationship between philosophy, politics and international relations. So, not at all a bad read, just know that you might really need to be interested in the topics themselves in order to read this book enthusiastically. 3 stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Siddharth Gupta

    Listening to an Audiobook on a serious topic is a tough endeavour simply because we are generally not trained to train our auditory senses to function as stand alone inputs of absolute information processing. I say this to emphasise how this book stands out. Dispensing information about abstract issues is in itself difficult, and a challenging narrative makes the situation worse. But somehow Baggini manages to surmount these hurdles and reaches out to the reader(listener) in a beautiful manner. T Listening to an Audiobook on a serious topic is a tough endeavour simply because we are generally not trained to train our auditory senses to function as stand alone inputs of absolute information processing. I say this to emphasise how this book stands out. Dispensing information about abstract issues is in itself difficult, and a challenging narrative makes the situation worse. But somehow Baggini manages to surmount these hurdles and reaches out to the reader(listener) in a beautiful manner. This aside, I feel this book is a much required one as it dispels the notion of western philosophy being the de facto, all encompassing idea of philosophy. It explores the largely ignored concepts from East Asia and South Asia, including the fundamental difference in the very conception of the idea of philosophy. A lot of inter-generational and political conflict in a highly globalised world can be sourced to deep rooted philosophical differences. Something as basic as the emphasis of the west on individualism as opposed to the Asian emphasis on collectives and community is largely reflective in day-to-day events. Perhaps a better understanding of where each party to an event is coming from may result in mutual appreciation of standpoints. I would have preferred for the book to have also covered African and South American outlooks as well for the book to live up to the word “World” in its title, as it largely focuses on the Northern Hemisphere. Yet, I would say the book should form an integral part of anyone’s intellect building to-read list. Perhaps it’s time we actually make sense of the inane trend of the #fromwhereistand hashtag PS: Baggini ‘s credentials are readily available online, and it heartens me to know that he has more than enough authority to talk on the topic.

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