Monday, February 05, 2007

"If Minds had Toes", Lucy Eyre

My wife bought this for me on a whim for my birthday, and I am so pleased! As far as I know, "Sophie's World", by Jostein Gaarder, was the first book that explicitly directed philosophical questions at people from smart teenagers upwards. This is the second.

A teenager Ben finds himself the subject of a bet between Socrates and Ludwig Wittgenstein, from "The World of Ideas" - a place where some people go after death, supposedly. A variety of philosophical questions (Is death the worst thing that can happen to you? What is happiness? Do we have free will?) are introduced to him, with characters around him arguing for different philosophical positions. As tends to be the way, no conclusions are really reached - but by the end of the book, Ben has (and hopefully the reader will have) a more thoughtful perspective on the nature of life, the universe and everything - and he has a "better life" as a consequence of what he has learnt and discussed.

The principal characters are sympathetic and well-painted. The plot is imaginative and playful. The writing is snappy and clever:
Ben had heard of Plato. And now he'd seen his sports car, he was even more impressed.
And if we are really homo sapiens, then we ought to be thinking about the issues that the author discusses.