Book Review: How The World Thinks

Title: How The World Thinks- A Global History of Philosophy
Author: Julian Baggini
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 342
ISBN: 978-1783782307
Source: Publisher

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 but a sort comparative study of the philosophies of different regions. I certainly feel that I would have gained more from the book had it 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 of it Baggini has provided an analysis of these schools and ideas 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)

What do you thunk about this book and philosophy, in general? Have you read any work of/on philosophy? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.

*I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed are entirely personal and unbiased.*

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