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The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  116 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Humankind, scientists agree, is a tiny and insignificant anomaly in the vastness of the universe. But what would that universe look like if we were not here to say something about it? In this brilliant, insightful work of philosophy, beloved novelist and playwright Michael Frayn examines the biggest and oldest questions of philosophy, from space and time to relativity and ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Picador (first published 2006)
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Jul 07, 2014 Manny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Would-be philosophers
Recommended to Manny by: notgettingenough
Philosophy, as a subject, is about as old as our civilization, and most people who read serious books have read at least some of the famous philosophers. After a while, you can't help wondering if this isn't something you could do too. After all, it just looks like a particularly advanced kind of bullshitting. Surely, you think, you've spent hundreds if not thousands of hours speculating about subjects which no one understands, and which maybe can't be understood in the first place. Why should y ...more
I can't imagine reading this book, having lived through Manny's reading of it. It was awful, having to listen to him talk about how completely Frayn had misunderstood everything in science and philosophy he talked about. When he did come to actual interesting content by Frayn he couldn't stand the round about, waffling way in which he wrote, peppering everything with asides which were sometimes entertaining and generally irrelevant. Somehow Bill Bryson writing mostly of irrelevancies is okay, bu ...more
David Williamson
Sep 17, 2011 David Williamson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
The old chestnut, if a tree falls and no one's around does it make a sound? Apparently, of course it does, but not really because there is nobody to observe it or give it meaning.
The Human Touch starts of as a great book, examining science and epistemology, then gets bogged down with language, where every stone is turned, even if totally unnecessarily. The subject matter and the main question of the book (how to reconcile the objectivity of science and physics with the subjective meaning and na
Gary Daly
Michael Frayn’s philosophical book (Faber 2006) THE HUMAN TOUCH is reading in low light during a drunken bar brawl word by word. I mean don’t get me wrong it’s a fascinating and highly intelligent in depth arse kicking piece of writing, but Frayn is a mad hatter at the epicentre of the abstract copping zone. A taste of Frayn, “…there is no stuff called size at large in the world, only particular sizes, and that for there to be a particular size there must be a something that has it?” Get that? F ...more
Robert Wechsler
Apr 11, 2013 Robert Wechsler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It is difficult to sum up this book. Its neither an introduction to philosophy, nor a personal philosophy. It is for a general audience, but it requires a great deal of work. What truly distinguishes this book is the writing, especially the authors use of analogies and examples. Frayn does not set up arguments in the usual manner. His book moves more like a literary work. Its basic goal is to show how much our perspective, as humans, affects the world we know. This applies not only to modern phy ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

In less-skilled hands, Michael Frayn's observations might strike the reader as self-indulgent and esoteric, or worse, inaccessible. After all, Frayn spans the range of human experience in this hefty tome__from the origin of consciousness to the infinity of the universe__in an attempt to describe "the great mutual balancing act." Overall, Frayn has a remarkable grasp of science, mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, and related disciplines, and he possesses an intuitive ability to connect with an

Christian Harder
Aug 31, 2014 Christian Harder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes obvious and unnecessarily elaborate. Overall, however, if I imagine Frayn as a philosophizing writer––rather than a writing philosopher––I can get through this piece happily. If he does not make important headway, he does bluntly and accessibly adumbrate western philosophies, and–– similarly––offer various, personal, comforting responses. A pleasant, if too long, lunch with an under-dressed friend.
Jane Walker
I gave up on this book. I could grapple with his arguments, but then wondered why I'd bothered. Most of the time he is stating the obvious at great length, but then asserts that he has proved or demonstrated some point when, to my mind, he hasn't. And in the end he is stating nothing new.
Elizabeth Urello
I love Michael Frayn, and I'm usually into this sort of subject matter, but for whatever reason, this was too tedious going for me. I gave up after about 3/4 of it.
Cassandra Kay Silva
This book makes a number of good connections with what it feels like to be human. He takes a philosophical vantage point and takes a look at everything that makes up our daily actions, our waking thoughts and how we impact the conceptual world in which we live. It is actually interesting, I do like his ideas but he really hammers each point into the ground to where it just feels overwhelming instead of liberating. Ok we get it! Five hundred examples are not necessary the first one hundred will s ...more
Dec 23, 2011 Sheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Frayn is brilliant. The only reason this book didn't get a five star rating from me was because parts of book that included math were not always clear to me, so I had a bit of an intellectual struggle at times. I admit that I went into reading the book with a predetermined mind set, and his discussions regarding various physicist's ideas about God and the universe fit my conclusions. For anyone who thinks science and God (not religion) don't "fit" together, this is a good read. (NOTE: Th ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took philosophy at university and had a fabulous three years flexing my thinking. This brought most of it back and added a little bit extra on top. I understood it beautifully as I read, because I was being guided through by a wonderful mind. I don't think I would have been quite so good at explaining what I had read on the mornings after...

Delighted to have a copy that my wife asked Mr Frayn to autograph for me for a birthday present. The next time she goes to see him on stage, I will go with
May 10, 2010 Larry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried ...i really tried!! Having a read a good deal of Frayn's work over the years and enjoying his wit and insight I bought this thinking it would be like his other works...wrong!! It is a challenge and while I like challenges this is beyond me. I always considered myself reasonably intelligent but life is to short and there are too many good reads in my library to spend anymore time on this! Yep!! I give up!!
Kai Teorn
Jun 09, 2013 Kai Teorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written book of general ruminations that touches on all the important stuff: physics, evolution, consciousness, language. It doesn't offer any really new angles but it is a very readable introduction on "things that matter" (as Slashdot used to put it) and the current state of the art. Stuff that's obvious still needs to be said, and here it is said in a nicely digestible (but not too digestible) manner.
Sep 12, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book took me nearly the entire summer to finish. Fascinating but very dense for me. I think I'm going to read it again, maybe as an audiobook. I don't think I really understood more than a quarter of what Frayn was discussing. Oddly, I went straight from this to Frayn's novel "Skios" that touches on some of the ideas in a brilliant manner.
Meaghan McQuade
Really interesting and vast... but at the same time challenging to read. It skims across many areas and in the end resolves nothing - but that's what philosophy is all about :P If you are up for a challenge and some deep thought, give it a go.
Narda Martine
Jan 06, 2013 Narda Martine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is so hard to read I cant keep track of what his point is. Its too much of stream of consciousness rather than coherent prose. I'm sure for someone not as pragmatic as myself it will be a good read ! I gave up third way in
I really enjoyed this although it seems to get a lot of bad reviews for some reason: philosophy as it should be done.
Jun 09, 2011 Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful insight into philosophy with the knowledge of physics (astrophysics in particular).
Mothers, don't let your playwrights grow up to be philosophers. Unreadable.
Piotr Klimczak
Jun 09, 2012 Piotr Klimczak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intellectually captivating book.
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Michael Frayn is an English playwright and novelist. He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often rais ...more
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