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Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life

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How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science.In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered by Aristotle offers us the best possible tool for understanding the world and ourselves. As Aristotle knew, each mode of thought has the power to clarify the other: science provides facts, and philosophy helps us reflect on the values with which to assess them. But over the centuries, the two have become uncoupled, leaving us with questions -- about morality, love, friendship, justice, and politics -- that neither field could fully answer on its own. Pigliucci argues that only by rejoining each other can modern science and philosophy reach their full potential, while we harness them to help us reach ours.Pigliucci discusses such essential issues as how to tell right from wrong, the nature of love and friendship, and whether we can really ever know ourselves -- all in service of helping us find our path to the best possible life. Combining the two most powerful intellectual traditions in history, Answers for Aristotle is a remarkable guide to discovering what really matters and why.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2012

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About the author

Massimo Pigliucci

42 books800 followers
Massimo Pigliucci is an author, blogger, podcaster, as well as the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York.

His academic work is in evolutionary biology, philosophy of science, the nature of pseudoscience, and practical philosophy. His books include How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life (Basic Books) and Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University of Chicago Press).

His new book is The Quest for Character: What the Story of Socrates and Alcibiades Teaches Us about Our Search for Good Leaders (Basic Books). More by Massimo at https://massimopigliucci.org.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 35 reviews
Profile Image for WarpDrive.
272 reviews379 followers
November 3, 2014
Simply, the worst book dealing with philosophical issues I ever had the misfortune to come across. Pity that I could not give it zero stars - I tried but the software would not let me do it.
At the beginning of the book, there are definitely some good and interesting points, but the overall level of philosophical depth is definitely more appropriate to a basic recipe popular philosophy book than to any even partially serious attempt to address philosophical questions in areas such as ethics and epistemology.
From a purely philosophical perspective, the approach is sometimes ridiculously reductive. I have found the worst ever treatment of Aristotle's ethics I have ever come across.
There is a section on philosophy of science, which is very incomplete at best, quite superficial and it clearly demonstrates that the author has no idea what he is talking about when he deals with the "scientific method".
Superficiality, misinterpretation and approximation are rife: from the historically incorrect interpretation of Greek concept of "arete" (virtue), to the short, reductive and misleading description of existentialism on page 138 which made me cringe with intellectual pain, to the utter, unqualified rubbish of the last chapters on God and religion.
If you love philosophy, stay away from it.

Note to myself: in the future, stay away from books that, in the cover, name-drop ancient famous philosophers and promise you to help you get more meaning out of your life.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,769 reviews203 followers
August 25, 2021
Sci-Phi With Professor Massimo Pigliucci

Philosophy, or the love of wisdom traditionally is regarded as a manner of exploring broad, difficult questions about the nature of life, thinking, and ethics. Part of philosophical thinking is determining whether and how this can be done. In his new book, "Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy can Lead us to a More Meaningful Life" Professor Massimo Pigliucci, develops tentative approaches and tentative answers to philosophical questions through an approach he calls "Sci-Phi" -- a combination of the best of science and philosophy. Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York. He holds three PhD's in genetics, biology, and philosophy of science. He puts his formidable learning and intellect to work in informing science with philosophy, and the other way around. This was my first exposure to Pigliucci's work. He is a prolific writer and editor who has partaken in many controversies and debates surrounding the theory of evolution in particular and who maintains an active presence on the web explaining his scientifically influenced, secular philosophizing.

"Answers for Aristotle" is an engagingly written, sweeping introductory account of how science and philosophy together can provide guidance to understanding and to living a rewarding, meaningful life. Pigliucci sees the Greek philosopher Aristotle as the first thinker who attempted to integrate the science of his day with philosophy. As both science and philosophy developed, they diverged. Pigliucci wants to bring them together. Aristotle is also a dominant philosophical influence, particularly in ethics. Aristotle found that the good life consisted in a state and activity he called eudamonia, or human flourishing. Pigliucci agrees and expands upon Aristotle's account.

Both "science" and "philosophy" are difficult to define precisely. In the book's important opening chapter, Pigliucci emphasizes the tentative, empirical character of science, while describing it as "a form of inquiry into the natural world characterized by the continuous refinement of theories that are in one way or another empirically verifiable." It is more difficult to get a working definition of philosophy. Pigliucci offers a thin definition of the discipline as "the construction (and deconstruction) of reasoned arguments". In "Sci-Phi", for Pigliucci, science offers tentative teachings about facts while philosophy explores the importance of scientific teachings to human ends through thought and argument. Science itself cannot answer questions of value or meaning, Pigliucci argues, without running afoul of the "naturalistic fallacy" as developed by the philosopher David Hume.

Aristotle and Hume greatly influence Pigliucci's philosophical approaches. He draws as well from Wittgenstein, the American political philosopher John Rawls, and from Plato, particularly the early dialogue "Euthyphro". The scientific references in the book are broad, large and contemporary, ranging from string theory and quantum physics through genetics, psychology and the social sciences.

The book deals with large, complex questions in a peppery, engaging way. In successive chapters, Pigliucci deals with ethics, "How do we Tell Right from Wrong", epistemology, the nature of the self and of will and reason, love and friendship, political theory, and the existence and claimed relevance of God or gods to a valuable human life. Typically, the chapters begin with anecdotal material and work through papers in the scientific literature that Pigliucci finds valuable. Pigliucci discusses various traditional philosophical approaches and assesses them in light, in part, of what he learns provisionally from science. In general, his approach is what the philosopher William James would describe as "tough minded". Pigliuucci's ethics and politics tend towards the liberal and his metaphysics and epistemology are unabashedly secular.

As Pigliucci says of himself, he is a philosopher who enjoys arguing (not all do) and the book has a contentious, provocative tone. He is commendably serious about jarring his readers and encouraging them to think. For all the emphasis of reason and fact, Pigliucci displays a passionate, emotional devotion to his own purpose in life of educating and promoting thought.

The book is short and quick for the many questions with which it deals. It is entertaining and valuable regardless of whether particular philosophical positions convince the reader. For example, in a chapter titled "Intuition Versus Rationality, and How to become Really Good at What you Do", Pigliucci offers solid, straightforward, and non-trivial advice about improving one's understanding and skills in whatever tasks one sets out to do, whether a job, study, playing chess, or becoming proficient on a musical instrument. I found this valuable psychologically and pedagogically, irrespective of one's philosophical commitments.

Although much of Pigliucci's discussion of religion is alternatively either too quick or too burdensomely factually detailed, his discussion of the "Euthyphro" and the problems it clearly poses about religion and ethics is insightful and keen. It brought back to me the discussion of this dialogue in my first philosophy class almost 50 years ago. Revisiting the "Euthyphro" with Pigliucci was liberating and fresh. The book also brought similar memories of studying Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" and of one of my early teachers who took an approach towards science and philosophy that reminded me of Pigliucci's.

Pigliucci's book will probably have greatest appeal to new philosophical readers. As good writing frequently does, it stimulates thought more than answers questions. I was challenged and delighted with the book. It brought back to me the philosophical studies I began many years ago and the questions that I continue to find important and endlessly fascinating.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Michal.
186 reviews
April 14, 2014
I am not sure whether the "meaningful" in the title belongs there. More appropriate would be "flourishing", as author likes to translate the Greek word "eudaimonia". The book tries to show what philosophy (especially ethics) and modern science have to say about how to lead eudaimonic life. My only problem with the book is that it is a bit superficial - I am a reader of Massimo's blog and also a fan of his podcast and I have to say that I have learned very little new in addition to what I have heard from Massimo before. That's probably not a surprise - if an author thinks about certain ideas he is likely to talk about them with his friends and colleagues. Overall I can highly recommend this book to all contemplative people that want to stay more down to earth in their thinking.
Profile Image for Matt.
231 reviews31 followers
January 7, 2013
One of the better books I read in 2012. As a long-time reader of Massimo's blog, I was keen to see his thoughts fleshed out more and I wasn't disappointed. The central idea is that while science is a wonderful, powerful tool for understanding the world, it's not enough -- contrary to currently-popular beliefs -- to circumscribe all possible knowledge. There are some things that science alone simply cannot and will not ever be able to tell us.

Countering both the primacy of science as well as the roadblock presented by its limitations, Massimo proposes a return to scientia, for which he has in mind a synthesis of science and philosophy (which he calls "sci-phi") meant to reflect that more expansive scope of knowledge-in-total. The book covers a tremendous breadth of topics from this perspective, though much of it centers on human nature: who we are, how we behave and relate to one another, what we can know about the world.

Some topics here will be familiar to those following contemporary biology, and particularly pop-science treatments that attempt to relate those fields to psychological, moral/ethical and political matters. However, Massimo brings the philosopher to bear on these findings and provides a unique perspective on what can otherwise descend into unsupported scientism.

As much as I'm in science's "camp", I also believe we have to be honest, even brutal, in our criticism of it. Science is limited in many dimensions, not least of which being the difficulty in saying exactly what it is, and while I understand why there's such a push towards making science seem privileged and untouchable, I don't believe that's the right course of action. Massimo deftly explains why, as well as what might be a more reasonable course of action, and given his dual background as both a practicing scientist and professional philosopher, he's well situated to make this case.

The book is well-written and intended for those without any particular scientific or philosophical training, and I'd highly recommend it for anyone who would read about modern neuroscience or psychology or anything else under the heading of "biology shapes humanity".
Profile Image for B. Rule.
787 reviews20 followers
February 4, 2013
This book is an adequate pop science book and a terrible philosophy book. Most of it is devoted to relatively chatty and broad accounts of neuroscience and evolutionary biology/psychology, with scant attention paid to the framing device represented in the title. There are some interesting discussions of basic neuroscience. There are also sections where he catalogs "fascinating" and "elegant" psychology experiments, without giving you any detail at all about them! Overall, the approach is ridiculously reductive and the philosophical approach is at roughly an undergraduate level. He flubs basic philosophical concepts but breezes past them so quickly that they barely register. The title is a red herring at best and false advertising at worst. I think my review would have been more charitable if the book hadn't ended on the weakest section. He discusses "religion" by propping up a series of straw men and knocking them down clumsily. I almost gave up on the book when he started claiming that "the consensus among philosophers is..." Uh... right buddy. I wouldn't recommend this book unless you have basically no interest or training in philosophy and yet prefer to have your pop science books coated in a pompous layer of freshman dorm philosophy.
Profile Image for Miles.
459 reviews149 followers
November 7, 2013
I wish I'd picked up this book a few years ago, but that would have been before it was published. It would make an excellent primer for somebody interested but not yet well-versed in the modern relationship between philosophy and science. I don't think there's any question that the "sci-phi" approach, as Pigliucci calls it, is generally the most responsible method for understanding and responding to the pressing ethical issues of our time. I've listened to Pigliucci interviewed, and I have a lot of respect for him. He's articulate, informed, and firm in his assertions while still being careful to avoid insupportable claims. Unfortunately, most of the information and arguments in his book are already familiar to me, but I think that's due mostly to the fact that I have perhaps brined myself a bit too long in this type of pop-science literature.

In this slim volume, Pigliucci provides many useful and succinct summaries of the interplay between classic philosophical questions and a host of the tentative answers offered by contemporary science. The structure of the book necessitates that he sometimes gloss over complex issues to avoid taking the discussion in an overly technical direction. Pigliucci accomplishes this with varying success; I found his dismissal of evolutionary psychology particularly bothersome, especially considering how eager he is to employ evidence from other related fields, especially evolutionary biology. He uses examples from an article in "Psychology Today"––hardly the best source for credible evolutionary psychology––to build a terse straw man that simply doesn't reflect anything other than the most dimwitted offerings of the discipline. Evolutionary psychologists have certainly committed their share of blunders, but not enough to merit this kind of treatment from a philosopher supposedly committed to integrating philosophy and science. The insights of the field's most respected and experienced practitioners, while not unassailable, deserve a more significant seat at the table. But, overall, this is a small complaint about what is generally a well-researched and scientifically responsible text. Pigliucci keeps things simple and accessible, which is both a strength and also a weakness. This is definitely a book I'd recommend to someone new to the subject matter, but offers little for those who have already perused these realms and are looking for something more.

Profile Image for Haythem.
21 reviews9 followers
February 8, 2016
The first time I've ever heard the name "Massimo Pigliucci" was in debate about the limits of science featuring him alongside Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennet and Richard Dawkins. I admired the reasonable position he took during the debate that science cannot have answers to everything (due its nature) contrarily to Krauss who stated that science can actually explain everything even right or wrong and he considered them to be scientific quests.
I googled the author and I found out that he has a PhD in philosophy in addition to a doctorate in genetics. I told myself that his academic background in both philosophy and biology makes him in a perfect position to give a reasonable and rational view about the relation between science and philosophy in our endless quest to know more about reality and find an answer to the big questions. That was how I ended up reading this book.
I won't recommend reading the book if you already have a deep knowledge about how science and philosophy tried to explain the origins of morality and the meaning of life. The book actually goes through the most important thoughts explaining them and giving examples but without going deeper with further details which was suitable for me since I never had a complete picture of the issue even though a lot of the data and information presented was familiar and known to me.
You'll never get bored anyway because Massimo's style has an amazing fluidity to move from one topic to another and keeping you thirsty to have more.
Profile Image for Josh.
53 reviews25 followers
October 19, 2013
Massimo manages to convey the importance of science and philosophy and the domains in which they operate. If you've not read much about how the brain learns and develops, this book is a good introduction to concepts.

Unfortunately I've read a lot of the material on human learning and behavior that is cited by this book, so it's not much new. I did enjoy the first quarter, though.
Profile Image for Maher Razouk.
633 reviews174 followers
March 10, 2021
الحب ورائحة الجسد
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الفلاسفة ، وبالطبع الروائيون والشعراء ، كتبوا عن الحب منذ آلاف السنين لسبب بسيط هو أنه عاطفة أساسية تؤثر بعمق على حياتنا.

ولكن على وجه التحديد لأن الحب ظاهرة عالمية في جنسنا البشري ، فقد يتساءل المرء عن أصوله التطورية ، ولأنه عاطفة ، يمكننا أيضًا أن نسأل ما هي الآليات في دماغنا التي تجعله ممكنًا. وهذه الأسئلة تقودنا إلى علم الحب المثير للجدل بالفعل.

كيف يمكن لأي شخص أن يفكر بجدية في فكرة وضع مثل هذه المشاعر الإنسانية المعقدة مثل الحب تحت مجهر الباحث ، دون أن ينتهي الأمر بنتيجة سخيفة ، أو بأي حال من الأحوال يفوّت جوهر ما يحدث؟

في عام 1995 ، نشر كلاوس ويديكيند ومعاونيه في جامعة برن بسويسرا بحثًا ذائع الصيت ، ادعوا فيه أن الإناث يظهرن تفضيلات واضحة لرائحة الذكور . اتبع الباحثون بروتوكولًا بسيطًا: طلبوا من عدد من الرجال ارتداء نفس القميص لبضع ليالٍ. ثم طلبوا من مجموعة من النساء شم رائحة القمصان وتقييم الروائح التي يرونها جذابة جنسياً .

عرف ويديكيند وزملاؤه أن الثدييات الأخرى (على سبيل المثال ، الفئران) لديها تفضيلات شمية لشركائها المحتملين ، وأن السبب في ذلك هو أن رائحة الفرد ترتبط بالجينات التي يحملها في معقد التوافق النسيجي الرئيسي (MHC) - وهي أداة جزيئية مهمة لنظام الاستجابة المناعية والتي من خلالها تدافع أجسامنا عن نفسها من الهجوم الخارجي ضدّ مسببات الأمراض.

لذلك قام العلماء السويسريون بتسجيل كل ما يخص الرجال والنساء في تجربتهم الخاصة بالنسبة للواسمات الجزيئية لمعقد التوافق النسيجي الكبير ، ثم قارنوا البيانات بتفضيلات النساء بناءً على رائحة القمصان.

كانت النتائج مذهلة: البشر يتصرفون مثل الفئران ، حيث أظهرت الإناث تفضيلًا أقوى بكثير للذكور الذين يمتلكون جينات مختلفة عن جيناتهم. هذا منطقي تمامًا من منظور تطوري ، لأنه عندما يتزاوج الأشخاص الذين لديهم جينات مختلفة ، فإن نسلهم سيكون لديه المزيد من المتغيرات الجينية في مجمع التوافق النسيجي الرئيسي الخاص بهم ، مما يزيد بدوره من فرص بقاء هذا النسل على قيد الحياة .

هذا مثال مثير للاهتمام لكيفية التنبؤ التطوري (يجب على الآباء محاولة تعظيم التباين الجيني في الاستجابة المناعية لأبنائهم) ، والذي تم إثباته بالفعل في حالة أنظمة الحيوانات (الفئران) ، تبين أنه يتنبأ بسلوك كائنات معقدة مثل أنفسنا. في المرة القادمة التي تكون فيها في موعد غرامي ، قد يكون من الجيد الاقتراب بما يكفي من شريكك المحتمل لشم رائحته ومعرفة نوع رد الفعل الذي تحصل عليه.

مع ذلك: وجد Wedekind وزملاؤه أن قدرة النساء على التمييز بين الرجال الذين يتمتعون بأنواع مختلفة من MHC تختفي إذا كانوا يتناولون حبوب منع الحمل. من الواضح أن تغيير حبوب منع الحمل في التوازن الهرموني للمرأة يتعارض بطريقة ما مع قدرتها على التقاط الروائح ، مما يجعل من المستحيل التعبير عن تفضيل يتعلق بـ MHC. لذا فإن أفضل ما يمكنك فعله هو الذهاب في موعد غرامي دون عوامل كيميائية (ليس فقط حبوب منع الحمل ، ولكن العطور أيضًا) ، وربما بعد عدم الاستحمام لبضعة أيام!!

ملاحظة المترجم : «ربما يفسر ذلك سبب رؤية الشباب أو الشابات العرب أن الأجانب (ذكور وإناث) أكثر جاذبية»
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Massimo Pigliucci
Answers for Aristotle
ترجمة : ماهر رزوق
Profile Image for Emma.
122 reviews
June 2, 2019
-use science and phil (2 best ways to acquire understanding) to figure out how to lead a meaningful life
-science- understand the empirical nature of the problem, phil- what values guide us as we evaluate those facts?
-we are able to act consciously and reflect and change in the ways that we want, so let's DO IT and lead meaningful lives:
-overarching goal- eudaimonia > akrasia
-design your own moral code by flexibly integrating deontology (do not use people as means), utilitarianism, consequentialism, virtue ethics
-We create narratives to relieve cognitive dissonance and will integrate inconsistent info to do so (religion, politics)
-affective realism warps our reality- don't blindly trust your "heart"
-religion as adaptive pattern seeking gone awry, post hoc fallacy, superstition as coping mechanism for illusion of control esp against the scariest thing, death
-politics as vehemently justifying what you already believe in, no matter the facts
-science is fallible: pitfalls of deductive/inductive reasoning, we try to fit all data into the prevailing paradigm until someone creates a better one
-easy to confuse emotions with intuitions (limbic structures), so fine for a quick first pass but for impt decisions think rationally
Profile Image for Joshua Best.
11 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2020
I actually enjoyed Pigliucci’s piece on “how science and philosophy lead us to a more meaningful life” as a welcome counterattack against the rampant abuse of the psychology of positive thinking we find in the self-help books and guides of today.

If you approach the text with an open mind, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the new perspective you can gain from his secular, science-based, and arguably atheistic interpretation on the meaning of life. You may not agree with Massimo, but that’s okay. What he offers you is an acceptable, logic-based approach to defining the human condition and its search for ethical and moral reason as an innately human endeavor.

Overall, it’s worth the trouble you’ll tackle with some Greek language, semantic reclassifications, and academic word choice that always leaves me a little exhausted. It’s still a keeper for my bookshelf. Full disclosure—if you don’t care for religious criticism you’re not going to like the final chapters. My suggestion is to read this, like you should any book, as a means to learn more about those who don’t share your same views.

Finally, if you’re a fan of philosophy, logic, Stoicism and science as honorable pursuits in the development of character and purpose, add this to your reading list.
Profile Image for Jim.
12 reviews2 followers
August 28, 2017
The first few chapters I would have rated 5 stars, but it started to decline and the conclusion chapter tainted the entire book, as he kind of goes off the rails drawing big, broad conclusions that are huge leaps from the content presented in the book.
Profile Image for Tom Roth.
88 reviews
June 1, 2020
Although this is a very nice book that tries to link science and philosophy, it is very basic. For anyone that already has some background on the topic, it will be quite repetitive.
Profile Image for Jeff.
28 reviews9 followers
January 25, 2018
The primary thesis of this book is that, in order for one to live a meaningful life in the broadest and best sense, one must use the best of science and the best of philosophy in order to understand the true nature of the world and how it matters to human well-being. Now, although my initial assessment of this book did not see it as such, my final assessment is that this is an excellent book with much valuable insight as to how humans ought to live as they try to make the most of their opportunities in this difficult world. I am particularly pleased with the author's approach that combines both science and philosophy as complimentary enterprises that, together, allow one to understand in the best way, what is true and valuable in living life today. It reminds me somewhat of another book read earlier--Sean Carroll wrote the book The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. Carroll, a physicist, also used philosophy in combination with science as he tried to explain how the two together offer us the best way of finding our way in a universe that is not conscious or concerned with our well-being. Both of these books have been added to my list of favorites.
Profile Image for Long Nguyen.
46 reviews4 followers
December 8, 2012
Being both knowledgeable in philosophy and biology gives the author an edge in talking about things that less-endowed authors may butcher. And indeed, the scope of the book is vast. I would recommend any casual reader the book purely for its basic coverage of various topics related to morality and ethics between the fields of biology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing also flows more like a cool-guy professor and not heavy in "academic-ese" at all.

That being said, I do warn readers that the author makes very clear some of his view points, some of which certain readers may disagree with. This becomes especially obvious near the end as he crescendos towards his conclusion. Still, the book deserves full marks even if one concludes differently or disagrees with certain premises that Pigliucci employs, for his project is as admirable as it is increasingly relevant in our modern and malaise lifestyle. Although I myself find agreement with the author more often than not, the book may turn off some readers. But if people only read what they agree with, I would be forced to conclude that they're approaching wisdom the wrong way (presumably a major reason why someone would pick up this book).
Profile Image for Troy.
Author 6 books5 followers
April 9, 2018
What is the best way to live? How do we discover it? What gives life meaning, and how do we find it? In this book, Professor Pigliucci proposes that we can answer these questions through Sci-Phi -- a mix of modern science and philosophy -- and that we need no mystical or supernatural solutions to them, only our own will to seek the wisdom of human experience and the best of our cutting-edge research, to help us on our way.

Taking cues from Aristotle himself, the book lays out the latest findings on human psychology, biology and culture to point out the ways we may select from to reach a eudaimonic life, one of happiness and true peace of mind. From the start, Massimo notes that the truly meaningful, virtuous, and ethical life is a project we can embark on which ends only when we do.

Though science never conveys certain truths, nor is philosophy without contention, this book shows that even our most sacred institutions are in fact no better, but nor is life ultimately meaningless without a rock-solid, absolute foundation. We can all find our own meaning and purpose in life, if only we take the time to look, without the need for ancient divine or scriptural authorities to guide us.
Profile Image for PJ Dietz.
2 reviews2 followers
January 20, 2013
Massimo brings together ideas from his backgrounds in philosophy and science to tackle the question of how to live the good life. His tone throughout the book is casual and conversational, and the book reads like a chat over dinner. Listeners of Massimo's Rationally Speaking podcast will feel right at home.

His argument is that we need to use both philosophy and science together in order to understand the world and ourselves. These two disciplines have become uncoupled over time, and I see a number of scientists and science writers (Stephen Hawking and Sam Harris come to mind) disparaging philosophy. But science by itself cannot inform us on what to value without committing the appeal to nature fallacy (deriving an ought from an is). Likewise, philosophy needs to be informed by science to keep it grounded by empiricism. Uniting these disciplines is an approach which Massimo dubs "Sci-Phi".

Using Sci-Phi, he covers topics such as ethics, love, politics, and religion. He never gets too heavy or bogged down in technical jargon, and this makes the book accessible to readers less familiar with science or philosophy.
Profile Image for Frank Jude.
Author 3 books37 followers
July 7, 2014
This is a far-reaching book surveying what science and philosophy have to offer in creating and living a meaningful life, or one of eudaimonia as Aristotle would have it. Pigliucci examines the western philosophical tradition from the Greeks, through David Hume, Mill, Kant and Rawls, looks at what psychology, sociology and biology (especially the most recent cutting-edge research in neuro- and cognitive science and comes up an integrated view of what makes for a meaningful life.

His conclusion really doesn't offer any radical, new insights. In fact, it's what I would expect any thinking, self-reflective person would already hold as self-evident. It's the journey Pigliucci has constructed for us, that edifies, offers some startling information and interesting perspectives that makes this book so entertaining and worthwhile reading. He writes with a very casual tone, similar to his way of speaking on his podcast and so you begin to feel like he's a friend you can have a discussion with over a pint of ale.

Pigliucci makes a good case for the necessity of both science and philosophy in order to live a life of understanding and ethical wisdom.
Profile Image for So Hakim.
154 reviews43 followers
August 20, 2015
Rather wide in scope, almost as if unfocused, although generally coherent. In this book Massimo Pigliucci promotes what he terms sci-phi -- or, in everyday words, "science-informed philosophy".

I'm of two minds about this book. On one hand, I agree with author's proposition that science can -- and should -- inform philosophical discourses concerning law, ethics, etc. Surely advances in psychology, neuroscience, etc. can't be ignored in illuminating human nature.

Yet on the other hand, Pigliucci's explanation throughout the book seems rather basic... and unfocused. There are entry-level discussions about free will, love, concept of self, etc., illuminated with advances in psychology and neuroscience. Unfortunately, by tackling so many issues from two perspectives, Answers for Aristotle ends up with classic gaffe: sacrificing depth for breadth.

Perhaps can be summed in one sentence: "Philosophy 101, Now with Science."
Profile Image for Arash Farzaneh.
Author 2 books7 followers
December 31, 2012
"Answers for Aristotle" is an entertaining and intelligent book that looks to combine science with philosophy to refine human behavior and eradicate or diminish our irrational side. Pigliucci uses the most recent discoveries and studies in psychology to underscore his main message, while making significant use of Aristotle's timeless wisdom and insights.

The book comes with the warning that if people are easily offended or narrow-minded, this is not their book. But for all those who seek general improvement in life beyond the empty promises of self-help books, who prefer hard science and facts to comfortable and convenient lies, this book is surely a valuable find to be cherished and treasured.
Profile Image for Gordon Gatiss.
Author 8 books2 followers
September 18, 2013
This is a book to bend your mind around, and spend time to pounder and reflect upon the narrative. The book tackles ideas of rational, emotional and justice as well as deontology, consequentialism and virtue, all of which will give you space to meander aimlessly in your belief system. The book is well written and is clearly for the serious reader who is prepared to be asked uncomfortable questions about right, wrong, God and the supernatural. If you like to keep an open mind and challenge your thinking, if you like to appreciate other points of view, then this is a good book to spend time reading.
Profile Image for Luke.
150 reviews18 followers
March 17, 2013
An excellent introduction to the value of the confluence of ethical philosophy and cognitive science and psychology in the quest for the good life. Very engaging and written in a popular style while still providing adequate references. In some ways, this is a rejoinder to Sam Harris' "The Moral Plain" and offers and critiques his view that science can dictate human values as well as his assumption of utilitarianism as the premier ethical theory. I took off a star for the brevity of his treatment of many topics. Recommended.

Profile Image for Bill Lalonde.
113 reviews11 followers
December 19, 2012
Despite the title, this book is more about suggestions of directions to do further research and less about providing any kind of answers. The answers that are provided tend to lack supportive reasons, being put forth as assertions or via fallaciously denying the antecedent. The suggestions are nothing new, but if you haven't delved into the intersection of science and philosophy before, you may find this book a decent starting point.
Profile Image for Zaki Ibrahim.
27 reviews
August 31, 2013
In the spirit of the Aristotelian idea of Eudaimonia, this book seeks to fuse insights from philosophy and recent developments in Science to question different aspects in life, to render life more meaningful. A great and accessible book indeed. Although its conclusions are open due to the uncertainties in Science and limits of our reasons, it embodies the spirit of philosophy - eager to learn and improve on oneself; the love of wisdom.
Profile Image for Joshua.
87 reviews14 followers
January 12, 2013
A book which expanded my thoughts about the roles, capabilities, and limitations of both science and philosophy. (For example, I had never thought about the important application of the naturalistic fallacy.) I expected a bit more of an expansion on "living well" based on the blurb but was happy to have read the book anyway.
28 reviews1 follower
June 29, 2013
Some of the ideas and certainly the main concept of combing science and philosophy will already be familiar to readers of the rationally speaking blog. Especially the beginning was a bit slow. But the discussions later on were really illuminating.

All in all a very well written book with a lot of food for thought
Profile Image for Hariharan Gopalakrishnan.
99 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2018
An excellent introduction to the various ideas in both philosophy and science regarding the topics that most people will consider to be important to understand in the pursuit of a 'good life': morality, knowledge, justice and love.
Profile Image for Scott Tyler.
9 reviews
December 17, 2012
One of the most thought-provoking books I've read in some time. I recommend this book for anyone interested in learning what Philosophy and Science have to teach us about the human condition.
Profile Image for Steve.
922 reviews39 followers
November 1, 2012
I really liked the concept of this book, but the execution wasn't quite there. Pigliucci is a good writer but I don't think he put a lot of work into this book.
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