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Does It Matter?

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,045 ratings  ·  41 reviews
This is a series of essays representing philosopher Alan Watts's most recent thinking on the astonishing problems of man's relations to his material environment. The basic theme is that civilized man confuses symbol with reality, his ways of describing and measuring the world with the world itself, and thus puts himself into the absurd situation of preferring money to ...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published February 12th 1971 by Vintage (first published 1958)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  1,045 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on our shared library shelf at work. Someone had sloppily written "No" in black marker just beneath the question mark on the cover. And perhaps that is the right answer to the question of the book's title. But then I'm not sure there truly is one.

I had not previously heard of Alan Watts, except perhaps in idle passing. Now, I want to read everything he's ever said or written. I enjoyed it that much.

In this series of essays, Alan Watts gives a snarky, matter-of-fact, spiritual
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This collection of essays have some great insight on the futility of materialism. I particularly love the essays on money and food. I don't particularly agree with his theories on clothing, but I admire his willingness to wear suits when dealing with academia on the "when in Rome" clause. Of the seven short essays, most of them were a little too hippie-dippy for me, but the analysis of Huxley and Buddhism was interesting. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those toying with ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
"All Buddhism is really summed up in Right View, because Right View is having no special view, no fixed view."

"For when the individual is defined and felt as the separate personality or ego, he remains unaware that his actual body is a dancing pattern of energy that simply does not happen by itself."

"As Saint Augustine of Hippo put it when asked about the nature of time: 'I know what it is, but when you ask me I don't.'"

"'Evil' read backwards is 'live.'"

"All too easily, we confuse the world as
Jul 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: philo-sophia
Passionate, energetic, grand,occasionally verbose, romantic, idealistic, sentimental...and sometimes pop-style pretentious. This was the sense I get of Alan Watts from this collection of essays. Quite different from what I experienced in reading "Tao - The Watercourse Way" (which was the last book written by him, and was finished by his friend posthumously).

Still, Watts was entertaining and refreshing. I liked most of the first chapter on "Wealth vs Money" although it was a bit Utopian. His
Gavriel Gerstler
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Does it matter?
Alan Watts's "Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality".
In this short collection of essays, Alan Watts explores modern day problems from the outlook of his own philosophy, inspired mainly by Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. Tackling problems of economics, technology, cooking and clothing, Watts offers a fresh perspective which is all too foreign to western society. Published in 1970 just shortly before his death, this book is as relevant now as it was when it was written.
Emily Hilliard
Jan 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Alan Watts, what a hippie.

This book is pretty dated, largely evidenced by the numerous analogies to "bringing pleasure to a beautiful woman," but his thesis is still pertinent--that we ignore materials in favor of symbols of reality..."we'd rather eat the menu than the meal". He supports this thesis by sounding off (with more than a dash of pretense) on everything from the design of a kitchen, men's business attire, and psychedelics. my favorite is when he compares a high heel to "a stag beetle
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was a wonderful reading ! It helped me keep my ego at a distance for it is only a symbol, something created by society. We must say the same about money. We seldom focus on the present, this is our biggest mistake. Don't take things seriously, we all die in the end. Life itself is a masquerade. What you think important is not. You think things are important because they are only related to symbols, what your parents taught you, or just the consequences of your hormones and bad thinking. Don't ...more
Steve Woods
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant set of essays by one of the most brilliant philosophical minds of the 20th Century. While stripping bare many of the sacred cows of western culture by simply pointing up their absurdity he combines wit, humour and critical judgement into a pot pouri that had me rolling about the aisles- but also questioning. There is much to decry about the way our culture has evolved over the last 50 years and in these essays Watts does a magnificent job of pointing them up, he does however ...more
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Thos interested in Philosopy and Spirituality
Recommended to Texasmochi by: Karen
This book was given to me by Karen as I dipped my toes into the world of spirituality. At the time it was given to me (2000 or 2001) it was dog-eared and worn. I still have it in my favorite "I'd really like to read it again" basket.

At the same time I acquired a copy of The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. I read Taboo first - and this later. I must say I feel like I "got" Taboo more, but this book was clever - and I enjoyed it very much.
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Grounded in the late sixties/early seventies view of anti-materialism, Alan Watts' short book of essays is little bit of hippie-dippy philosophy that is both naive and wise. Like a lot of idealists, his solutions to what ails the world are often simplistic, but his observations about our relationship with our goods is spot on.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
You'll have no trouble recognizing these essays, written in the mid to late sixties, as being a product of that period. But while some of Watt's specific points and complaints sound dated, a lot of them are still relevant.
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
The one thing that has really stuck with me from reading this book is that it won't be a materialist who destroys the world in nuclear holocaust, because a materialist loves the material too much for that. It will be a spiritual fanatic who will press the button that ends the world.
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
If I could live as Watts lived, perhaps I'd Be at peace. This book is inspiring even if the state of mind is nigh impossible to one living in a capitalist society.
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
really funny and relieving. watt's finally stops speaking abstractly and lays down wit and amazing insight on every topic.
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Given that it was written so long ago it was a very succinct read. His insights were very fascinating. Want to read more of his work.
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nice book with several short essays on things as varied as food, religion, cannabis and psychedelics, and clothing.
Fun to read Watts.
Jeffrey Bean
Jun 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining and enlightening. Excellent.
Jack Castillo
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am into Alan Watts but I can only take so much of him. This is my second book I've read by along with numerous essays and I am aligned with him on many of his ideas, but sometimes he comes across as ranting which can be irritating to me. This collection of short essays were very thought provoking and interesting because they were written in the 60's and it is interesting how prescient Watts was. I really enjoyed the essay titled "Murder in the Kitchen," being from the S.F. Bay Area it is ...more
Benjamin Wallace
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
These Essay's by Alan Watts are filled with everything I've enjoyed from the man. Hope, inspiration, well thought out and easy to understand explanations on what he views the complexities of life to really boil down to. There aren't many people who have existed quite as Alan Watt's has existed. His writings, his lectures, his ideas and not so subtle smirk in the face of everything he has to say really exemplify the type of person he was and always will be remembered as: wholly, undefinably ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of essays. As such it is not a good introduction to Alan Watts but should appeal to anyone that is already familiar with Watts.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars.

Flowery intellectualization, but dry.
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Clearly a set of essays anyone with an open mind should read. Why? That's for each person to figure out for themselves. A true visionary.
Nikola Nesic
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Not his best book. But maybe most practical
Zack Brown
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Essays on kitchens and dress came off as dated, though I enjoyed the Seven Short Essays which more closely contained the best of his lectures
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I still don't know...does it matter? Watts makes some claims that seem true today like collecting experiences rather than things or objects...but at the end of the day I don't really think experiences really matter either since all memories are lost once we pass on anyway. Yes, we still continue to confuse money with wealth, but what is the way out of the social construct of money? We have the knowledge but no means. And does wealth even really matter? I find it fascinating how prescient this ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm a big fan of Alan Watts. He a very entertaining person to listen to and has an amazing perspective of reality and Western culture. I've found that when reading a book written by him I have to imagine the words as if they are spoken. His writing style isn't exactly written to be read, it's almost as if he has transcribed his speeches. It takes nothing from the book, but it tripped me up until I caught on.

Even if you have an extensive background in Eastern philosophy I definitely recommend
Travis Hosgood
Jul 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This is definitely the most negative piece of work I've read from watts. Some pessimistic/ apocalyptic assumptions that didn't come true. However, it's still jam packed with goodies from one of the more interesting thinkers of the 20th century. Essays on wealth vs money, murder in the kitchen, clothes, and much more Buddhist philosophy. Ive yet to find any work of his that does not thoroughly apply to this day about the nature of the human condition. Only giving it three stars because I've ...more
Juliane Roell
Did not enjoy this as much as I thought I would and did not read it completely. I found the writing style hard to bear. Maybe it was because most of the ideas are familiar to me and I just not had the patience to listen to them in a new presentation again. Maybe I will come back to Watts and/or this book later.

The end of the book has an essay on Daisetz Susuki which is brilliant and worth getting the book for alone.
Ben Benson
Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: april-2016
I have found something worthwhile in every Alan Watts book I have read. This is a collection of essays. At different times in my life I imagine different essays would be more significant than others. Right now, the essay Wealth Versus Money is what is of value in this book. The rest had moments of interest but nothing that really grabbed me, therefore, I give it 3 stars for the one essay I did quite enjoy.
Jessy Hamilton
Apr 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
Cynical. Watts drones on about any and everything after predicting the demise of the US by the year 2000. Not worth reading unless you're a Debbie downer looking for a philosophical framework from which to project your misery onto the world. Decent critique of the culture of academia in the introduction, but all down hill from there.
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Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer and speaker, who held both a Master's in Theology and a Doctorate of Divinity. Famous for his research on comparative religion, he was best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, higher ...more
“Instant coffee, for example, is a well–deserved punishment for being in a hurry to reach the future.” 16 likes
“Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion. But this ingrained and archaic confusion of money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth.” 12 likes
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