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

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  122 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
What do we really know? What are we in relation to the world around us? Here, the acclaimed playwright and novelist takes on the great questions of his career--and of our lives

Humankind, scientists agree, is an insignificant speck in the impersonal vastness of the universe. But what would that universe be like if we were not here to say something about it? Would th
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2006)
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Jun 15, 2014 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
Robert Wechsler
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
David Williamson
Sep 17, 2011 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
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

Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, philosophy
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
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Christian Harder
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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
Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Narda Martine
May 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Piotr Klimczak
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intellectually captivating book.
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.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful insight into philosophy with the knowledge of physics (astrophysics in particular).
I really enjoyed this although it seems to get a lot of bad reviews for some reason: philosophy as it should be done.
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Kevin Macfarlane
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Jun 19, 2011
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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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