We human beings had no say in existing—we just opened our eyes and found ourselves here. We have a fundamental need to understand who we are and the world we live in. Reason takes us a long way, but mystery remains. When our minds and senses are baffled, faith can seem justified—but faith is not knowledge. In Ultimate Questions, acclaimed philosopher Bryan Magee provocatively argues that we have no way of fathoming our own natures or finding definitive answers to the big questions we all face.
With eloquence and grace, Magee urges us to be the mapmakers of what is intelligible, and to identify the boundaries of meaningfulness. He traces this tradition of thought to his chief philosophical mentors—Locke, Hume, Kant, and Schopenhauer—and shows why this approach to the enigma of existence can enrich our lives and transform our understanding of the human predicament. As Magee puts it, "There is a world of difference between being lost in the daylight and being lost in the dark."
The crowning achievement to a distinguished philosophical career, Ultimate Questions is a deeply personal meditation on the meaning of life and the ways we should live and face death.
Bryan Magee has had an unusually multifaceted career as a professor of philosophy, music and theater critic, BBC broadcaster, and member of Parliament. His books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages, include The Story of Philosophy. He lives in Oxford, England.
"Magee's writing always makes very easy reading."--Anthony Kenny, Standpoint
"[Magee] writes with relaxed fluency."--Rowan Williams, New Statesman
"[Bryan Magee] writes with grace and offers a thoughtful summation of human experience."--Library Journal
"Living and dying in a world we accept we do not understand may not sound easy, but if Magee is any guide, the reward of doing so is endless and profound wonder."--Julian Baggini, Independent
"Magee is refreshingly comfortable acknowledging the uncanniness of human experience, including the aesthetic as well as the ethical. . . . His case for acknowledging the extent of what we do not know is a useful corrective to ‘jolly hockey sticks' humanism as well as religious dogma."--Dolan Cummings, Spiked
"[Ultimate Questions] is … a deeply personal and elegant summary of [Magee's] own individual journey to and through profound philosophical questions."--Choice
"Ultimate Questions is a brief book with powerful and meaningful ideas. . . . I highly praise Professor Magee for giving us a text that is readable, profound, relevant and interesting, and one that reignites the Socratic gadfly in philosophical practitioners and other students of living well."--Robert J. Parmach, Philosophical Practice
"In this fluently written and beautifully clear book, Bryan Magee offers a series of reflections on the human condition, based on a lifetime's study of the central questions of philosophy. Ultimate Questions is a personal testament, one that reflects a yearning for answers coupled with an honest, and indeed humble, admission that such answers cannot be reached."--John Cottingham, author of Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach
Table of Contents:
1 Time and Space 1
2 Finding Our Bearings 17
3 The Human Predicament 33
4 Can Experience Be Understood? 59
5 Where Such Ideas Come From 69
6 Personal Reflections 87
7 Our Predicament Summarized 105