Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do Llamas Fall In Love? - Peter Cave

   2010; 223 pages.  Full Title : Do Llamas Fall In Love?  33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Philosophy; Non-Fiction.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    You wake up one mundane Monday, only to discover that this Monday is far from mundane.  A tube runs from your body to an unknown man a few feet away.  A violinist, it transpires, is plugged into your lymphatic system.  ...  Are you within your rights to unplug the violinist?

    If the above scenario is the kind of situational ethics question that floats your boat, then you will thoroughly enjoy Do Llamas Fall In Love?  It is the start of Chapter Three therein, and gives some great food for thought as to just how far your basic rights extend, as well as those of the violinist whose life depends on your body.

What’s To Like...
     If a book about Philosophy sounds dull and boring to you, you need to give this one a try.  Peter Cave presents 33 issues for your contemplation, and guides you through the thought processes for both the “pro” and “con” position on each one.  Yes, he starts each chapter with a somewhat whimsical setting.  But don’t be fooled, they serve to open the door to some serious questions such as :

    Would we be happy if we were immortal?
    Should art ever be censored?
    Is there anything God couldn’t know?
    Should women be free to wear the niqab?  And of course…
    Can llamas (or any other animals) ever truly fall in love?

    A wide variety of categories are tackled – Ethics, Law, Politics, Emotions, Knowledge, Logic, Religion, Metaphysics – just to name a few.  Peter Cave lists the category at the start of each chapter, and shuffles the themes deftly from chapter to chapter so that none of them gets stale. 

    There are some neat cartoons scattered throughout the book, and Cave gives references and sources for further reading in a couple appendices at the back.  For me, the length the chapters (6 or 7 pages), as well as the book itself, was just right.  But if you find yourself craving more, the author has several more books to stimulate your brain, including What’s Wrong With Eating People? and Can A Robot Be Human?  As with anthologies, I found it worked best to read 2 or 3 of these chapters at a time; it kept the subject matter fresh and thought-provoking.

    FWIW, my favorite chapters were :

    01) Someone Else Will
    03) The Violinist – Should You Unplug?
    14) Indoctrination : When Believing goes Wrong
    19) Addicted To Love (the Llamas chapter)
    29) A knowing God knows how much?
    32) Life Without End : Too Much of a Good Thing?


Kewlest New Word. . .
Akrasia (n.) : the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will.

    Osbert is in love just with Penelope, but Penelope is in love just with Quentin.  Osbert is a philosopher.  Quentin is not.  Is a philosopher in love with a non-philosopher?  (Is the answer ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘Cannot Tell’?  See the comments for the answer. (pg. xvi)

    Bertrand Russell’s works once suggested that he believed solipsism was true.  An American lady wrote to him, saying how pleased she was to learn that he was a solipsist, and how “I am one too.”  If that causes a teeny smile, then we know what solipsism is.  Of course, whether the American lady was foolish or satirical – well, that we do not know.  (pg. 1984)

’Tis better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig.  (pg.  220)
    I came across Do Llamas Fall In Love? by accident – I did a Google Image search on two completely unrelated words – “Llamas” and “Existentialism”, and up popped a jpeg of the book’s cover.

    Getting a hard copy of the book turned out to be quite the challenge.  Yes, it is available as a Kindle download, but it costs $10, which I felt was a tad steep for a 223-page book by an author I was unacquainted with.  The (local) Phoenix Library didn’t have a copy, so I was forced to learn how to request an Inter-Library Loan.  It took a month for the library to obtain a copy (it came all the way from San Antonio), but they were successful and I do appreciate their efforts.

    9 Stars.  My only quibble with this book is that the “Logic” chapters were unconvincing.  But I’m a chemist, and we scientists are good at determining the logic behind a set of tests and the data they generate.  Do Llamas Fall In Love? was a delightful, thought-provoking read.  And the good news is that my local library has a copy of Can A Robot Be Human?

1 comment:

Hamilcar Barca said...

The correct answer is "Yes". Penelope is either a philosopher or not. If she is, then she, a philosopher, is in love with a non-philosopher. If she is a non-philosopher, then Osbert, a philosopher, is in love with a non-philosopher.