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Think summary

Simon Blackburn

A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy

3.7 (14 ratings)
18 mins
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    Think
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    What do we know?

    Ever wondered if the world around you is real or just a dream? The unsettling idea that everything might be a mere illusion has intrigued thinkers for centuries. Philosophers have long sought to understand the nature of knowledge and reality, and discover how to navigate the line between doubt and certainty.

    René Descartes, a French philosopher and mathematician, famously questioned the reliability of our senses and the very existence of the world. In his Meditations on First Philosophy, he posed the idea that an Evil Demon could be manipulating our perception, making everything we experience a lie. Descartes used this thought experiment to show that we can never be certain of knowledge derived from our sensory experience. 

    However, this method of extreme doubt also eventually led him to the conclusion, "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). This statement asserts that while we can doubt everything, the act of thinking itself is undeniable proof of our existence. While our senses can deceive us, our intellect helps us understand the essence of things. For instance, a piece of wax can drastically change appearance depending on temperature. Yet we’re smart enough to understand that cold and heated wax are essentially the same substance. Descartes argues that clear and distinct ideas, perceived through the intellect rather than the senses, form the basis of true knowledge.

    He also explores the nature of the self. In the absence of a body, what remains is the thinking self—an elusive, non-corporeal entity. Descartes posits the idea that this self is a perfect being within us that must have a cause equal to its perfection. This leads him to conclude that God exists and ensures our clear and distinct perceptions are true. While this argument has faced criticism, it underscores the challenge of establishing a secure foundation for knowledge.

    Ultimately, Descartes' work sets the stage for ongoing philosophical debates about the reliability of our senses, the nature of the self, and the existence of an external world. His exploration encourages us to question our assumptions and seek a deeper understanding of the structures that shape our perception of reality.

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    What is Think about?

    Think (1999) is a practical guide to philosophy that tackles profound questions of knowledge, consciousness, fate, and morality. By exploring the approaches of great thinkers like Descartes, Hume, and Kant, this work serves as an accessible introduction to the enduring debates that shape our understanding of truth, justice, and the human condition.

    Think Review

    Think (1999) by Simon Blackburn delves into the essence of human thought and its role in shaping our lives. Here's why this philosophical gem deserves a spot on your reading list:

    • Explores complex ideas in a clear and accessible manner, making philosophy approachable for all readers.
    • Challenges readers to question their beliefs and perspectives, fostering critical thinking and self-reflection.
    • Offers profound insights into the nature of reality and morality, enriching readers' understanding of the world and themselves.

    Who should read Think?

    • Philosophy enthusiasts seeking an engaging introduction to the discipline’s most important issues
    • Anyone curious about the big questions of life, such as knowledge, consciousness, and ethics
    • Lifelong learners who appreciate lively and approachable discussions about the human condition

    About the Author

    Simon Blackburn is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He’s renowned for his many contributions to the field of philosophy, including his role as Edna J. Doury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina and his tenure as a Fellow and Tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford. His other works include The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and Being Good.

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    Think FAQs 

    What is the main message of Think?

    The main message of Think is to explore the nature of thought and reasoning.

    How long does it take to read Think?

    The reading time for Think depends on individual pace. The Blinkist summary can be read quickly.

    Is Think a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Think is a thought-provoking book that challenges perspectives, making it a worthwhile read.

    Who is the author of Think?

    Simon Blackburn is the author of Think.

    What to read after Think?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Think, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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