The 60-Second Philosopher: Expand your Mind on a Minute or so a Day!

Philosophy can range from dull to mind blowing. You might have thought about it quite a lot without realising it, but don’t know where to start actually paying attention to it. Andrew Pessin’s The 60-Second Philosopher is a decent book that will help you enter the world of philosophy. However, you have to be willing to possibly waste a minute per day.

The book comprises of sixty ideas that are presented either through a story or a proposal. I read all of them, but I can only recall a dozen or so without a prompt. This might be my lack of attention span, but it might also be because some were dull or were too similar to the ones I remembered. There were some, however, that made me put the book down and think for a few seconds before continuing. I just would have liked it if there were one or two more ideas at that level.

Pessin incorporated God more than I would have liked. As an atheist, I couldn’t get into these problems. It was particularly annoying as there was an advertisement for a God based philosophical book on the back. All the God related ideas should be there so I could have avoided. However, if you do believe in God, you might enjoy these passages.

I wasn’t fond of the structure as it often felt like there was none. Apart from the first and final idea, the ideas were a little over the place. He wrote about one idea, then a few others, and then finally went back to the first idea. It probably symbolises how life isn’t always in a sequence and that we have to remember things from before, but I still didn’t like it. Maybe if he didn’t include a section under each idea that suggested similar problems, I would have been ok with it. While he may have done it for the reader’s convenience, it reads as if he wasn’t sure if the structure was ok, so tried to fix it at the last second. If the sequence was right, he wouldn’t have to recommend certain pages. We’re smart enough to figure out how the problems interlink, even if we are just beginners.

Pessin remembered whom his target audience was just because of the language used. It was often casual as he included anecdotes, jokes, and Simpson references. This makes it easier to understand complex ideas, but it can come off as patronising. He also has a habit of trying to be more relatable by using the phrase ‘the philosopher in me’. Even it’s good as it’s linked to how everyone is a philosopher, I didn’t like it. Pessin was writing a book on philosophy… his inner philosopher should have a part in what he thought. The reader in me found this unnecessary.

I’m giving the book 6.3/10. It made me think a lot and while I didn’t agree with some of his choices, I can see why he did it.

Discussion Point:

This is a three part question as this problem presented by Pessin kept me up all night. I have reworded it though.

  1. There are five children playing on a train track and are oblivious of an upcoming train. They will die unless you pull a lever that changes the track. However, there is one kid on the second track. If you pull the lever, he will die. Would you pull the lever?
  2. What about when five children are terminally ill unless they receive organ transplants soon? The only option you have is to kill a healthy person and harvest their organs. Would you kill this person to save the five terminally ill children?
  3. These situations are basically the same, but why do so many of us perceive them as different?
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