Rating: 4/5 stars.
Here’s a question for vegetarians: if a pig were raised in a comfortable and humane slaughterhouse, would you eat it? What if that pig were also genetically modified to want to be eaten – if being eaten was indeed its life’s ambition? How about a genetically modified chicken that had lost its sense of self, environment, pain, pleasure etc.? It’d be like plucking a potato from the ground.
Another one, for everyone: let’s say you’re a doctor, and you have a patient who falls unconscious while on life-support. Beforehand she asked over and over again to be taken off the machine, but to your chagrin, an ethics committee forbids you from doing so. One day a random passerby – a janitor, perhaps – accidentally knocks out the plug and disconnects the patient from the machine. You let it go and the patient fades away: after all, you took no measure in shortening the her life, you just failed to prolong it. Are you justified?
In his book The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, Julian Baggini delves into various thought bombs that will leave your mind blown. In each of its 100 chapters, he spends one page detailing a thought experiment and then two pages afterward discussing its philosophical implications. He writes with conciseness and clarity, including all of the necessary information without falling into pretension. Each chapter raises questions and dilemmas with no easy answers. The topics range from the necessity of torture, to supererogatory behavior, to the authenticity of godless morality, and much more.
The best part about this book is that Baggini does not force any of his own beliefs, whatever they may be, into his writing. He leaves the thought experiments open-ended so that they are ripe for analysis, and even when the subjects touch on hefty issues like abortion and atheism, he never takes a definitive stance or pulls you a certain way. You have to think for yourself.
This book makes me wish that I could major in philosophy and never have a care in the world about employment or the economy. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to a full-on brain workout; if thinking about deep issues leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you should skip this one (actually, don’t do that, challenge yourself and you won’t regret it!) But I’ll end this review by saying this: the chapter on Newcomb’s Paradox made me want to scream in intellectually stimulated delight while ripping my hair out because my brain hurt too much. Actually, I guess I was like that for a lot of this book. Read it.