The Philosophy Gym

I’ve been reading “The Philosophy Gym” by Stephen Law. I recommend you do the same, if you want a nice gently intro to some common philosophical arguments. Here’s an email I just to the author.

I don’t claim to be a philosophy buff (but that’s the point, isn’t it? you don’t need to be, only to be able to think critically and/or conceptually about things?) but a lot of the stuff is very thought provoking. I really enjoyed the Chapter on Relativism, specifically, Moral Relativism. That really hit home with regard to recent events, for example, War. Everyone was very quick to condemn Al-Qaeda and whoever else for attacking the World Trade Center as we all said it was wrong. But surely, and I was thinking this at the time, so it’s nice to have it backed up in print, as it were, that for them the “holy war” is not wrong and they were justified. I always thought it was outrageously arrogant of the superpowers to inflict their will on these people. Maybe I missed this in the Chapter, but I didn’t see a mention of where religious beliefs fits in to the Moral Relativism thing?

The other thing that provoked thought (so far) was the issue of Time Travel. For starters, you missed out the “Back to the Future” scenario, where Marty McFly goes back to the past/future and is able to interact with himself, a concept which and implications of, is quite mindbending. What I started to wonder, though, with regard to time travel and a persons stance on it, is how you view time. I think there are several different possibilities:

1) Time is one dimensional. That a person is on a single timeline that goes from time of birth until time of death and is not possible to change via time travel.

2) That time is one dimensional but with a twist, in that, the length of time is the same (birth –> death i.e. fixed width) but there are infinite number of “strands” above and below (i.e. infinitely high), i.e. infinite combinations of what you may or may not have done, but only at the point “in time”.

3) Time is three dimensional. Again, the length of the time, with infinite number of strands above and below, but the place in time at which your life occurs is not fixed, i.e. the thing, I suppose, time, that encapsulates our “life” is infinitely wide and our “existence” can occur at any point and at any height within this space.

4) Time is infinitely dimensional, and our life is constrained by nothing. We can co-exist, as it were, in an infinite number of positions, in any direction and at any point.

This is quite hard to describe via words! I suppose the latter possibility might allow time travel, since with infinite combinations and infinite possibilities to veer of a particular (but by no means “set” timeline) the implications of time travel would be non-existent.

Anyway, like I said, I’m no philosophy expert, I just like to allow my mind to wander and think about things. I look forward to the rest of the book…



  1. I got this reply:

    Thanks Matt, glad you enjoyed it. Your different ways of thinking about time are intriguing. And yes the relativism thing is v important, I believe. I was almost evangelizing at that point! You can be a relativist about religious belief, e.g. for Christians it is true that Jesus is God, for Jews and Muslims, it’s false, and there’s no fact of the matter as to who is correct really. Some trendy religious thinkers actually embrace this view, though of course a really conservative catholic would be apoplectic at the thought.

    Anyway, thanks again.

    If you don’t mind me plugging my books: the next book is The Xmas Files, btw (out October), with my kids book The Outer Limuits out next week, in case you know any philosophically minded 12+ year olds.


  2. Hi Matt,

    I just read the Philosophy Gym too and thought it was great. Reading your comments though, I think one of us has misread the Relativism chapter. I believe Law was arguing AGAINST relativism[interesting relativism as he calls it], yet your comments about the WTC and the holy war seem to support the relativist view…???

    Yes you can be a relativist about religion and who’s God is real, but holy war and suicide bombers?? Only a hardore relativist would think that was “okay for them”. That’s like saying the holocaust was *right* for the Nazis…remember that bit? I think you might have missed the point of the chapter…maybe.

    Merry Xmas

Comments are closed.