These essays, written in the spirit of Goethe's Epimetheus who "traces the quick deed to the dim realm of form-combining possibilities", display the depth and breadth of Tallis's fascination with our lives. Whether discussing philosophical "hardy perennials" like time, or a mundane artefact like ink, Tallis challenges us to think differently about who we are and why we are.
The first part of the book - Analysis - dives into the deep-end to explore some of the big questions in philosophy: perception, knowledge and belief; time; the relationship between mathematics and reality; and probability and causation. The middle section - Tetchy Interludes - takes a wry look at some aspects of contemporary art; stupidity (including the author's own); and Christmas. The third part - Celebration - is more experimental in both its subject matter and treatment. It celebrates the complexity of ordinary, everyday consciousness by contemplating the miracle of speech, artefacts that have transformed our lives (and what they reveal about our cognition) such as the wheel, the sail, and ink; and `snapshots' of the author's own consciousness on an ordinary day, of past consciousness, as captured in historical memory.
Notwithstanding their diversity in theme and style, these essays share the common aim of discovering and celebrating the submerged riches in the "quick deeds" of our everyday lives and perceptions.
Raymond Tallis trained as a doctor before going on to become Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester, UK. He was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience. He retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer. He has published fiction, poetry and over a dozen books of cultural criticism and philosophical anthropology including, most recently, Aping Mankind (2011). He has published two other collections of essays with Acumen, In Defence of Wonder (2012) and Reflections of a Metaphysical Flaneur (2013).
Part 1: Analyses Prefatory Note 1. Seeing and Believing 2. Where is that Itch? Philosophy from Scratch 3. Knowledge and the Subjective Qualities of Experience 4. Does Rover Believe Anything? 5. Draining the River and Quivering the Arrow: Against the Flow and Direction of Time 6. Mistaking Mathematics for Reality: Where Zeno Went Wrong and So Many Followed 7. Could the Universe (Even) Give a Toss? 8. Causes as (Local) Oomph Part 2: Tetchy Interludes Prefatory Note 9. The Shocking Yawn: Art up its Arse 10. The Fight Against (e.g. my) Stupidity 11. Colonic Material of a Taurine Provenance 12. Mission Drift Part 3: Celebrations Prefatory Note 13. Ante-Room: On Waiting 14. Voices - from a distance 15. Two Fragments of Sculptured Air: Aaarh and Oops! 16. Lexical Snacks 17. "Honestly, the World's gone Quite Mad" 18. The Librarian's Voice 19. Against the Promethean Libel 20. Re-imagining the wheel 21. Sail 22. Mad artefacts 23. A Can of Beans Coda: Ink - the artefact of artefacts. Envoi: Justifying the Search. Index