cover image Who Am I—And If So, How Many?: A Philosophical Journey

Who Am I—And If So, How Many?: A Philosophical Journey

Richard David Precht, trans. from the German by Shelley Frisch, Spiegel & Grau, $15 paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-53118-4

Precht, a German journalist, synthesizes philosophical views on topics like morality, happiness, and the soul with insights gleamed from biology and the neurosciences. While the accounts of philosophers like Immanuel Kant, anatomists such as Ramón y Cajal, and neurosurgeons like Robert White are necessarily brief and somewhat narrow, the author emphasizes the many and instructive intersections between them—what Wittgenstein and studies of deaf children can teach us about language, what Descartes and neurobiology tell us about identity formation. Precht moves between his various topics with the easy style of Alain de Botton; however, the conceit of tying each chapter to a specific city or place, thereby giving currency to the book's subtitle, is forced and redundant in light of the author's ability to move through philosophical and scientific fields with such fluency. Nonetheless, as an introduction to philosophy and one that shows its continuing relevance in a world increasingly determined by biological definitions of identity and behavior, it is a remarkably informative and lively read. (Mar.)