9780312426286

The Human Touch Our Part in the Creation of a Universe

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780312426286

  • ISBN10:

    0312426283

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-01-22
  • Publisher: Picador
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Summary

Humankind, scientists agree, is a tiny and insignificant anomaly in the vastness of the universe. But what would that universe look like if we were not here to say something about it? In this brilliant, insightful work of philosophy, beloved novelist and playwright Michael Frayn examines the biggest and oldest questions of philosophy, from space and time to relativity and language, and seeks to distinguish our subjective experience from something objectively true and knowable. Underlying all revelations in this wise and affectionately written book is the fundamental question: "If the universe is what we make it, then what are we?" Michael Fraynis the author of ten novels, including the bestsellingHeadlong, aNew York TimesEditor's Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, andSpies, which won Britain's Whitbread Fiction Award. He has written fourteen plays, among themNoises OffandCopenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in 1999. He lives in London. Humankind, scientists agree, is an insignificant speck in the impersonal vastness of the universe. But what would that universe be like if we were not here to say something about it? Would there be numbers if there were no one to count them? Would the universe even be vast, without the fact of our smallness to give it scale? With wit, charm, and brilliance, this epic work of philosophy sets out to make sense of our place in the scheme of things. Our contact with the world around us, Michael Frayn shows, is always fleeting and indeterminate, yet we have nevertheless had to fashion a comprehensible universe in which action is possible. But how do we distinguish our subjective experience from what is objectively true and knowable? Surveying the spectrum of philosophical concerns from the existence of space and time to relativity and language, Frayn attempts to resolve what he calls "the oldest mystery": the world is what we make of it. Then what are we? All of Frayn's novels and plays have grappled with these essential questions; in this book he confronts them head-on. "Frayn . . . has a healthy respect for the power of external reality to constrain our world-making. Indeed, what makesThe Human Touchso rewarding is the subtlety and humor with which he examines 'the great mutual balancing act.' There may be something godlike in the way we 'bring into their various forms of existence all the receding ontological planes of the world we inhabit,' but we are also at the mercy of that world's whims. A brick to the head and the whole show comes to an end."--Jim Holt,The New York Times "Frayn . . . has a healthy respect for the power of external reality to constrain our world-making. Indeed, what makesThe Human Touchso rewarding is the subtlety and humor with which he examines 'the great mutual balancing act.' There may be something godlike in the way we 'bring into their various forms of existence all the receding ontological planes of the world we inhabit,' but we are also at the mercy of that world's whims. A brick to the head and the whole show comes to an end."--Jim Holt,The New York Times "Michael Frayn's exultant prose entices and ultimately overwhelms you. Reading his arguments, I felt as though I were floating down a warm river, caught up in its playful, whirling eddies . . . Beautifully written."--Los Angeles Times "His command of current scholarship in physics and biology is impressive; his discussion of psychological issues is discerning . . . Witty and ingratiating style."--The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Author Biography

Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the bestselling Headlong, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, and Spies, which won Britain’s Whitbread fiction award. He has written fourteen plays, among them Noises Off, and Democracy, as well as Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in 1999. A philosophy graduate of Cambridge University, Frayn is also the author of Constructions, a collection of philosophical meditations. He lives in London.

Table of Contents

"The target audience: anyone who enjoys gaping at the complexities of existence. The topic: everything . . . Fantastic."--Entertainment Weekly (grade: A)

 

"Michael Frayn's exultant prose entices and ultimately overwhelms you. Reading his arguments, I felt as though I were floating down a warm river, caught up in its playful, whirling eddies. . . . Beautifully written."--Los Angeles Times

 

"Immense erudition . . . and more than a dash of wit . . . What makes The Human Touch so rewarding is the subtlety and humor with which he examines 'the great mutual balancing act.'"--The New York Times

 

"His command of current scholarship in physics and biology is impressive; his discussion of psychological issues is discerning. . . . Witty and ingratiating style."--The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

"An inviting introduction to modern cosmology and philosophy with no prerequisites other than the willingness to entertain counterfactuals, imponderables, and leaps of faith. Nicely done."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

 

"Absolutely riveting . . . Read it, and you may come to look at the world differently."--Newsday

 

"Erudite, imaginative, funny, and dazzlingly clever . . . [Frayn] unbolts, chapter by chapter, the fabric of the universe."--The Sunday Times (London)

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