I’ve discovered another lifehack; when I leave my computer turned off, I’m more apt to do the simple things like read, exercise, sleep early, clean my room and talk to my family, compared to surfing endlessly (and sometimes mindlessly).
One book I’ve just finished reading is the philosophical fiction book If Minds Had Toes, where long-dead philosophers Socrates and Ludwig Wittgenstein live on and argue philosophy in the World of Ideas.
If Minds Had Toes
Socrates asserts that philosophy is useful to everyone, Wittgenstein disagrees, and they agree to settle it with a bet: an ordinary young person would be brought to the World of Ideas and introduced to philosophy. If, after a time, he agrees that philosophy has benefited his life, Socrates gets to keep his presidency, if he loses, Wittgenstein becomes the next president of the World of Ideas.
Socrates’ beautiful twenty-something secretary Lila chooses 15 year-old Ben – who’s working part-time at fish and chips joint Cod Almighty – as the ordinary person, and she acts as his guide to the World of Ideas’ world of ideas.
Ben is introduced to ideas like Solipsism, differing points of views about the Self, Beauty and Free Will. Along the way he bumps into a sports-car driving Plato, a crabby Kant, the scruffy Socrates and the stuffy Wittgenstein. Philosophical ideas are explained through ordinary characters who argue back and forth in front of Ben and Lila, who jump in with the occasional question and opinion.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Lila brings Ben to a happiness forum, where philosophers from the Buddha to John Stuart Mill each have a minute to present their opinion about happiness.
‘A great philosopher, if there’s such a thing, once said that happiness is the fulfillment of human potential through the faculty of reason. He claimed that well-being consists primarily in intellectual activity. Bullshit! Wisdom, knowledge and learning have often been cited as the key to a fulfilling life. But only because philosophers write the definitions.’ The crowd slowly began to stamp their feet. ‘Just be happy: stop talking about it. Find happiness in beauty, in nature, in other people. Not learning, but living, is the key.’ He spoke louder. ‘Anything worth living for must also be worth dying for. And no one dies for their pet theory of causation.’
The crowd began to chant: ‘Po-et! Po-et! Po-et!’
‘What’s that all about?’ Ben asked Lila.
Now people were storming the stage and throwing bread rolls.
‘That’s John Donne, the poet. Poets and philosophers tend to row. They each think that the other one is wasting his time with empty words.’
Most of the ideas are explained in an easy to understand way, although I had to re-read a few paragraphs to wrap the ideas around my head. Author Lucy Eyre doesn’t give definite points of view, but allows her philosophical characters to present their points and counter-points, leaving it to the reader to figure it out for themselves in the end.
If Minds Had Toes & Sophie’s World
If Minds Had Toes is a lot like Sophie’s World, both fictional books that discuss philosophy using a fictional narrative, but Minds is a slimmer, easier book at 288 pages in comparison to Sophie’s World’s 544 pages. Sophie’s World is a more complete history of philosophy, and is more serious in tone when compared to Minds, which presents less ideas and is more whimsical. Sophie’s World has a stronger plot, while Minds’ plot is pretty flat.
At the end of the novel, I’m not convinced that Ben’s life has come to benefit from philosophy, but all in all If Minds Had Toes wraps up sweetly. It’s a fun read, not too heavy and reads like a young fiction novel. I particularly loved the cover and the cute, sketchy illustrations scattered throughout the book.
If you’re looking for something more comprehensive, look at the delightful Sophie’s World, but for something light, If Minds Had Toes makes for a breezy read.
Buy If Minds Had Toes from Amazon today.