The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and ninety-nine other thought experiments
Julian Baggini

The Pig that Wants to be Eaten100
There is a strange paradox that our ability to think sets humanity apart, yet for the most part we resist at every opportunity the challenge of actually thinking. I recall a wonderful quotation from Steve Allen

“Impartial observers from other planets would consider ours an utterly bizarre enclave if it were populated by birds, defined as flying animals, that nevertheless rarely or never actually flew. They would also be perplexed if they encountered in our seas, lakes, rivers, and ponds, creatures defined as swimmers that never did any swimming. But they would be even more surprised to encounter a species defined as a thinking animal if, in fact, the creature very rarely indulged in actual thinking.”

So, to the book. As its subtitle reveals is an invitation to thinking.

Perhaps the most famous thought experiment was conducted by Einstein when he imagined what it would be like to ride on a light beam. Pursuing that thought led him to question well established beliefs and ultimately led to his special theory of relativity, Here are 100 opportunities to explore, prompted by intriguing questions which invite you to challenge your beliefs, values and understanding.

For example the question in the title invites you to consider a future where pigs have been bred not only to speak, but also to desire being eaten as their life’s wish. How would this affect people’s willingness to eat meat?

Discussion points are offered for each question which broaden and illuminate possible areas to consider. The value of the book is not found by arriving at answers, rather exercising your mind in being able to take the journey.

The 99 other questions provide stimulating brain exercise and plenty of discussion points. As a result you’ll probably see a host of things in a new light.

Steve Unwin
September 2008.