"Appiah is a writer and thinker of remarkable range... He] has packed into this short book an impressive amount of original reflection... A rich and illuminating book."
--Thomas Nagel, New York Review of Books
Idealization is a fundamental feature of human thought. We build simplified models to make sense of the world, and life is a constant adjustment between the models we make and the realities we encounter. Our beliefs, desires, and sense of justice are bound up with these ideals, and we proceed "as if" our representations were true, while knowing they are not. In this elegant and original meditation, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests that this instinct to idealize is not dangerous or distracting so much as it is necessary. As If
explores how strategic untruth plays a critical role in far-flung areas of inquiry: decision theory, psychology, natural science, and political philosophy. A polymath who writes with mainstream clarity, Appiah defends the centrality of the imagination not just in the arts but in science, morality, and everyday life.
"Appiah is the rare public intellectual who is also a first-rate analytic philosopher, and the characteristic virtues associated with each of these identities are very much in evidence throughout the book."
--Thomas Kelly, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
About the Author
Kwame Anthony Appiah, who has been president of the PEN American Center, is the author of The Ethics of Identity, Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, The Honor Code, and the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism. Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he has taught philosophy on three continents and is currently Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. Professor Appiah writes the "Ethicist" column in the New York Times Magazine.
Kwame Anthony Appiah is a writer and thinker of remarkable range... Appiah writes very clearly, and much of this original and absorbing book will be of interest to general readers... Appiah has packed into this short book an impressive amount of original reflection on a number of topics... [A] rich and illuminating book.--Thomas Nagel"New York Review of Books" (04/05/2018)
Appiah is the rare public intellectual who is also a first-rate analytic philosopher, and the characteristic virtues associated with each of these identities are very much in evidence throughout the book.--Thomas Kelly"Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews" (04/02/2018)
Appiah is absolutely right that the notion of idealization is both ripe and suitable for significant philosophical exploration. The subject has been central to political theory, epistemology, and philosophy of science. As If: Idealization and Ideals is the first book to explicitly combine and link all of the discussions in a very valuable--if controversial--contribution.--Jason Stanley, Yale University
Following his practice of producing short, concise, well-written, thoughtful books of interest to a broad audience, Appiah again raises important questions.--J. Gough"Choice" (02/01/2018)