Insurmountable Simplicities

Insurmountable Simplicities: Thirty-nine Philosophical Conundrums

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Insurmountable Simplicities
    Book Description:

    "Perhaps not all the stories that follow are true. They could, however, be true, and the Reader is invited to ponder this."

    So begins Insurmountable Simplicities, Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi's colorful incarnation of the many philosophical conundrums that hide in the wrinkles of everyday life. Why do mirrors seem to invert left and right but not up and down? How do we know whether strawberries taste the same for everyone? Where is it written that we must observe the law, and if it is not written, why should we observe it? What if we could swap brains-or the rest of our bodies?

    Insurmountable Simplicities is filled with stories, dialogues, and epistolary exchanges that cover a range of themes-such as personal identity, causality and responsibility, fortune, the nature of things, the paradoxes of time and space, the interface between logic and language-in captivating and inventive ways.

    Clear, concise, and intellectually engaging, this internationally acclaimed book brilliantly demonstrates that the beauty of philosophy resides in its thorough engagement with the simplicities of the world, insurmountable as they might initially appear.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51040-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. ONE
    (pp. 1-12)

    “Hi Sarah, it’s me. Just a quick message to let you know that I got here all right. The hotel is fine. The room is spacious and well furnished, and there is a lot of light—you would like it. There’s just a funny echo effect (I can hear my own voice), but I can live with that. I’m going to take a shower, then I’ll go out for a walk to explore the neighborhood. Coming from the airport I already had a chance to see the park and the beach that opens onto the ocean. Looks beautiful. Give me...

  4. TWO
    (pp. 13-26)

    Steward’s voice. Fasten your seat belts.

    He, courteously getting up from his seat. Let me let you through. These seats can be very uncomfortable.

    Passenger. Thank you. I’m not exactly a fan of economy class, either. (Opens her purse.) I’m going to take a pill right away.

    He. “Zombie” sleeping pills? Sounds strong. I gather our conversation ends here . . . Shall I wake you up before landing?

    Passenger. Oh, don’t worry. The pill will only blunt my consciousness; all my other intellectual and physical functions will be unaffected. I’ll be able to speak with you, watch the movie,...

  5. THREE
    (pp. 27-36)

    He gets off the bus and starts walking toward a grocery store. A citizen comes out. She looks happy; he addresses her in a jubilant voice. Excuse me, madam, can you play Lotto here?

    Citizen. Sure!

    He. Then I’m headed inside. I’m truly addicted: I just love trying my luck. I’m sure you understand . . .

    Citizen. I play, too, but mostly out of necessity. Like now, for example. I had to buy some ice cream and I needed three dollars.

    He. Then you’re a lucky player. I gather you’ve won more than three dollars—you must be pleased...

  6. FOUR
    (pp. 37-58)




    I hope you will not regard this letter as inappropriate. I realize I am the last bell-ringer in the last parish of the Empire, the humblest, the most remote. But it is precisely for this reason that I feel obliged to write.

    I have just read the Pamphlet issued by Your most excellent Authorities, entitled “On a New Method to Broadcast the Time Signal in the Empire,” which I received by express stagecoach on May 20. Although I greatly appreciate the rigor of the...

  7. FIVE
    (pp. 59-82)



    I am writing to ask Your High Authority to intervene in a question that has become vitally important to me. Twenty seconds ago, I split off from my immediate ancestral amoeba, M45YY. Actually, we split up, since the ancestral amoeba split into two halves. Now, the talk is that about five seconds ago, the other half staked her claim to the filiation, and would like to keep the original name M45YY for herself. To avoid any misunderstanding, I request a pronouncement from the Council that will fully acknowledge...

  8. SIX
    (pp. 83-94)

    Clerk. Good morning, sir. May I help you?

    He. Good morning. I was walking by and I saw your request.

    Clerk. What request?

    He. To enter through this door.

    Clerk. Pardon me?

    He. There is a sign on your window that says: “Use the entrance on 113th Street.” This is the entrance on 113th Street, isn’t it?

    Clerk. Oh, yes, I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you were talking about. The store is undergoing renovation and the entrance on Broadway is temporarily closed. Sorry for the inconvenience. So, what can I do for you?

    He. I don’t know! Just go...

  9. SEVEN
    (pp. 95-104)

    National electoral office. Hello? May we speak to Ms. Standard?

    She. Speaking . . . Who is this?

    Office. The Electoral Office. We would like to ask your opinion about the presidential elections. Would you please tell us who is going to win?

    She, slightly upset. Again? I’ve just gotten the same phone call from Census, Inc., and also one from, or whatever it’s called. I’m tired of your surveys—and I don’t care. Call someone else!

    Office. But this time, this is not a survey. This is the election! You are the only person we are going to...

  10. EIGHT
    (pp. 105-124)


    On behalf of the On Everybody’s Side Association, I am delighted to inform you that our administrative council has resolved to establish fifteen scholarships for the students of your school. Each section will be provided with a prize for the student who, at the end of the school year, qualifies as the third-best of his or her section.

    You may wonder: Why the third-best and not the first? The answer is simple. There are already many scholarships and prizes for the best students! It’s a no-contest situation, precisely because the best students are always on top of everybody...

  11. CODA
    (pp. 125-130)



    This is to inform everybody that today we have deposited a patent request for our Universal Acid, a product we have been working on for the past five years and in which our firm has invested a lot. We are delighted to announce that this product has passed every test. Universal Acid corrodes all natural and synthetic materials known to us; it penetrates all existing membranes. This product will revolutionize all industrial processes in which corrosion is a crucial step. We are now moving on to the production phase and would like all...

  12. NOTE
    (pp. 131-132)