The Mind-Body Problem — Rebecca Goldstein

If you don’t already know a lot about the history of philosophy, you will by the time you’ve finished this book. If you do, then you’ll recognise a lot of it. Like Goldstein’s more recent 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, this book is full of philosophy, Jewish culture and academia. But there’s also quite a lot of sex. Or at least lots of musing about sex.

I find it pretty ingenious how Goldstein manages to incorporate so many concepts from philosophy explicitly into this story of a young woman academic’s love life. She explains the ideas succinctly either through the characters or direct to the reader, and makes them all relevant and apposite. This would actually be a great book to read as you embark on a course in philosophy.

The publisher’s blurb on the back describes this book as “hilarious” but that is a stretch. I found parts of it pretty funny but a lot of that is the humour of recognition as I have some philosophical background already. I would say it’s fun rather than hilarious, with the engaging protagonist and quirky supporting characters. The insight into academia is pretty interesting, and the frequent forays into Jewishness and philosophy (and sometimes both) are informative without being didactic. And of course, sex is a central theme (that’s the body part of the mind-body problem), and a bit of sex, appropriately handled (so to speak) always adds interest.

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