Thursday, April 19, 2007

Julian Baggini's "Welcome to Everytown"

Julian Baggini is a philosopher and a writer about philosophy. He is a founding editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine and author of a number of books and papers.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Welcome to Everytown, and reported the following:
Turn to page 99 of Welcome to Everytown and I guess you will see a pretty representative selection. You join a discussion half-way through about the mundane issue of the parking situation outside my temporary home, and the removal of a front garden with a paved parking area. Taken in isolation, that might be very uninspiring. But mine is a book which starts from the commonplace and everyday and tries to understand what it reveals about our society and our mindset. Hence, the second, and first full paragraph, on the page, is an example of the kind of reflection my quotidian observations lead me to:

"But he had missed the point. When Pete and Johnny had lamented the decline in well-maintained front gardens they weren’t concerned that people weren't using them. Such gardens are a contribution to the collective well-being. If all the front gardens in your street look nice, you feel more content in your environment. No one garden brings significant pleasure, but if everyone does their bit, a street of them benefits everyone. The rise of individualism and the decline of community may have been exaggerated, but it has gone far enough for us to care less about what the neighbours think. While that's good in that it liberates us from the oppression of peer disapproval, caring is two-way business, and when we all worry less about how those around us feel, we stop doing things that contribute to the general welfare of the area."

That, I hope, gives you a feel for what the book is doing. But still, I’m not sure p99 alone gives you the full feel. This is a book where lots of small things gradually accumulate to form a bigger picture.

Ford Madox Ford's statement, however, was about quality. If by that you mean quality of the writing, p99 is as good or bad as any. If you mean quality of the argument, again, I’m afraid there’s a cumulative aspect to that one page can’t capture.
Visit Baggini's website, the publisher's page for Welcome to Everytown, and The Philosophers' Magazine online.

--Marshal Zeringue