Julian Baggini – The Pig that Wants to be Eaten


It’s a simple enough concept: a book of page-long thought experiments to see how far you can take an idea. They are all fairly familiar ideas to people like me, but that doesn’t make this treatment of them fruitless. Some are Philosophy standbies, such as Wittgenstein’s ‘Beetle in a Box’, Rawls’ ‘Veil of Ignorance’ and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Achilles and the Tortoise, some are the core of old SF books or recent film dilutions (Minority Report -can you try someone for a crime you know they will commit but haven’t yet? Blade Runner/ Total Recall – is a memory that is implanted ‘yours’ and as good as one you had yourself? Good old PKD, always there to lend a dumb action movie some theoretical clout – but let’s see someone film ‘Faith of Our Fathers’). The title is a reworking of an old saw most famously expressed as the Dish of the Day in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but also to be found in Alice. By picking a pig rather than a goat or chicken he’s rather stupidly ignored dietary laws in at least two popular and successful religions.

Most bright kids go through most of these ideas in some form, but not stated as clearly or with such high stakes for the people in the question. The author also refrains from putting his own preferences into the discussion. There are 100 such hypotheticals and they almost all manage to avoid an answer that’s just simply reinforcing or restating your previously-held assumptions. You can take books out of our library for three weeks at a time, so that’s five a day.

By Tat Wood