March 22, 2010 4:16 am

If You Can Read This

Book cover of If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers by Jack Bowen

If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers
By Jack Bowen
Random House $14, 224 pages

California teacher Jack Bowen uses the bumper-sticker slogans that adorn so many Americans’ cars to engage with some of the assumptions central to the country’s popular beliefs.

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IN Non-Fiction

“God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It” prompts a discussion of the logical problems of dogmatism; “If a Man Speaks in the Forest and There’s No Woman There to Hear Him, Is He Still Wrong?” encourages a summary of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s take on language; and “Free Tibet” allows Bowen to explain why he supports the Dalai Lama.

If You Can Read This takes the reader on an often compelling ride through prevailing debates. But Bowen’s references are often too one-sided to be convincing, and anyone with a decent understanding of philosophy will be put off by his oversimplification.

The book is ultimately as frustrating as the drivers who proffer such wisdom on their cars.

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