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February 2001
256 pages  

5 1/2 x 7
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The Brilliant Randomness of Everyday Life
Rescher, Nicholas
In this highly accesible work, Rescher offers a realistic view of the nature and operation of luck to help us come to terms with life in a chaotic world.

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Nicholas Rescher is Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh and co-chairman of the Center for Philosophy of Science. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has served as president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, the Leibniz Society of North America, the Charles S. Peirce Society, the American Catholic Philosophical Association, and the Metaphysical Society of America. Rescher is the author or editor of more than one hundred books, including Ignorance (On the Wider Implications of Deficient Knowledge), Philosophical Inquiries: An Introduction to Problems of Philosophy, and A Journey through Philosophy in 101 Anecdotes.
"What is the nature of luck? What role has it played in history? These questions and many more are tackled in this unique book, which looks at luck from multiple perspectives, including how language shapes the way we think about luck; the differences between luck, fortune, and fate; the history of the idea of luck in the Western tradition; and the impossibility of shaping or directing luck. Rescher has no use for such superstitions as rabbit’s feet or knocking on wood, but he supports the belief that luck favors the prepared . . . [and] contends that, without luck, life as we know it would be unsustainable, that the randomness of good and bad luck gives life the spice that makes it palatable. This is a fascinating look at an underexplored topic."—George Needham, Booklist

"Luck and wisdom, luck and gambling, luck and morality, luck in warfare, luck in elections, luck as friend—Rescher pushes his luck, takes a shot at each of them, and adds lots more besides. Having decided that people who need people need a proper ‘philosophy of luck’ book even more, Nicholas Rescher wins his wager. His maiden effort as a trade author is—dare we say it—an auspicious debut." —Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Mr. Rescher is surely on to something: what could be more fascinating—and yet so little understood—than luck? . . . Using the tools of conceptual analysis and explanation, Mr. Rescher clarifies a great deal about the baffling phenomenon, all the while insuring that we do not forget the utter randomness and unpredictability of luck’s superb surprise."—New York Times Book Review

"A wise, sensible inquiry that throws the floodlight on a topic shrouded in misconceptions."—Publishers Weekly

An esteemed American philosopher reflects on the nature of luck and its historical role in war business, lotteries, and romance, and deliniates the diferences between luck, fortune, and fate. —Paper Clips, Bridgewater, NJ May 2001

Complete Description Reviews

Luck touches us all. "Why me?" we complain when things go wrong—though seldom when things go right. But although luck has a firm hold on all our lives, we seldom reflect on it in a cogent, concerted way. In Luck, one of our most eminent philosophers offers a realistic view of the nature and operation of luck to help us come to sensible terms with life in a chaotic world. Differentiating luck from fate (inexorable destiny) and fortune (mere chance), Nicholas Rescher weaves a colorful tapestry of historical examples, from the use of lots in the Old and New Testaments to Thomas Gataker’s treatise of 1619 on the great English lottery of 1612, from casino gambling to playing the stock market. Because we are creatures of limited knowledge who do and must make decisions in the light of incomplete information, Rescher argues, we are inevitably at the mercy of luck. It behooves us to learn more about it.


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