Review of Westerhoff’s Twelve Examples of Illusion

Posted on February 1, 2012


There are people who seem to really enjoy writing very harsh reviews. I find myself left with a sour taste in my mouth afterwards. And so it is with my review of Westerhoff’s recent book published by Oxford University Press. The review is going to be in the journal Religion but it is already up on their website. Here is the first paragraph – the rest of the review is no more complementary:

This review must begin with an unusual disclosure – I am not fully competent to assess this book. But, then, few are. Westerhoff brings together modern epistemology, the cognitive science of illusions and Tibetan Buddhism: there are few potential readers who can claim to be familiar with all three – only the first two fall within my areas of competence. However, this book is intended for a general audience. Indeed, Westerhoff claims to be merely presenting a dozen traditional examples of illusion, leaving it up to the readers to decide ‘how they all hang together, and which view of the world they support’ (p. 8). He presents; we decide. His use of examples from contemporary philosophy and cognitive science is, he adds, simply meant to ‘explain what the Indian and Tibetan authors had in mind’ (p. 8). Both these claims are profoundly disingenuous, however, as is the book’s remainder.