A miscellany of concise advice about life.
Like many people in their 20s, Klein (Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life, 2014, etc.) asked himself some age-old questions: what is the meaning of life? How does one live a good life? He sought answers from his readings as a Harvard undergraduate and later as a graduate student in philosophy, jotting down salient quotations in a notebook he called “Pithies.” Now, 40 years later, the author offers an expanded collection “of concise philosophical precepts” along with candid personal reflections on each. Among his many sources of inspiration are Pascal and Epicurus, David Hume and John Stuart Mill, William James and Albert Camus. But Klein finds wisdom from such popular sages as Woody Allen, John Barth, and Walker Percy and from contemporary philosophers, such as Oxford-trained “techno-hedonist” David Pearce and analytic moral philosopher Derek Parfit. Klein cites Albert Einstein’s praise of solitude (“delicious in the years of maturity”) and Emerson on “the blessings of old friends,” and he admits that ethicist Peter Singer makes him feel “bad about not being good.” Moral philosophy, writes the author, “with its abstract arguments about the principles of right and wrong, is not really that relevant to our lives” but “may only be a luxury for those of us who do not need to struggle simply to stay alive.” He reveals that he's had past bouts of depression and times when he felt overwhelmed “by the meaninglessness of it all,” but he never lost his conviction that life is worth living. As an agnostic, he agrees with atheist Sam Harris’ “crucial distinction between religion and mysticism.” Mysticism, as Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “wonders not how the world is but that the world is.”
A glossary explains the relatively few philosophical terms Klein sprinkles in this warm, winsome book of eclectic musings.