THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS

VOL. IV, DESCARTES, PASCAL, LESSING, KIERKEGAARD, NIETZSCHE, MARX, WEBER, EINSTEIN

Rigorous yet readable notes, sketches, and articles that round out a four-volume panorama of the philosophical pantheon. The eminent existential philosopher Jaspers (18831969) died before he could complete this work. Editors Ermarth and Ehrlich have, however, been able to stitch together a coherent book that, in accordance with Jaspers's plan, primarily covers the philosophers whom he termed ``the disturbers'': thinkers for whom doubt and despair loomed large. Jaspers opens with a discussion of Descartes. A disturber in the probing style of his thought, he stands apart, however, insofar as he compartmentalized issues of faith and philosophy. The other disturbers Jaspers characterizes as ``great awakeners.'' Working the boundaries between philosophy and theology, they sought to think man back to some sense of completeness. These include Pascal, whose famous wager for the existence of God Jaspers critiques at some length; Kierkegaard, the great philosopher of faith, over whom Jaspers lingers longest; and Nietzsche, discussed briefly in part as a counterpoint to Kierkegaard. Interestingly, Jaspers includes a chapter on the 18th- century theoretician and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, declaring his work to be exemplary for its critical discernment. In a short section on ``philosophers in other realms,'' such as the sciences, Jaspers discusses the philosophical import and the (in his view) severe limits of Einstein's thought. Max Weber, in contrast, elicits unstinting praise. The book closes with an appreciation of Marx that subsumes a harsh critique of the Marxist style of disputation. Jaspers makes information about philosophers' lives and the dissemination of their works integral to his accounts of their ideas. Thus a sense of history and of human contingency pervade these pieces. Twenty-five years after its author's death, this is by no means a cutting-edge work—but this great thinker's ruminations on his predecessors have a timeless quality to them.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-136943-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more