HERETICS!

THE WONDROUS (AND DANGEROUS) BEGINNINGS OF MODERN PHILOSOPHY

So much changed in such a short period of time, as illustrated by this effective graphic encapsulation.

From Copernicus and Galileo through Newton and Voltaire, this graphic history explores a century of philosophical awakening that put the world of thought on a brand new orbit.

Philosophy is fun! That’s debatable, but Steven Nadler (Philosophy and Humanities/Univ. of Wisconsin; A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, 2011, etc.) and illustrator Ben Nadler do their best to bring both entertainment and enlightenment to the subject of how modern philosophical thought challenged the church’s doctrine on the relationship between God and man and led to democratic challenges to monarchy and the divine right of kings. The project confronts some pretty tough challenges of its own: it is mainly about thinking, which is difficult to illustrate. There is little in the way of action, other than the occasional heretic put to death for his beliefs, and some of these ideas are complex, as is the path through which one philosophical treatise leads to the next. Nonetheless, the text and illustrations nimbly advance through a little more than a century in fewer than 200 pages, presenting a primer that can instruct those new to the period while serving as a refresher for readers who have forgotten what they studied in history and philosophy. Though the philosophers continued to disagree about matter and spirit, fate and free will, God and mankind, “they believed that the older, medieval approach to making sense of the world—with its spiritual forms and…its concern to defend Christian doctrine…no longer worked and needed to be replaced by more useful and intellectually independent models.” By the time of Isaac Newton, pretty much everything that had once been believed was up for grabs, with man no longer at the center of creation, the sun no longer spinning around the Earth, and the church no longer an authority on matters that were now subject to scientific inquiry.

So much changed in such a short period of time, as illustrated by this effective graphic encapsulation.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-16869-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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