Aristotle Would Have Liked Oprah; Lessons for Life and Other Philosophic Musingsby Ethel Diamond
Philosophy is not just for "serious thinkers", it is for everyone's enjoyment. There are no "answers", just insightful questions -thoughts to help us live our lives. From the birth of philosophy in ancient Greece to the present, this has been the basic premise of all great philosophers. Unfortunately, the words of these wise men are not always accessible to all readers. This book brings the lofty words of great philosophy down-to-earth for all readers to practice, benefit from and enjoy. The author has summarized the basic views of many of the most important thinkers throughout history and related them directly to contemporary life. From advertising slogans to celebrities to familiar phrases, this book shows readers how much of our popular culture results from the teachings of the great philosophers. The book examines such luminaries of thought as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Voltaire, Kant, Hegel, Emerson, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, James, Heidegger, Derrida and Rorty, and relates them to contemporary icons like David Copperfield, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson, Jerry Seinfeld and Howard Stern. It is a sort of philosophic smorgasbord, and readers are free to select morsels of wisdom in whatever order they choose.
This accessible, easy-to-read, clever, lighthearted book is sure to appeal to all readers. More than merely providing a witty simplification of lofty thought, it reveals deep, universal truths about life and living. In the midst of these chaotic, media-driven times, readers need perennial wisdom more than ever before to guide and inspire them. Aristotle Would Have Liked Oprah and Other Philosophic Lessons for the 21st Century is sure to become readers' irreplaceable handbook for practical wisdom and meaningful living as we enter the next millennium.
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Read an Excerpt
Chapter 21: Nietzsche Dreams of Schwarzenegger
Nietzsche was a very complex figure. The best description of him might be the following: Picture a non-Jewish Woody Allen (hard to do, I know, but just stay with me on this one) who imagines that he is Arnold Schwarzenegger. That was Friedrich Nietzsche-a frail, sickly, nerdy, anti-Semite (that's why we had to make Woody a gentile) who had the fantasies of a powerful, artistic warrior-king and the observational and writing abilities of an Oscar Wilde. Not an easy mix, I'm afraid, and at age forty-four he became mentally ill and never recovered.
The contemporary layperson best knows Nietzsche as the author of the comment "God is dead." This has engendered the mistaken notion that the basic thrust of his thought is negative. Nietzsche actually was an incredibly positive thinker, one concerned about and trying to find a way to avoid what he feared was the impending collapse of traditional values.
The "death of God" meant simply that the Judeo-Christian moral interpretation of the world and ourselves was no longer a viable one. Along with God's death came the death of all metatheories and other kindred notions involving some type of ultimate reality that transcends this world.
But it was through the creation of new values that Nietzsche hoped to overcome what he expected would be the inevitable disillusionment that would accompany the loss of metaphysical answers. (Most likely, however, Woody Allen's reaction, "Not only is God dead but try getting a plumber on weekends" is not quite what he had in mind).
Although Nietzsche was a serious type, I don't think he would have found this media-driven age totally devoid of value, for he looked to art as the means for a creative transformation, a glimpse of the kind of life that could be lived more fully. Frankly, I believe he would have been fascinated and excited by the effect that contemporary media has on culture. Larry King Live, with its ability to reach out and influence the thoughts of millions, is a transformative power beyond Nietzsche's wildest dreams.
Not that Nietzsche felt he had "the answer" to anything. In fact, his whole project was to destroy the notion that anyone had any answers. He emphasized that each and every bit of information is no more than a perspective-one person's way of looking at something.
Indeed, Nietzsche was way ahead of his time with the notion that even science operates within a certain perspective. For hundreds of years, people assumed scientists approached their research with a total objectivity.
The realization that their own viewpoints unconsciously influence the way they interpret data was considered a revolutionary insight when the physicist-historian Thomas Kuhn proposed that thesis in 1962. But this was really an idea Nietzsche had presented almost seventy years earlier.
Nietzsche stressed the difference between "types" of humans, between the higher types and the herd. He also spoke of a "superman" type who represented the attainment of the fullest possible life.
Nietzsche didn't invent this term. The word superman had appeared several times in classical literature before his time, but he was the one who popularized the term by making the concept an essential part of his philosophy. Nietzsche expected a new order for the world and the superman was the ideal human whose "strength of will, hardness and ability to make far-reaching decisions" would enable him to fearlessly face the unseen future. Because superman is strong willed and independent, he becomes the means through whom human values will be re-created. God is dead, but superman represents the new man who will forge humankind into the future by the strength of his will.
An unbelievable concept, you say? Permit me to print the words of someone we are all familiar with who sounds just like the type of person I think Nietzsche had in mind:
"When I was ten years old I got this thing that I wanted to be the best in something, so I started swimming. I won championships, but I felt I couldn't be the best. I tried it in skiing, but there I felt I didn't have the potential. I played soccer, but I didn't like that too well because there I didn't get the credit alone if I did something special. . . . Then I started weight lifting. . . . I won the Austrian championship in 1964 but I found out I was just too tall. So I quit that and went into bodybuilding. Two years later I found out that that's it-that's what I can be the best in."
Words of the one and only Arnold. And he hadn't even started thinking about movies yet!
Nietzsche believed in the power of self-creation, and self-creation is what any course of self-improvement is about. Most of us do not have the ability or the drive that Arnold had to become the best in everything we do, with one important exception: Each one of us is capable of re-creating ourselves into the best possible person we can be.
© 1999 Ethel Diamond All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of Health Communications, Inc. from Aristotle Would Have Like Oprah - Lessons for Living and Other Philosophic Musings, by Ethel Diamond. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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