Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life


Say your name aloud to yourself in a quiet room. Imagine peeling an apple in your mind. Take the subway without trying to get anywhere. The simple meditations in this book have the potential to shake us awake from our preconceived certainties: our own identity, the stability of the outside world, the meanings of words. At once entertaining and startling, irreverent and wise, this book will provoke moments of awareness for readers in any situation and in all walks of life. Enter the space of your favorite ...

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Say your name aloud to yourself in a quiet room. Imagine peeling an apple in your mind. Take the subway without trying to get anywhere. The simple meditations in this book have the potential to shake us awake from our preconceived certainties: our own identity, the stability of the outside world, the meanings of words. At once entertaining and startling, irreverent and wise, this book will provoke moments of awareness for readers in any situation and in all walks of life. Enter the space of your favorite painting. Watch someone sleeping. The world won't look the same again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Philosopher and Le Monde columnist Droit's strange and delightful little volume explores some of the biggest questions in philosophy with exercises instead of terminology-laden tracts, by encouraging readers to discover the ways in which small or familiar acts-fasting, prowling, playing, telling a stranger she's beautiful-can become "the starting point for that astonishment which gives rise to philosophy." Each of the 101 exercises is carefully, even lovingly explained, with duration, necessary props and intended effect listed first. Exercise #31, for example, instructs readers to "Watch dust in the sun": it should take about 15 minutes, a room and sunlight are needed, and its effect is "reassuring." When a ray of sunlight enters a dark room, an "invisible world" of sparkling dust reveals itself-a symbol of the "stratum of existence that is both invisible and present" always. There are other worlds within ours, Droit reminds us, worlds that we might be able to see with only a metaphoric readjustment of shutters. There are exercises to calm, to disorient, to humanize, to displace; for instance, listening to shortwave radio at night, Droit writes, will help readers realize that "perpetually around you, woven into the air...are these hundreds of voices murmuring, in dozens of unknown or unrecognizable languages, of which you know nothing, expect that they spread an obscure and changing human crust, unendingly, over everything." Already a bestseller in Europe, this volume should appeal to anyone who has ever asked questions about perception or identity, or wanted a new way to see the world and the self. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Droit, a French philosopher and newspaper columnist, endeavors to apply philosophy to everyday life. In this book of everyday "experiments," he asks his readers to engage in various activities, usually for a few minutes or hours. By attending closely to what one is experiencing, one gains new insights into life. For example, the reader is invited to browse for several hours in a bookshop. By concentrating on each book, as it in effect appeals to be purchased, this insight will suggest itself: "literature is prostitution. At least in one sense. Each printed story is a hooker trying to be noticed, trying to captivate the passerby and live at least a little longer in the arc of your attention." Clearly, Droit by no means equates philosophy with seriousness. In fact, he invites us to pick a leading philosophical concept, such as Plato's idea of the Good or Kant's notion of moral law, and laugh at it: "The truest way to respect ideas comes through laughter." This engaging book brings out Droit's remarkable powers of seeing the ordinary in a new light. Recommended for all philosophy collections.-David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142003138
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/29/2003
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 787,452
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.17 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Pol-Droit was born in Paris in 1949 and is a philosopher, a researcher at the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique, and a columnist for the French daily newspaper Le Monde.

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Table of Contents

Astonish Yourself! Introduction: Everyday adventures
1. Call yourself
2. Empty a word of its meaning
3. Look in vain for "I"
4. Make the world last twenty minutes
5. See the stars below you
6. See a landscape as a stretched canvas
7. Lose something and not know what
8. Recall where you were this morning
9. Hurt yourself briefly
10. Feel eternal
11. Telephone at random
12. Rediscover your room after a journey
13. Drink while urinating
14. Make a wall between your hands
15. Walk in the dark
16. Dream of all the places in the world
17. Peel an apple in your head
18. Visualize a pile of human organs
19. Imagine yourself high up
20. Imagine your imminent death
21. Try to measure existence
22. Count to a thousand
23. Dread the arrival of the bus
24. Run in a graveyard
25. Play the fool
26. Watch a woman at her window
27. Invent lives for yourself
28. Look at people from a moving car
29. Follow the movement of ants
30. Eat a nameless substance
31. Watch dust in the sun
32. Resist tiredness
33. Overeat
34. Play the animal
35. Contemplate a dead bird
36. Come across a childhood toy
37. Wait while doing nothing
38. Try not to think
39. Go to the hairdresser
40. Shower with your eyes closed
41. Sleep on your front in the sun
42. Go to the circus
43. Try on clothes
44. Calligraphize
45. Light a fire in the hearth
46. Be aware of yourself speaking
47. Weep at the cinema
48. Meet up with friends after several years
49. Browse at the bookseller's
50. Become music
51. Pull out a hair
52. Walk in an imaginary forest
53. Demonstrate on your own
54. Stay in the hammock
55. Invent headlines
56. Listen to short-wave radio
57. Turn off the sound on the TV
58. Redisover a childhood scene that seemed larger
59. Get used to eating something you don't like
60. Fast for a while
61. Rant for ten minutes
62. Drive through a forest
63. Give without thinking about it
64. Look for a blue food
65. Become a saint or sinner
66. Recover lost memories
67. Watch someone sleeping
68. Work on a holiday
69. Consider humanity to be an error
70. Inhabit the planet of small gestures
71. Disconnect the phone
72. Smile at a stranger
73. Enter the space of a painting
74. Leave the cinema in daytime
75. Plunge into cold water
76. Seek out immutable landscapes
77. Listen to a recording of your voice
78. Tell a stranger she is beautiful
79. Believe in the existence of a smell
80. Wake up without knowing where
81. Descend an interminable staircase
82. Swallow your emotion
83. Fix the ephemeral
84. Decorate a room
85. Laugh at an idea
86. Vanish at a pavement cafe
87. Row on a lake in your room
88. Prowl at night
89. Become attached to an object
90. Sing the praises of Santa Claus
91. Play with a child
92. Encounter pure chance
93. Recite the telephone directory on your knees
94. Think about what other people are doing
95. Practice make-believe everywhere
96. Kill people in your head
97. Take the subway without going anywhere
98. Remove your watch
99. Put up with a chatterbox
100. Clean up after the party
101. Find the infinitesimal caress
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    very helpful and funny

    I love this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    I would have preferred that each thought experiment be prefaced by the source of insipriation, i.e. the original philosopher's main ideas or theories. The thought experiments are sorta creative but you're not really doing anything that active.

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