The Philosopher's Apprentice [NOOK Book]

Overview

A brilliant philosopher with a talent for self-destruction, Mason Ambrose has torpedoed a promising academic career and now faces a dead-end future. Before joining the ranks of the unemployed, however, he's approached by a representative of billionaire geneticist Dr. Edwina Sabacthani, who makes him an offer no starving ethicist could refuse. Born and bred on Isla de Sangre, a private island off the Florida coast, Edwina's beautiful and intelligent adolescent daughter, Londa, has recently survived a freak ...

See more details below
The Philosopher's Apprentice

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$3.99
BN.com price

Overview

A brilliant philosopher with a talent for self-destruction, Mason Ambrose has torpedoed a promising academic career and now faces a dead-end future. Before joining the ranks of the unemployed, however, he's approached by a representative of billionaire geneticist Dr. Edwina Sabacthani, who makes him an offer no starving ethicist could refuse. Born and bred on Isla de Sangre, a private island off the Florida coast, Edwina's beautiful and intelligent adolescent daughter, Londa, has recently survived a freak accident that destroyed both her memory and her sense of right and wrong. Londa's soul, in short, is an empty vessel—and it will be Mason's job to fill it.

Exploring his new surroundings, our hero encounters a lush Eden abounding in bizarre animals and strange vegetation engineered by Edwina and her misanthropic collaborator, Dr. Vincent Charnock. And Londa, though totally lacking a conscience, proves a vivacious young woman who quickly captivates her new teacher as he attempts to recalibrate her moral compass with the help of Western civilization's greatest ethical thinkers, living and dead.

But there's trouble in this tropical paradise. Mason soon learns that he isn't the only private tutor on Isla de Sangre, nor is Londa the only child in residence whose conscience is a blank slate. How many daughters does Edwina Sabacthani really have, and how did she bring them into being?

Undaunted by these mysteries, Mason continues to instruct Londa, hoping that she can lead a normal life when she eventually ventures forth into human society. His apprentice, however, has a different agenda. Her head crammed with lofty ideals, her heart brimming with fearsome benevolence, and her bank account filled to bursting, Londa undertakes to remake our fallen world in her own image—by any and all means necessary.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Siddhartha Deb
Morrow's inventiveness is beguiling, as are his delight in Western philosophy and his concern for the sorry state of the world. Yet there's also something comic-bookish about his novel, with its rapid succession of climactic moments, its abundant references to pop culture, its reliance on the strikingly visual and its first-person narration, which has the inflections not of a failed graduate student but of a Los Angeles gumshoe…
—The New York Times
Library Journal

Aristotle is referred to so often in this brilliant comedy of manners as to seem to be alive. Also present are Plato, Lawrence Kohlberg, Kant, Sartre, Heidegger, Gadamer, Rawls, Piaget, Captain Kangaroo, and Mister Rogers. How can a novel so loaded with ideas be so funny and consistently engrossing? Missing in this hilarious send-off on Pygmalion are Rousseau and Locke, although it could be argued that the book is an extended riff on their ideas about how we acquire our moral sense. The premise is not new: a philosopher-tutor is given the opportunity to impress ethical ideas on a first-class mind that is, in matters of morality, a blank slate. But Morrow (The Last Witchfinder ) is an inventive writer possessing a fine comic sensibility; the story is infused with wit and brio. And that brings one more name into the mix-Diderot. Morrow may not mention Diderot, but in many ways Morrow is a successor to that finest of Enlightenment thinkers, a man who believed that literature and philosophy marched hand in hand and who was not afraid to discuss serious matters in a comic tone. Enthusiastically recommended for all libraries.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Arch-satirist Morrow (The Last Witchfinder, 2006, etc.) turns in a tumultuous take on humanity, philosophy and ethics that is as hilarious as it is outlandish. The narrator and central figure of this classically inspired comedy about twisted science and bent beliefs is long-winded, self-centered philosophy student Mason Ambrose. To his dismay, Mason is at wit's end after his life's work, Ethics from the Earth, is torpedoed by an embittered rival. Offered a teaching position on an offshore island that would do Dr. Moreau proud, the good doctor is soon verbally jousting with his student, a damaged but headstrong savant named Londa, to whom he is supposed to impart no less than a functioning conscience. Though ferociously stubborn, Londa responds with verve when Mason presents her with manufactured philosophical conundrums. It turns out that the island's matriarch (and Londa's mother), geneticist Edwina Sabachthani, has been dabbling in genetics testing, producing breathing trees, a talking mutant iguana and other freaks of nature to be named later. To their peril, Mason and his fellow tutors agree to keep the secret of Londa and her aberrant siblings following Edwina's early demise from a blood disorder. After escaping, Ambrose tries to settle into domesticity with a striking young English student but is completely unraveled by the abrupt appearance of a man calling himself John Snow-and calling Mason "father." Meanwhile, Londa has abandoned science to become something of a celebrity a la Oprah, but on a grander scale and with a darker, gospel-inspired vision of a new golden age for humanity. Hurtling towards his destiny aboard a resurrected Titanic, Mason must choose between consummationand annihilation of his first love. "Try withholding your judgment till you've grasped the broader picture," Londa advises him. A salutary caution for readers of this wildly ambitious morality play, a shrewd amalgamation of the sacred and the profane. Tips its hat with style to Mary Shelley and George Bernard Shaw.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch on THE PHILOSOPHER'S APPRENTICE
“Morrow has produced an exemplary novel, one that explores a question central to the human understanding of self...THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE is thought experiment as heartbreaking drama–this is what science fiction at its best does.”
Denver Post
“Morrow’s world is one where ideas matter so much they come lurching to life as intellectual Frankenstein creatures. In The Philosopher’s Apprentice, they are wickedly hilarious – and then they can break our hearts and scare us silly.”
New York Times Book Review
“[I]nventive, entertaining . . . fantastic images and ideas . . . Morrow’s inventiveness is beguiling, as are his delight in Western philosophy and his concern for the sorry state of the world.”
Locus
“[Morrow’s] valorization of reason together with his acute sense of comic absurdity have long made him a favorite of intellectuals . . . who see him in the tradition of Twain and Vonnegut.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“In some ways, [Morrow] reminds me of Mark Twain after the mid-1880s, and even more of Kurt Vonnegut. Like them, Morrow writes with a penetrating moral vision.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“[James Morrow] is an original—stylistically ingenious, savagely funny, always unpredictable.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Morrow addresses controversial topics without being heavy-handed, and infuses the narrative with a wit that pragmatists and idealists alike will appreciate. A-”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Morrow has produced an exemplary novel, one that explores a question central to the human understanding of self...THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE is thought experiment as heartbreaking drama–this is what science fiction at its best does.”
Gary K. Wolfe
“Morrow is a good as anybody at dramatizing the notion that ideas can both kill us and save us, and THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE may well offer about as many provocative ideas per chapter as we’ll see in any novel this year.”
Nick Gevers
“This novel [is] one of Morrow’s best . . . the creative exuberances of THE PHILOSOPHER’S APPRENTICE are easily justified by the wisdom they support. For a wise novel, then, wittier and better proportioned than most of its predecessors, due praise.”
Maureen Corrigan
“[A] hyperkinetic mishmash of horror story, sci-fi yarn, Renaissance allegory, Greek myth and modern morality tale…rollicking…ingenious…it’s the fiction equivalent of a roller coaster ride, where readers are meant to hold on tight and enjoy the giddy thrills of an over-the-top and overeducated plot.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061851940
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 305,958
  • File size: 571 KB

Meet the Author

James Morrow is the author of nine previous novels, including The Last Witchfinder. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


The Philosopher's Apprentice
A Novel

By James Morrow HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
James Morrow
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061351440

Chapter One

This begins with a butterfly. The insect in question, a monarch, was flitting along a strand of morning glories threaded through the chain-link fence outside my first-floor apartment, systematically dipping its proboscis into the powder-blue cones. It was a warm, fecund morning in August, and I was twenty-seven years old. Contemplating the Danaus plexippus through a gash in my screen door, I was utterly mesmerized, transfixed by the creature's ethereal antennae and magnificent orange wings limned with black stripes as bold and stark as the leading in a stained-glass window. How numinous it must have appeared to a lesser insect: a cricket's epiphany.

Inevitably Lao-tzu's famous riddle crossed my mind—"Am I a man dreaming he is a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he is a man?"—and I performed a thought experiment, mentally trading places with the monarch. I don't know whether the butterfly enjoyed being an impoverished philosophy student with a particular interest in ethics, but my lepidopterous condition delighted me. The sun warmed my wings, the nectar sated my hunger, and the perfume gratified my olfactory organs, located in, of all places, my feet.

The telephone rang: a representative from my bank, recommending that I go further into debt. I slammed down the receiver and attempted to reenter my Taoist reverie, but it had evaporated. No matter. The butterfly had served itspurpose. Thanks to that fragile creature, I'd finally acquired the hook on which to hang my doctoral dissertation. Mason Ambrose, embryonic ethicist, would write about the imperatives entailed in humankind's connection to Danaus plexippus, and to insects in general, and to everything else in the world boasting wings, legs, tentacles, talons, tusks, claws, scales, feathers, fins, fur, or flesh. With a rush of joy, I realized that this Darwinist stance would appeal neither to secular Marxists, for whom moral lessons lay exclusively within history's brute curriculum, nor to evangelical Christians, for whom a naturalist ethics was a contradiction in terms, nor to middle-class mystics, who detested any argument smacking of biological determinism. A philosophical position that could simultaneously antagonize the collectivist left, the God-besotted right, and the Aquarian fringe must, I decided, have a lot going for it.

"I've even thought of a title," I told my long-suffering adviser, Tracy Blasko, as we shared a pitcher of sangria in the Pettifog Café that afternoon.

"That's half the battle," Tracy said. In recent months she'd begun to despair that I would ever find what she called, not unfairly, "a topic sufficiently pretentious to hold your interest during the writing phase."

"I want to call it Toward a Materialist Deontology," I said.

"Sounds like a goddamn doctoral dissertation," Tracy said, unsheathing her wickedest grin. She had a round, melodic face whose softness belied her gristly intellect. When the renowned deconstructionist Benoit Tourneur had visited our campus earlier that year, Tracy alone had summoned the gumption to dismantle, publicly and definitively, his ingenious apologia for Heidegger's Nazi affiliations. "But whatever you call it," she added, looking me in the eye, "the topic is eminently worth wrestling to the ground."

"Will the committee agree?" I said, all aglow.

She nodded. "I'll call in a few favors. Congratulations, Mason. You've cracked the first nut—the fruitcake can't be far behind. Shall we order another pitcher?"

"Love to, but I'm late for a class." I rose abruptly, kissed her on each cheek, and explained that in prelude to my Darwinian explorations I was auditing Ben Glockman's legendary Biology 412: Monkey Business: Sexuoeconomic Transactions in African Primate Communities.

"One more thing," Tracy said as I started out of the café. "You should call it Ethics from the Earth."

For the next two years, I taught English at Watertown High School by day and wrote Ethics from the Earth by night, laboring to convert my status at Hawthorne University from ABD—which at most schools stood for "all but dissertation," though Tracy preferred "Aristotle be damned"—to genuine doctor of philosophy, and so it was that, raisin by raisin, currant by currant, the fruitcake took form, until 382 manuscript pages lay in my hard drive. And then disaster struck.

Tracy Blasko, dear Tracy who was half in love with me and I with her, poor Tracy went to pieces, checking herself into the Boston Psychiatric Center for clinical depression and alcoholism. The task of shepherding me through the final revisions fell to the innocuous Carol Eberling, a glum Hegelian who boasted none of Tracy's acid humor or affection for audacity. But for me the real catastrophe—and I'm afraid this is how graduate students construct these matters—was that the person selected to round out my committee was certain to cause me trouble. The nemesis in question was the celebrated postrationalist theologian Felix Pielmeister, newly arrived from Notre Dame.

There are certain coordinates on this planet, spatial and temporal, where one is well advised to avoid antagonizing the locals. The Lower East Side of Manhattan at three o'clock in the morning, for example, or Fenway Park during the bottom of the ninth with the Sox trailing the Yankees by seven runs, or the philosophy department of a major university any day of the week. I never found out how Felix Pielmeister came to visit my Web site. This scholar who'd delivered the Gifford Lectures, published eighteen books, and routinely communed with St. Augustine's shade—why would such a man waste his time picking through the dregs and dross of cyberspace? I suppose he went slumming one day, ordering his search engine to display all notices of his newest book, an anti-Darwinist screed called The Algorithms of Immortality, and suddenly, voilà: the blistering review I'd composed to amuse myself during the gestation of Ethics from the Earth.

It was Dr. Eberling who alerted me to Pielmeister's displeasure. "He's livid, you know," she said. "Really, Mason, you ought to send him an apology."

"I will not eat crow," I replied. "Nor any other bird Pielmeister would put on my platter."



Continues...


Excerpted from The Philosopher's Apprentice by James Morrow Copyright © 2008 by James Morrow. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is an excellent satirical look at American ethics

    A Philosophy PH.D candidate withdraws his application after losing a heated argument re his dissertation the only thing left for him to obtain his doctorate. Mason Ambrose accepts work tutoring seventeen year old Londa Sabacthani, who suffered a severe head injury that destroyed her morality. Her brilliant mother molecular geneticist Edwina wants Mason to help her daughter regain what she lost.------------- Mason travels to Edwina¿s home on Ilsa de Sangre of the Florida Keys to work with Londa, who tells him she is an only child. Soon after he arrives Mason finds on the next estate five-year-old Donya living with two tutors trying to help her regain her lost 'rectitude' following a brain injury occurring from a bicycle accident. Donya insists she is an only child whose mother is Edwina. The three tutors share notes and conclude after some other snooping that Edwina is a female Dr. Frankenstein.---------------- This is an excellent satirical look at American ethics re business, science, politics, and the family with seemingly nonsensical actions yet retains its feasibility. This is mostly because the solid cast rings genuine especially the kids. For instance Londa takes her new learned ethics to the business community. Fans who appreciate something different but entertainingly well written and thought provoking will want to follow the teaching escapades of THE PHILOSOPHER'S APPRENTICE.------------ Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 29, 2012

    Satirical Delight

    Adding a touch of sci-fi humor to a range of contemporary issues (third-wave feminism, genetic engineering, corporatism, theocracy) The Philosopher's Apprentice manages to be at once thought-provoking and entertaining. The pace of this book is fast--a little too fast at times. Morrow's writing kept me engaged and amused, but often wondering why relationships between some characters weren't explored in more depth.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)