This scintillating pop-philosophy survey, a bestseller in France, brushes off the cobwebs and gives the subject compelling immediacy. Sorbonne professor Ferry (What Is a Good Life?) offers a thematic introduction to continental philosophy constructed around the biggest questions: how can we lead a meaningful life knowing that we will die but without the consolation of religion? (Ferry denies Christianity the status of a real philosophy, but considers its intellectual legacy so fundamental that the book is in many ways a search for an atheistic Christianity.) The author’s episodic treatment starts with the Stoic concept of man as a fragment of a harmonious cosmos, moves on to Descartes, Rousseau, and Kant and their establishment of philosophy based on reason and individual freedom, climaxes with Nietzsche’s demolition of modernist certitudes—a stance he finds both thrilling and unsatisfying—and ponders the abiding need to embrace a world we must ultimately lose. Ferry has a knack for translating difficult concepts into laymen’s terms; he even makes Heidegger’s opaque mysticism not just coherent but actually relevant to the global economy. Neophytes and scholars alike will find in this superb primer proof that philosophy belongs at the center of life. (Jan.)
“A philosophical survival kit, in which the reader will find brilliant ideas to help them think better and live better.”
"A philosophical survival kit, in which the reader will find brilliant ideas to help them think better and live better."
"No dry academic, Ferry restores to philosophy a compelling urgency."
“One of the best books that has come across my desk over the last year. … Readers who don’t know much about philosophy will find this book accessible; and those who do will find its approach fresh and stimulating.”
“An engaging, accessible work... strong evidence for an important conception of philosophy’s enduring relevance.”
Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy
"For everyone from the man in the street to the man in the AcropolisA fine introduction to philosophy and its fundamental relevance to living a meaningful life."
Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
"This is a vital book. Luc Ferry rehabilitates the ancient question, ‘What is the best way of life?’ as though our lives depended on it. ... The reader will find her own experience clarified, and her horizon enlarged."
"Lucid and accessible … Ferry defends human dignity against post-modern doubt … a serious thinker"
“For everyone from the man in the street to the man in the AcropolisA fine introduction to philosophy and its fundamental relevance to living a meaningful life.”
THOMAS CATHCART and DANIEL KLEIN
“This is a vital book. Luc Ferry rehabilitates the ancient question, ‘What is the best way of life?’ as though our lives depended on it. ... The reader will find her own experience clarified, and her horizon enlarged.”
“No dry academic, Ferry restores to philosophy a compelling urgency.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Lucid and accessible … Ferry defends human dignity against post-modern doubt … a serious thinker”
Ferry (philosophy, Univ. of Paris; Man Made God: The Meaning of Life) offers an "introduction" to philosophical reflection and reasoning that he intends to be accessible to children as well as casual adult readers. This volume, a best seller in France, is less likely to be of interest in the United States to anyone untutored in reading academic prose. What Ferry does provide, however, is context and extrapolation on such canonical philosophers as the Pre-Socratics, Augustine, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. By referencing literary works published during the flow of Western philosophy's history and showing how they inform and are informed by contemporary developments in the philosophy of ethics, reality, education, and reason, he enriches his discussion in a manner that does indeed speak well to educated lay readers who have not heretofore tried to access the main tenets of Western thought's development. By offering inspired but credible associations between specific philosophical conceptions and the "good life," he also provides a way for readers to personalize this intellectual voyage. VERDICT For readers set to explore Western philosophy or those who enjoy such introspective writers as Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning).—Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, Berkeley, CA
The award-winning French philosopher briefly summarizes the major philosophical ideas since Ancient Greece and explains why he has opted for contemporary humanism. Ferry (Philosophy/The Sorbonne;
Learning to Live: A User's Manual, 2010, etc.) writes that some dinner guests recently challenged him to create a philosophy course for children and adults, something presumably accessible to both. If this book is the result, Hogwartians may be the only children capable of comprehension. But many college-educated Muggles will doubtless find it useful, too. The author begins with perhaps the most difficult question (What is philosophy?) and offers a three-dimensional answer: salvation (not in the religious sense), theory and morals and ethics (terms he uses interchangeably). The author then moves on to his historical tour of philosophical ideas, focusing on the first superstars--Plato, Aristotle et al. He examines how Christianity was able to supplant the Greeks (the religion's vastly appealing notion of the afterlife) before moving on to humanism, a movement prompted by the discoveries and thought of Copernicus, Newton, Descartes and Galileo. Kant and Rousseau earn high marks here (though not the highest). Next comes Nietzsche. The author acknowledges, more than once, how that philosopher's ideas, unfortunately, appealed to the Nazis, but Ferry mostly succeeds in separating the thoughts from the deeds. The author views Heidegger as the most important post-Nietzschean, focusing sharply on that philosopher's views of technology and materialism and how they threaten the possibility of a more reflective, philosophical population. Ferry tries to lighten the tone of the narrative with literature (Poe makes an appearance, as does V.S. Naipaul) and popular culture (allusions to digital music). Ferry is an atheist and suggests throughout that religion is irrelevant. A focused history, neither simple nor simplistic, that--no surprise--shows the history of philosophy moving inexorably toward the author's current beliefs.