Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

by Zena Hitz

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Overview

An invitation to readers from every walk of life to rediscover the impractical splendors of a life of learning

In an overloaded, superficial, technological world, in which almost everything and everybody is judged by its usefulness, where can we turn for escape, lasting pleasure, contemplation, or connection to others? While many forms of leisure meet these needs, Zena Hitz writes, few experiences are so fulfilling as the inner life, whether that of a bookworm, an amateur astronomer, a birdwatcher, or someone who takes a deep interest in one of countless other subjects. Drawing on inspiring examples, from Socrates and Augustine to Malcolm X and Elena Ferrante, and from films to Hitz's own experiences as someone who walked away from elite university life in search of greater fulfillment, Lost in Thought is a passionate and timely reminder that a rich life is a life rich in thought.

Today, when even the humanities are often defended only for their economic or political usefulness, Hitz says our intellectual lives are valuable not despite but because of their practical uselessness. And while anyone can have an intellectual life, she encourages academics in particular to get back in touch with the desire to learn for its own sake, and calls on universities to return to the person-to-person transmission of the habits of mind and heart that bring out the best in us.

Reminding us of who we once were and who we might become, Lost in Thought is a moving account of why renewing our inner lives is fundamental to preserving our humanity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691178714
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 05/26/2020
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 51,147
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Zena Hitz is a Tutor in the great books program at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, where she also lives. She has a PhD in ancient philosophy from Princeton University and studies and teaches across the liberal arts. Website: zenahitz.net Twitter @zenahitz

Table of Contents

Prologue: How Washing Dishes Restored My Intellectual Life 1

Introduction: Learning, Leisure, and Happiness 25

Chapter 1 A Refuge from the World 50

Chapter 2 Learning Lost and Found 113

Chapter 3 The Uses of Uselessness 162

Epilogue: The Everyday Intellectual 202

Acknowledgments 207

Notes 211

Index 221

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Lost in Thought is a moving declaration of faith in the intellectual act at a time when everything we do seems to conspire against it."—Alberto Manguel, author of Packing My Library

"Lost in Thought recounts the thrilling story of how Zena Hitz overcame the anxiety of uselessness, the fear that immersion in the intellectual life cuts one off from what really matters. What she discovers, for herself and for us, is that what truly matters only emerges in the course of a commitment to think things through to the ground. Indeed, she concludes, 'If intellectual life is not left to rest in its splendid uselessness, it will never bear its practical fruit.' An old lesson, but one that must be relearned, especially at times like ours when a passion for social justice is the new idol to which disinterested contemplation is being sacrificed."—Stanley Fish, author of Think Again

"Read Zena Hitz's honest, urgent Lost in Thought and recover clarity about why and how intellectual work and teaching should be forms of loving service—responses to the wonder and curiosity that all people bring into this world as they seek to understand. Hitz’s book should rally the spirits of everyone who is dedicated to learning to take up yet more energetically the question of how we can design colleges and universities that we can be proud of without reservation."—Danielle Allen, author of Our Declaration

"A vivid mixture of memoir, philosophical reflection, and stories that range from Einstein to Dorothy Day, Lost in Thought is an inspiring, elegant, and original defense of the intrinsic value of intellectual life—and why it needs to be reclaimed in our colleges and universities."—Kieran Setiya, author of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide

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