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A Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes Hardcover – September 10, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1ST edition (September 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030010409X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300104097
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,315,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though this slim volume is more a postmodern Cliffs Notes than a guide, readers who want to learn more about the big boys of Western thought have a fine tutor in Gombrowicz. Gliding effortlessly between straightforward exposition and far-reaching interpretation, with a healthy dose of respectful lampooning in between, Gombrowicz casts a lively, though dizzying, spell; on Schopenhauer's worldview: "It is a grandiose and tragic vision which, unfortunately, coincides perfectly with reality." Though his fluid prose sometimes obscures his meaning (considering Hegel's progress of reason, Gombrowicz's prose reads more like a performance: "Beyond time and space. There will no longer be any movement. Then poof! the ABSOLUTE."). Although the book covers no more than the standard group of Europeon Philosophy 101 figures (Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche), it's far from introductory, playing fast and loose with some tricky concepts; readers entirely unfamiliar with the thinkers will find themselves lost at times, but the philosophy-conversant will find thought-provoking analysis and more than a few laughs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), novelist, essayist, and playwright, was one of the most important Polish writers of the twentieth century. A candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, he was described by Milan Kundera as “one of the great novelists of our century” and by John Updike as “one of the profoundest of the late moderns.”
Gombrowicz’s works were considered scandalous and subversive by the ruling powers in Poland and were banned for nearly forty years. He spent his last years in France teaching philosophy; this book is a series of reflections based on his lectures.
Gombrowicz discusses Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger in six “one-hour” essays and addresses Marxism in a shorter “fifteen-minute” piece. The text—a small literary gem full of sardonic wit, brilliant insights, and provocative criticism—constructs the philosophical lineage of his work.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon this book, upon Gombrowicz, really, purely by chance. The man was a true artist and genius--if you like fiction, read Cosmos; one of the best novels I have read recently.

I would only recommend his Guide to Philosophy, though, to those with either a deep interest in Gombrowicz or a deep interest in Continental philosophy. I, being a student of philosophy, really loved this book, and found it helpful in forming an understanding of the bigger picture presented in the unfolding of Continental philosophy.

First, it must be noted that the entire book is basically assembled from notes and scribbles; many incomplete thoughts, a lot of rambling and jumping from one idea to a completely different one, even some words missing, etc. But for anybody with a decent understanding of philosophy, his discussions can reach great depth.

He discusses Kant's first two Critiques in a fair amount of detail (but in my opinion he gets some stuff wrong, or at least oversimplifies it too much). He also spends some time elaborating on particular ideas recurrent in Sartrean/Heideggerian existentialism, and also Marxism. His discussions of Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche are all very brief, and seem mainly to supplement the others. Best of all, though, is Gombrowicz's keen insight on Schopenhauer. He goes to some lengths to interpret and praise the largely neglected pessimist.

All of this in a little over 100 pages--I read it in a couple hours. Makes you wish he had a chance to spend more time finishing and revising it. Honestly, despite being unpolished and unfinished, this is the best history of philosophy primer out there, save for Karl Jaspers' unfinished volumes. Gombrowicz' humor and insight definitely make this book worth the effort and money.
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By R. Moore on September 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
I agree with another reviewer that, as talented a writer as he was, Gombrowicz's reach did outweigh his grasp when it came to philosophy. His book is breezy and entertaining, but I would not suggest this book as a substitute for any of the 'brief introductions' available out there--including "Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction" and the like. I won't attempt to critique this work--except to say that generally, it's an intelligent man's doodling way of trying to sketch out the essential elements of modern philosophy, starting with Descartes, and the approach doesn't give one confidence that there's real depth, rigor, or long familiarity with the thoughts of the philosophers (systematic or not) that he cites. The short chapters remind one of PowerPoint slides, and are condensed to the point of not really being informative at all. I've enjoyed reading it as a kind of associative revery by the author, but would never recommend it to someone looking for a reliable source of condensed, Cliff's Notes on the subject. I would give it 2-1/2 stars if I could, primarily because it IS entertaining and to some extent informative.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bruce P. Barten on July 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wealthy people have lost the ability to produce anything but trouble, so it is about time people started to pay attention to how immature the big shots in philosophy have always been for someone like Gombrowicz who sees through the confusion. I love this book. Nietzsche did not write philosophy because he was too busy shredding its intellectual underwear. Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche were Polish. The leftists were killed in Poland when they had a revolution because the proletariat is ruled by the needs of the people and leftists are aristocrats. Kant established that space and time come from us. Religion has allowed the upper crust to put a limit on what ordinary people are allowed to do, but justice in the sky when you die is just a trick to keep those who suffer chained in their servitude. Descartes and Sartre were afraid: God and Marxism were the outlets for their need to rationalize their own misery. The more I think about this book, the better I like it.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful By James Elkins on January 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Maybe someone in the Amazon community can disabuse me of this notion, but this book seems almost entirely worthless. If you want a very quick introduction to these philosophers, you would do better on Wikipedia (especially the German version). Gombrowicz is, I think, one of the principal novelists of the last century. His short stories are tremendous; "Cosmos" in the new translation is a masterpiece. I thought that even if I wasn't persuaded by his take on philosophy, I might learn something about him, or about his novels; and I also thought I'de be entertained, because he can be fabulously funny.

But I can't get any insight into his novels from this; it's apparently intended to be whimsical, but for me, at least, there isn't much whimsy here. And I would not read it for information about these philosophers.

But if someone out there can make the connection between his novels and this book, I'd be happy to hear about it.
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