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Philosophical Tales: Being an Alternative History Revealing the Characters, the Plots, and the Hidden Scenes That Make Up the True Story of Philosophy Paperback – May 27, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1405140379 ISBN-10: 1405140372 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405140372
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405140379
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A lover of philosophical ideas and practiced debunker of intellectual sham, Martin Cohen knocks some thirty important philosophers from Socrates to Derrida off their pedestals, and presents in a series of philosophical tales various aspects of their thought, life and personality which few of us ever suspected.” – Zenon Stavrinides, University of Bradford

"Philosophical Tales is highly recommended, not only for debutants but also for the cognoscenti who will find much here both amusing and stimulating." The Philosopher

Philosophers, more even than poets and composers, set themselves apart from common humanity to engage in their uncommonly rarefied practices. In the unlikely event of their productions becoming even vaguely well known they shun publicity. Their obituaries and encyclopaedic entries condense life long achievements into garbled accounts of their philosophies, dates of publication of their more respectable works and odd biographical details.

Fortunately, in Philosophical Tales Martin Cohen has compiled highly entertaining accounts of all too human aspects of thirty philosophers, presumably the more quirky of the breed. But of course the whole point of the exercise is selection of behaviours exponent of, or in marked contrast to, their perpetrators' stated philosophies. Schopenhauer, an example of the former, and Marx, of the latter, appear prominently on the cover. Raul Gonzalez III's illustrations complement the text admirably. His Augustine is a masterpiece, suitable for reproduction as a missal book mark.

Philosophical Tales is both readable and enjoyable with the added advantage that potted versions of their philosophies, required to appreciate the relevance of accounts of their misdemeanours, illuminate these thirty philosophers' works remarkably well. They are longer than encyclopaedia entries, shorter than extended essays and allow a generally rounded account....

Philosophers are frequently pompous; Cohen's own, tongue-in-cheek, Pompous Footnotes show him consciously capable of the genre but so do several judgements of his with which I totally disagree, such as the one above. However, as the objective of this book is to entertain and stimulate, let no one be in any doubt that it achieves both admirably.

An interesting diversion Scholarly Appendix: Women in Philosophy calls Diotima the Mother of Western philosophy, in so far as she taught Socrates, spokesperson for Plato's philosophy. Whitehead proved the point with his dictum that Western philosophy is no more than a footnote to Plato. ...

Whether or not Pascal was right in his assertion: To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher, levity certainly makes the subject more enjoyable and could well lead to deeper exploration. Therefore, Philosophical Tales is highly recommended, not only for debutants but also for the cognoscenti who will find much here both amusing and stimulating.

Great philosophers only become well known after their deaths. Indeed, to speak of contemporary celebrity philosophers is oxymoronic. Still, one can't help wondering who amongst living philosophers will merit future Philosophical Tales. -- Colin Kirk, The Philosopher Autumn 2008

Review

“A lover of philosophical ideas and practiced debunker of intellectual sham, Martin Cohen knocks some thirty important philosophers from Socrates to Derrida off their pedestals, and presents in a series of philosophical tales various aspects of their thought, life and personality which few of us ever suspected.” Zenon Stavrinides, University of Bradford

More About the Author

Martin Cohen is a well-established author specializing in popular books in philosophy, social science and politics.

His most recent book, called 'How to Live: Wise (and not-so-wise) Advice from the Great Philosophers', examines a whole load of unexpcted philosophical things like the virtues of cheese sandwiches (Rousseau) and making the wife work in a factory (John Locke). Being essentially 'snack reading', it is definitely available as an e-book (ASIN B00GOGQRJW).

He is best known for his two introductions to philosophy, 101 Philosophy Problems (Routledge 1999, 2001, 2007) and 101 Ethical Dilemmas (Routledge 2002/2007) which despite being originally aimed at the academic market, between them have sold over 250,000 copies and been translated into 20 different languages. He also published an "anti-history" of great philosophers, Philosophical Tales (2008) for Blackwell.

His most recent projects include the UK edition of Philosophy for Dummies (Wiley June 2010); Mind Games: 31 days to rediscover your Brain (Blackwell, July 2010) and The Doomsday Machine: The High Price of Nuclear Energy, the World's Most Dangerous Fuel (co-authored with Andrew McKillop). A project with Richard Stanyer developing resources for Philosophy for Children has led to a beautifully illustrated children's book called Milo and the upside-down Goggles. (The project website is http.//www.philosophystories.co.uk)

A book on Thought Experiments was well-reviewed despite being entitled (confusingly perhaps!) Wittgenstein's Beetle, (2004) and other more academic books include a mini book on Adam Smith; and a reference guide to philosophy and ethics for Hodder Academic.

Martin now writes full-time, but in the past has taught philosophy and social science at a number of universities in the UK and Australia, and was involved in a research project at Leeds University under George MacDonald Ross exploring ways to shift philosophy teaching away from the the mere study of philosophical facts and toward a view of philosophy as an activity.

A respected environmentalist, he wrote an influential series of articles in the Times Higher (London) about the politics of the climate change debate. He has written discussion papers on environmental concerns for the European Parliament and been invited by the Chinese government to discuss ecological rights and indigenous communities.

{Martin, be creative - include an anecdote - Amazon editors]

Martin's PhD is actually in computers and education - not 'pure philosophy' - a fact that has often led to him being sneered at in philosophy circles, and the most-important-job-that-he-never-got was to be head of the UK's quango responsible for implanting information technology into schools.. He was invited to the organisation's headquarters for interview with a shortlist of one - and asked his research influenced his view of the use of computers in school. Naturally the questioners expected him to paint a very rosy picture, but being not only honest but a little contrarian, Martin instead described how in school after school that he had visited, he had seen computers reducing creativity, stifling learning and generally being very badly used.The moral of the tale? Honesty is rarely the best policy.

He is also the editor of THE PHILOSOPHER, a journal founded in 1923, which counts some of the best known names in Twentieth Century philosophy amongst its contributors. His editorial strategy is to allow as wide a range of ideas as possible a forum in the Journal, and this often prints papers by non-specialists with unusual and original ideas. He is currently based in Normandy, France, but travels often to the US and UK.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Martin Cohen who is the editor of "The Philosopher," which is the esteemed Journal of the Philosophical Society of England, has a little fun with the dignity of philosophy and philosophers in this ad hominem approach to those wacky lovers of wisdom. He begins with Socrates about whom little is really known, except that he was ugly and could stand in one spot nearly motionless for hours at a time, and finishes up with Jacques Derrida who desperately needs to be deconstructed and is. In-between most of the glitterati of the pantheon of rationality are caught, as it were, with their pants down around their knees.

The damnable thing about this delicious book is how sobering it is. Take the egos of Plato, Descartes, Hume, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, et al. and you'll get an edifice taller than Shelley's fallen statue of Ozymandias thus making it clear that the Bible (or at least Ecclesiastes) has it right that even among the philosophers, all is vanity! Certainly Hume had it right when he declared that reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions even among those supposedly most removed from the call of the flesh. Indeed, what I think Cohen has demonstrated here is just how wrong Plato was in thinking that philosophers ought to rule. Let's hear it for Sarah Palin! Well, maybe that is going a bit too far, although she has done a great job of upstaging Paris Hilton. But I digress.

Nonetheless, Cohen assures us that his purpose is the "reinvigoration of philosophy, not its destruction." (p. xi) Meanwhile we are reminded that Plato's Republic is a fascist state where music and poetry are banned, where sex is for procreation only, and where women are chattel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Quilab on February 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
The book purports to offer an alternative account of philosophers who share our human foibles and frailties. One commentator accuses Cohen of plagiarizing an article on Hume, which I haven't checked yet. After a cursory reading I found some glaring factual mistakes which could have been easily corrected by the Blackwell editors IF they know a bit of history or care about accuracies. One error found on the section on Thomas of Aquinas, page 61 reads: "In 1879, at the Council of Trent .... it was Thomas' writings that they turned to, alongside with the bible." The council of Trent took place in the 16th century. The first Vatican Council was around 1869-1870. Another error is on Heidegger on page 222: "He both studied and taught theology at the archbishopric of Freiburg". Fact is, Heidegger studied theology, but changed his course to philosophy. He did not teach theology in Freiburg. Cohen could have easily consulted google or wikipedia to check his facts. Otherwise, the book is a light, chuckle-filled reading.
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Wonderful little book that helps me put some context/personality on philosophers out to my students ... I recommend it to any philosophy teacher
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By Charles on May 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is wonderful for any one who is needing to take a philosophy class. The copy that I recived looks newer than what it actualy is.
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Format: Paperback
This book is entertaining in a gossipy way, since Cohen aims to highlight the faults and foibles of famous philosophers, thus bringing them back down to earth and showing that they were all 'human, all too human'. In the process, he does summarize many of their key ideas (or contributions, if you consider them such), but the emphasis remains on exposing the reader to things which wont be found in more polite and canonical philosophy literature. Perhaps Cohen goes too far in that direction, producing as much imbalance as he tries to correct, but the book is still an interesting and useful addition to the philosophy literature. Personally, I found it fun and am glad that I made a pass through it, though it's not the kind of book I see myself returning to again and again.
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