Perhaps you haven't the time for a cover-to-cover read of Plato's Republic, Pascal's Pensées, and Machiavelli's The Prince, let alone Aristotle's Politics, Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, and Maimondides' Guide for the Perplexed. You're familiar with the names Schiller, Kant, and Hobbes, but you haven't actually gotten around to reading their works. But that doesn't mean you wouldn't like to sample the writings of the sages, be conversant with their philosophical styles, and know what they have to say. Towards that end, Stanley Rosen has done a great service for the scholarly minded but time-challenged seekers of wisdom.
The Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, the Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus at Penn State University, and a past president of the Metaphysical Society of America, Rosen is eminently versed in all things philosophical, and as such he's already written 13 books, including Hermeneutics as Politics, The Question of Being, and Plato's Symposium. The Examined Life, however, is unusual in that it's geared towards the amateur scholar of philosophy. Rosen and a team of distinguished scholars selected 35 excerpts from 23 of the Western world's great philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, Descartes and Rousseau, Hegel and Nietzsche, Kant and Wittgenstein. He then arranged the excerpts by discipline: "Social and Political Philosophy," "Philosophy of Religion," "Philosophy of Art and Culture," "Metaphysics," "Epistemology," and "Philosophy of Science." And for each section, an expert editor has written a provocative introduction offering insight and perspective into the philosophers' works. Rosen writes, "My intention has been to introduce the intelligent nonspecialist to the universality, but also to the urgency, of philosophy." If you seek such an introduction to Western philosophy, or a recap of what you learned years ago but have long since forgotten, Rosen's anthology is a thoughtful, readable, and well-organized place to start. --Stephanie Gold
From Library Journal
This is an oddly mistitled but useful collection. While more than a third of the selections are from philosophers after Kant, at least a third of the material has nothing directly to do with the "examined life." But the collection is worthwhile because the material from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Pascal, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Hegel is carefully chosen and includes introductions by genuinely distinguished authors, among them Jaakko Hintikka, Gian-Carlo Rota, and William Desmond. The philosophers after Kant are worthy: Dewey, Wittgenstein, Husserl, and Adorno. There is also a splendid essay on mathematics and logic by Stephen Simpson. Oddly, however, no medieval philosopher rates inclusion, and, apart from Simpson and Paul Feyerabend, only Dewey represents American philosophy. Rosen (Metaphysics in Ordinary Language, LJ 5/15/99) is Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, yet Bowne, the father of American personalism, who surely made a massive contribution to the idea of the "examined life," isn't here. Mainly for philosophy students, this also makes a handy reference work for small general collections.DLeslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa
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