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The Examined Life: Readings from Western Philosophers from Plato to Kant Hardcover – February 22, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

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
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Reference; 1 edition (February 22, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375405011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375405013
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,947,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Chin-Tser Huang on May 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book presents a solid collection of 35 excerpts from important Western philosophers ranging from as early as Plato to as modern as Feyerabend. However, it is not where the value of this book lies. The contribution of the book is that the editor categorized those maginificent works into six disciplines, and arranged an introductory essay in front of each section. All the essays are well-written and provide the reader with an examination of the importance of and the relationship between each work. They are really the compass in the labyrinth of Western philosophy.
A small flaw of the book is that the editor failed to add the years of the birth and death of each philosopher. But this is not a very serious problem to a good book.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It has been said that the unexamined life is not worth living, with this said it is crucial that as much evidence as possible be gathered to enable a person to possess a more holistic view of life and of values. The book The Examined Life provides a through introduction to many facets of philosophy, both classical and modern, and provides ample information for the individual reader to begin examiming his own life and the state of his soul. From Plato's scathing and revolutionary thoughts on democracy and its pitfalls, to Kant's pursuit of wisdom and reason, this book offers thoughts and ideals still relevant in today's society.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The title of this new book on philosophy, T'he Examined Life: Readings from Western Philosophy from Plato to Kant' by Stanley Rosen, calls to mind that basic underpinning and justification for philosophy: the unexamined life is not worth living.
This book is divided into six main parts, which reflect the traditional subdivisions of philosophy: social and political philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of art and culture, metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. Each section is introduced by a philosopher who has made a study of that particular branch; the source texts reflect a small but typical collection in each field from major philosophers which reflect a cross-section of philosophical development.
Rosen states, 'This is not a dictionary or an encyclopedia but an attempt to give a fair portrait of the aforementioned variety in a way that encourages the reader to philosophise, not to look up famous names or definitions of technical terms. Facts about philosophy are worthless, except to the philosopher. And we are all philosophers by nature.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Yanni on May 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you enjoy philosophy, this book is doubtless an excellent resource, including excerpts of the works of many famous philosophers from the last 3000 years or so.
It is NOT, however, a useful introductory work that is comprehensible to the novice interested in gaining an insight into the wisdom of the ages; the selections were made with the intention of giving a broad variety of thoughts, rather than on choosing the most basic, accessible philosophic concepts. Therefore, much of what is contained in this book is, to one not already schooled in the jargon of philosophy, pretty near impenetrable, and much of what isn't impenetrable seems pretty pointless to someone not fascinated by the subject.
There were a few excerpts that were both readable and interesting; the section from Ayala's "The Concept of Biological Progress" was one, as to a lesser extent were both of the excerpts of Poincare's works, and a few others. But by and large, this book is very slow going for anyone not well-versed in the subject already; do NOT consider it a primer.
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