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The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness Hardcover – April 7, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; First Edition edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605980331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605980331
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“The wolf . . . is the clearing in the human soul. The wolf uncovers what is hidden.” A philosophy professor and author (Body Language, 2006), Rowlands grew up with dogs, big dogs, so when he saw an advertisement for wolf cubs, he went to have a look. When he saw the soft, fluffy cubs and their imposing parents, he took one home that day. Since his new pup, called Brenin, could not be at home alone without leaving utter destruction in his wake, Rowlands begain to take him everywhere. By training the wolf to take his lead, Rowlands taught Brenin how to be comfortable with all sorts of circumstances. Their remarkable closeness, both physical and mental, led to this book—a sort of autobiography mixed with wolf philosophy, human philosophy, and an exploration of the bonds between human and animal. Discussing what humans can learn from wolves, Rowlands elevates the run-of-the-mill memoir about life with an exotic pet into something more, a treatise on the meaning of true companionship. This one moves well beyond the Rascal mode. --Nancy Bent


“Not everyone can blend wildlife lore and Wittgenstein in an entertaining manner, but Rowlands has no trouble. Delightful and eye-opening.” (Connie Ogle - Miami Herald)

“A snarly misanthrope, Rowlands recovered his own humanity by loving a noble beast and (with a little help from Aristotle, Descartes, and Jack Daniel's) learning to howl at the moon.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

“This moving account will be recognized as a seminal work of philosophy that forces us to re-evaluate our view of the human animal.” (John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus)

“One of the most intense reading experiences of my life. It is a profound and beautiful book.” (Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book by Rowlands is exactly the opposite.
Book Fiend
I had this book sitting on my shelf for quite a while and when I started reading it, I was ready to put it away in any moment.
I read the hard cover release of this book about four years ago and wanted the Kindle version for a friend.
Robert H. Feuchter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By KP on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There are few books which are just a pleasure to read on every page. This was one of them.

The author instructively weaves episodes from his life with his wolf, Brenin, around philosophical arguments he makes to illustrate his insightful points about life. The book obviously isn't hardcore philosophy writing; but even as a philosophy major I found myself intrigued by many of the thought-provoking points the author made. I particularly liked his thoughts about time, and his hypothesis that dogs and wolves experience time as moments, rather than as future-oriented like we do. It is also refreshing to read someone who critically challenges humanity's smug claim to superiority over all else in the universe.

Coincidentally, while I was in the middle of this book, my own dog of 8 years became suddenly ill and died a few days later. We were very close, but did not spend nearly enough time together (I was away at college most of the time). She might have been the most generous-hearted creature I've ever known. I identified very closely with the author's grief at loosing so magnanimous a friend as Brenin. It makes me wonder whether it is worth it to get to know creatures of this caliber when it hurts so much when they are gone.

I don't ever cry reading books (or watching movies). But I cried when Brenin died.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By W. V. Buckley on August 5, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Once I starting reading The Philosopher and the Wolf I was almost sure I wouldn't like it and would have to force myself to wade through it if I ever intended to get to the end. Having read a number of books on wolves, Rowlands' book challenged what I had come to believe: wolf-keeping should be left to the professionals; never allow a wolf off a leash in a city; wolf owners and their "pets" are tragedies waiting to happen, etc.

But a funny thing happened about midway through the book. Rowlands and Brenin won me over with their special bond. Oh sure, there were still times when Rowlands' actions made me roll my eyes and wonder 'what the hell were you thinking?' But beneath it all, this is a story about two very different souls who have much to teach each other - and us. Or maybe, as a middle-aged man and a bit of a misanthrope myself, I could just relate to Rowlands and his bond with Brenin which seems so close to my bond with my more conventional four-legged family.

I suppose I could still quibble about how I'd rather see wolves running free in their natural environment rather than turned into pets, but once I got over my prejudices it made for fascinating reading. I know of no other book where you can find an account of a wolf tearing up an apartment only a few lines away from philosophical musings on time and life's meaning. But being a misanthrope myself I feel obligated to criticize Rowlands for something; thus let me state unequivocally that his writing style can get a bit pedantic when he starts loading up his sentences with too many independent clauses.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A fellow with a keyboard on April 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
I thought I was taking a big risk when I picked up this book. Judging by the cover, I thought it would be a giant hokey disappointment like so many other books I've picked up from the library. It's extremely hard to write about animals (or people) you love without the reader looking at you like you are a pathetic heap of sentimentality. I didn't expect an academic -- and still more, a *philosopher* -- to be able to pull off the near-impossible.

Not only was the book not disappointing, it is one of the most influential books I've read. The problem with most philosophy is that its cold abstraction has no hope of reaching our nerve endings, and so no hope of touching us in any real or lasting way. Rowlands understands this:

"With the possible exception of the higher reaches of pure mathematics or theoretical physics, one can scarcely imagine anything more inhuman than philosophy. Its worship of logic in all its cold, crystalline purity; its determination to stride the bleak and icy mountaintops of theory and abstraction: to be a philosopher is to be existentially deracinated. Philosophers should be offered condolences rather than encouragement."

Rowlands teaches -- really teaches, not just lectures -- philosophy's most important lessons through Brenin the wolf. What matters is not that Brenin was a wolf -- there is nothing particularly special about the qualities of a wolf that make this book meaningful. What matters is that Rowlands loved Brenin.

And that is why I offer one caution: You probably need to have loved an animal for this book to work for you. I don't just mean had a pet that inhabited the same space; I mean had an animal that was less a pet and more a brother. It will be hard to relate to Rowlands's intense emotions unless you've felt this.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Cosmoetica on July 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Rowlands dismisses mere happiness as an end unto itself, that purpose- especially self-purpose- has a greater place, and uses the example of Sisyphus to demonstrate, for even were the gods to avail Sisyphus of the balm of enjoying his futile task of rolling his stone up his hill, that joy would still not be a thing worthy, in and of itself. It would be an absurdity, and even a cruelty inflicted by the gods. Rowlands argues for measurable objective success, not subjective joy derived, as what determines if something is good or not. Then he gets to his rub, that once a purpose is chosen and completed, there is no further meaning, and this point is one that Rowlands has addressed in other venues, but never seems to have tackled fully. To me, the answer is clear: one must choose a purpose that perpetuates itself beyond yourself, and the only things that do this are things that serve not the self, but others: art, science, medicine, public service. Purpose, therefore, can only avoid Rowlands' logical meaningless dead end if it is directed away from the self. In this way, only in altruism can one selfishly gain a deeper sense of satisfaction. And this can only be achieved, as most things are, via personal volition, willing meaning from the ether, so to speak. Rowlands wraps up his book with the conclusion that one's own personal meaning thus comes from those few moments that one is at one's best.Read more ›
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