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The Philosopher's Diet: How to Lose Weight & Change the World (Nonpareil Book, 81) [Paperback]

Richard A. Watson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 1999 1567920845 978-1567920840 Revised
This toothsome classic takes on the combined challenges of discovering the meaning of the universe and eliminating fat at the same time. Its topic sentence contains a promise that should sell millions: "In this book, I tell how to take weight off and keep it off." He doesn't stop there, but continues, "The book also embodies a philosophy of life. The weight program is the content of the book, the philosophy of life is its form." If Descartes had sat down to write a treatise on losing weight as a metaphor for maintaining discipline amidst life's vicissitudes, it would have read much like this.



Clearly, Mr. Watson has not written a low-fat, new-age, easy-fix solution for the weight challenged. After all, losing weight is hard work. But for our money, it is the most erudite, fascinating, and eccentric book ever written on the subject of weight control, a combination of common sense (driven by human experience), Cartesian philosophy, and the presumption that understanding the mysteries of weight loss and the universe are somehow compatible, even sympathetic, ambitions.



The author is (of course) a professional philosopher, and this extraordinary exegesis is at once a moral manifesto, a philosophical discourse, and a practical manual (although the chapter on "How to Live" and "How to Die" take it a few steps beyond the ordinary). We love this book for its humor, its iconoclasm, and its weird and wacky mixture of high seriousness and low humor. Read it. Even if you're not overweight, it's a book to treasure.

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Product Details

  • Series: Nonpareil Book, 81 (Book 81)
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; Revised edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567920845
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567920840
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Watson taught philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis for forty years. He is known for innovative work in Early Modern Philosophy: THE BREAKDOWN OF CARTESIAN METAPHYSICS (Hackett Publishing Company) and REPRESENTATIONAL IDEAS FROM PLATO TO PATRICIA CHURCHLAND (Kluwer Academic Publishers); and in Environmental Ethics and Philosophy of Geology. He is the author of three novels on the theme of obsession: UNDER PLOWMAN'S FLOOR (hb Zepyrus Press, pb Cave Books), THE RUNNER (hb Copple House Books, pb Cave Books) and NIAGARA (Coffee House Press), which is about the first man to walk across the Falls on a wire, and the first person (a woman) to go over the Falls in a barrel.

For more than fifty years he explored caves in the Mammoth Cave region, and with Roger W. Brucker he is the author of THE LONGEST CAVE (hb Alfred A. Knopf, pb Southern Illinois University Press), which has never been out of print since it was first published in 1976. He and Roger contend that it will never be out of print so long as people read books of adventure.

THE PHILOSOPHER'S DIET: HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT AND CHANGE THE WORLD (hb Atlantic Monthly Press, pb David R. Godine) has been translated into nine languages. THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEMISE: LEARNING FRENCH (hb University of Missouri Press, pb David R. Godine) has been translated into Italian. The French translation of NIAGARA (Coffee House Press) was featured at the Saint-Malo Etonnants Voyageurs Festival International du Livre in 1997, where it won a translation award. COGITO, ERGO SUM: THE LIFE OF RENE DESCARTES (hb & pb revised 2nd ed. David R. Godine) was chosen by the New York Public library as one of "25 Books to Remember from 2002."

William H. Gass characterizes Watson's writing as genere-busting, because he treats serious philosophical themes in uncoventional ways.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars weight loss, common sense, and taking charge of your life December 16, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is so much to love about this little gem. The author speaks to you like a curmudgeonly uncle who takes you seriously enough not to coddle you or offer you comforting excuses. You want to lose weight? Fine. It's going to be the hardest thing you've ever done, but here's how you go about it. While everyone else is counting calories and grams of this and that, he cuts straight to the point: cut calories (900 may be too few for some people, but he gets your attention with the dramatically low figure) and exercise (again, 4 miles in 30 minutes may be a bit much to ask for some of us penguins, but he doesn't set the bar too low to be a challenge). His voice, while caring, is uncompromising. He is not sympathetic in the cloying manner of many self-help gurus, but in the manner of a teacher who is confident that you can do what you set out to do - as he has - and if you don't succeed, it's because you don't really want to. Some people have medical conditions that may contribute to weight gain, and his simple approach does not address those complexities. I think the author would suggest that you know enough to take care of yourself, which is what this is all about anyway. He removes the weight loss/diet genre from the gnostic realm of medical professionals, and returns it to the accessible realm of common sense, where it belongs. The book is a metaphor for how you can take charge of your own life, give meaning to your own life, without waiting for someone with credentials to tell you you're doing it all wrong if you don't do it his/her way. If you're looking for more complexity, you may be looking for a program that's so difficult to follow that it comes with its own built-in excuses. You won't find excuses here, but encouragement and prodding. Read more ›
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Might change your life - it's up to you September 6, 2000
Format:Paperback
Watson presents a simple formula for long term weight loss along with the philosophical argument for why this is a worthy aim. A quite inventive concept that made a real impact on me. I doubt that I read much here that I didn't already know about the fundamentals of exercise/weight loss/nutrition/eating habits. Let's face it, we all know what is and isn't good for us. But this book coupled the simple rules of weight loss to the all important WHY to make the life change needed to allow us to lose excess pounds and keep them off.
Eat less - more healthy food - exercise more - I know all this. yet as I sit here today there is some reason I haven't changed my habits. The Philosopher's Diet did an excellent job of rationalizing why I should act differently.
Bottom line - this book has encouraged me to get and stay in the shape I desire much more than anything else I've run across, probably because it challenges the reader to take the road less traveled, and I like a challenge.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ONLY diet book you may ever need June 18, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
How many diet books have you read which also have sections on Sex and How to Live? Well, this one does and it is written in a no-nonsense fashion but with plenty of humor too. The author pulls no punches as he shares both his secrets for weight control and living well. This may be one of the most eccentric books you'll ever read, full of philosophical musics and random digressions, but it could also be the key to successful and long-term weight loss. Plus there is a killer recipe for bran muffins that not only taste good but provide plenty of fiber (another key to successful weight loss).
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought February 29, 2000
Format:Paperback
This book might make you laugh, may make you angry, will definitely make you think. The author states things boldly but with enough humor to soften the blow. One of the questions he poses: is it immoral to overeat in a world where many people are hungry? (Read the book for the answer) He challenges you to change the way you live your life and look at and respond to the world. If along the way you lose weight it's an added benefit--but the gift he has given with this book is much better than just weight loss.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Losing weight and changing the world... June 5, 2002
Format:Paperback
Richard Watson, a philosophy professor, is opinionated enough for all of us - he will tell us how to lose weight, how to exercise more, and how to be happy and all in a very slim paperback of 109 pages. The writing is very amusing and the author will make you laugh. Basically, however, is does admit that losing weight is very, very hard and this is a refreshing change from all of the diet books that say do this and do that and you will be thin and happy. Professor Watson's diet is to stick to 900 calories a day until the day you've lost all the weight you want to lose - stick to it - whether it takes 10 months or 10 years. After you lose the weight - start running - every day. This book is no different from other books in the message - eat less, exercise more - but the writing is funny, clever and charming and should be read as humor rather than as a basis for life change.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laughs abound in this "diet" book August 15, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Watson kept me in stitches throughout most of his philosophical musings on why so many of us overeat and don't exercise. I loved his lighthearted approach, which made palatable his deeper message about how to jumpstart your willpower--not just for dieting but for "changing the world."
Don't look here for any secret tips on losing weight--we all know that the only way to do that is eat less and exercise. But if you want to be inspired and motivated to change the way you live, read on. It's an enjoyable, quick read that I've devoured several times and shared with friends.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Philosopher's Diet
This book is key to the success of the so called Obamacare. It is GREAT. It needs to be available for audio playing AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Cape Res
1.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly bad book!
Illogical, rambling, unscientific, and 25 years out of date - and that's just to start! His oversimplified, "one size fits all advice" - to eat 900 calories a day, and run four... Read more
Published on May 21, 2012 by P. H. Warren
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Commentary on Living Deliberately
The reviews here show either disdain or love for this slim little volume, and I'm guessing that its critics may have felt misled by its title. Read more
Published on March 29, 2012 by Carol DeChant
5.0 out of 5 stars It's real--and direct
I love this book! It's a no nonsense approach to changing your life, be it through dieting or something else. Read more
Published on November 17, 2011 by Dr. Trish
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting to the gut of the problem
I think this is a profound book. It tries to address the fundamental issue behind changing who we are. Read more
Published on October 5, 2008 by Will Hunting
1.0 out of 5 stars The Philosopher's Diet
This book was the biggest waste of time. I didn't expect a traditional weight-loss book, but I did expect some insight into weight loss or philosophical principles. Read more
Published on March 2, 2008 by Anita M.
4.0 out of 5 stars Ahhh-the muffins!
I first read this several years ago, and instantly liked its unabashed quirkiness. Yes, 900 calories a day is probably not healthy, but the message to eat less and move more is... Read more
Published on October 28, 2007 by cinderella
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a fun book.......more helpful than most diet books!!
What an enjoyable book. This may be helpful to both lighthearted (myself) dieters as well as those more serious ones. Thanks to Mr. Read more
Published on September 16, 2006 by R. Ruffner
5.0 out of 5 stars The Philosophy of Personal Change
Do not buy this book expecting a regular diet/nutrition book! Rather buy this book if you are interested in an intelligent writer's musings on personal change interspersed with... Read more
Published on July 3, 2006 by W. A. Carpenter
5.0 out of 5 stars Something different to change your viewpoint
If you've been falling on and off the diet and exercise wagon for awhile now, you may be beginning to realize that the problem isn't your plan, but your ability to stick to it -... Read more
Published on December 22, 2003 by H. Cunningham
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