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The Philosophers: Their Lives and the Nature of their Thought Paperback – April 20, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0195059274 ISBN-10: 0195059271 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 20, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195059271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195059274
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,310,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The book is immensely stimulating, and the author...is prodigiously learned not merely in philosophy but in psychology."--The Economist

"Essential for anyone who proposes to 'understand'--or even to appreciate--the intensely personal product of every specific individual's needs, fears, and longings which make up the standard canon of philosophical works."*

"Essential for anyone who proposes to 'understand'--or even to appreciate--the intensely personal product of every specific individual's needs, fears, and longings which make up the standard canon of philosophical works....[Scharfstein] provides, on almost every page, a new way of thinking about philosophy and philosophers."--W.A. Herr, The Critic

"Fascinating reading."--Inquiry

About the Author

About the Author: Ben-Ami Scharfstein is Professor of Philosophy at Tel-Aviv University and author of Philosophy East/Philosophy West and many other books.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By B. Scharfstein on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It may have been only an odd mistake that led Amazon to invite me to review my own book, which was published 26 years ago, in 1980. Because I am often critical of my books, I am somewhat surprised by how much I continue to take pleasure in this one. I value it as a still uniquely detailed, sober, and yet imaginative argument meant to persuade--really persuade--philosophers and lovers of philosophy that it is unreasonable to interpret philosopohical views without considering the lives and emotions of the philosophers who created them. Most philosophers have had a stubborn but understandable prejudice against such an attempt, which they label, as if it were a fallacy, "psychologism." But a comparison of their lives and fortunes and misfortunes with their abstract thought shows how misled these philosophers have been. As I write toward the end of the book, "Neither art, philosophy, nor science alone is adequate to understand or express human experience. Life would be more intellectually rewarding if artists and scientists were were more effectively interested in philosophy, and philosophers more effectively in art and science."

Although excellent biographies of individual philosophers were published later than The Philosophers, the work I did on it was thoroughgoing,so it has not aged. And since I followed no current intellectual fashion, it has not gone out of fashion. I believe that the pleasure I took in writing my book is still infectious, and the care with which I developed my themes is still yields illuminatiion. Not without pride, I award my book the five stars I am sure is its due.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on September 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
While psycho-analyses of people is something I generally shy away from, Ben-Ami Sharfstein has completed a fascinating string of case-studies. What makes it interesting is that the "subjects" are the greatest philosophers who have ever lived.

Sharfstein begins with some general observations about the psychological welfare of philosophers in general. He then goes on to discuss some patterns that he finds in the different personas. He also discusses the nature of truth and methods of persuasion. This covers the first 123 pages.

After this elongated introduction, the author goes into each of the major modern philosophers in-turn, starting with Rene Descartes. Some of his favorites (Kant, Nietzsche) get 20+ pages devoted to them, while most of the personages get around 10 pages on their biography.

Nietzsche once said that one can tell a lot about the philosophy by the life of the philosopher. Scharfstein takes this to heart and briefly examines aspects of each individual's philosophy via the lens of their lives. He examines different aspects such as their childhoods (and the relationship they had w/their parents), their relationships with women as well as major life / traumatic events. All factor in to influencing how a philosopher thinks.

If you want a good book that deals with the psychological factors of philsophers, this is a great place to start. Sharfstein does not over-play his hand and I found his commentary to be insightful and reasonable. This is a very well thought-out book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book in the language it was first published in, Hebrew. I found it remarkable . It showed in a deeper way than any other research I had seen the connection between the lives of the philosophers and their thought.

I will give just one telling example. Scharfstein discovered that most of the great philosophers had lost at least one parent at a very early age. The need to think deeply about the world, to understand the meaning of it all, relates certainly to that early and great loss.

This work is illuminating throughout and recommended to any real lover of philosophy, of trying to understand the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard E. Noble VINE VOICE on August 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. The apologetic, defensive introduction was a bit long and a bit strained. But the idea that a philosopher's life has a direct relation to his philosophy should be a given. I am surprised that there are not several more works of this type. The author does a great job but even without his psychological analysis the facts exposed about the personal lives is worth the price of the book alone. If you are looking for a new way to peek an old interest in philosophy and the philosophers this is a great one. I don't know how I found this book but I am glad that I did.

Richard Edward Noble:

"Hobo-ing America: A Workingman's Tour of the U.S.A.."
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