- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (July 29, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0142003131
- ISBN-13: 978-0142003138
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Philosopher and Le Monde columnist Droit's strange and delightful little volume explores some of the biggest questions in philosophy with exercises instead of terminology-laden tracts, by encouraging readers to discover the ways in which small or familiar acts-fasting, prowling, playing, telling a stranger she's beautiful-can become "the starting point for that astonishment which gives rise to philosophy." Each of the 101 exercises is carefully, even lovingly explained, with duration, necessary props and intended effect listed first. Exercise #31, for example, instructs readers to "Watch dust in the sun": it should take about 15 minutes, a room and sunlight are needed, and its effect is "reassuring." When a ray of sunlight enters a dark room, an "invisible world" of sparkling dust reveals itself-a symbol of the "stratum of existence that is both invisible and present" always. There are other worlds within ours, Droit reminds us, worlds that we might be able to see with only a metaphoric readjustment of shutters. There are exercises to calm, to disorient, to humanize, to displace; for instance, listening to shortwave radio at night, Droit writes, will help readers realize that "perpetually around you, woven into the air...are these hundreds of voices murmuring, in dozens of unknown or unrecognizable languages, of which you know nothing, expect that they spread an obscure and changing human crust, unendingly, over everything." Already a bestseller in Europe, this volume should appeal to anyone who has ever asked questions about perception or identity, or wanted a new way to see the world and the self.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Roger-Pol Droit was born in Paris in 1949 and is a philosopher, a researcher at the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique, and a columnist for the French daily newspaper Le Monde. He is the author of La Compagnie des Philosophes and Astonish Yourself.
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Experts of the mind and human behaviour have proposed that most of us carry on throughout our lives on automatic pilot. Because of habit, daily routine and repetition, we inadvertently create mental machinery to do our tasks without too much effort. As we grow older, too, our perceptions of the world have a tendency to dull, our opinions on matters political and otherwise refuse to see other perspectives, we are less inclined to learn new things, in other words, we become set in our ways. As the old saying goes: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". This text provides us with some absurd and interesting exercises designed to break down our mental machinery, shake up our preconceived notions of the world, our fixed ideas, and perhaps see the world from a clean slate. In some cases, as the title suggests, the outcomes can be astonishing.
For example, number 15, "Walk in the Dark". The duration should only be a few minutes and the effect is that uncomfortable sensation of disorientation. Interestingly, the world actually changes when we attempt to orient ourselves in pitch-black conditions. We cannot depend on the light and must use our other senses to move around. This exercise hones your other senses, changing your views on "reality" and pushes you to move into present time.
One of the exercises that I found most rewarding is number 67, "Watch someone Sleeping". Having been with my partner for some years now, I believed I knew everything about her from her eyebrows to that tiny mole on her left shoulder. Time and familiarity has a tendency to make one take for granted those things and people that we depend on the most. Watching her sleep, listening to her slow and rhythmic breathing, suddenly I perceive a kind of "innocence", a face that somehow appears different, more beautiful, much less familiar. I no longer take her for granted because I've seen her in a different way.
A more banal exercise, and one most of us have experienced at one point or another is number 77, "Listen to your own voice". More often than not, our response is, "That doesn't sound like me!" If you are not used to hearing yourself, it can be a dislocating experience, which is the point. The exercise tends to impose an objective point of view on us, hearing yourself as possibly others see or hear you. It breaks up our preconceived notions, providing a fresh look at "I".
As the author has stated, this book is about entertainment. These exercises can be fun, however, they also can shift your awareness slightly, creating astonishing feelings, seeing the world from different points of view.
To my way of thinking, this can only be worthwhile.