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The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone Hardcover – April 3, 2014
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*Starred Review* As a freshman in college, Samuelson fought with classmates over whether philosophy was essential for a meaningful life. Fortunately, he’s still fighting. Defying the widespread perception of philosophy as an academic specialty, Samuelson urges readers to join him in a humanizing intellectual adventure, one that begins with Socrates’ frank profession of ignorance. Awakened to a sense of wonder at the mysteriousness of human experience, readers interrogate alternate forms of happiness, reflect on the perilous freedom in suicide, ponder the origins of evil—even examine the reasons for boredom. Even the simple act of eating an apple yields surprising new meaning under the philosophic gaze. Though Samuelson regards radical doubt as an essential step toward truth, he pushes beyond skepticism, exploring the paradoxes of Christian faith with Pascal, tasting the ecstasy of Sufi mysticism with al-Ghazali. Predictably, Samuelson takes titans such as Aristotle, Epictetus, Descartes, and Kant as guides for critical passages of his philosophic journey. Despite Plato’s misgivings about their influence, Samuelson also draws inspiration from poets. But perhaps no one teaches more than Samuelson’s own diverse college students—a wine-loving bicyclist, a sleep-deprived housewife, a monk-faced factory worker. These seemingly ordinary people underscore the most important lesson of all: philosophy matters for everyone. --Bryce Christensen
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The title cites Samuelson's philosophical hero, William James (brother to novelist Henry), who held that "the deepest human life is everywhere, is eternal."
Through compelling anecdotes from his community college classroom, Samuelson helps us come to appreciate what James meant throughout this readable, movingly insightful book.
Here's the full quotation from James:
"And there I rested on that day, with a sense of widening of vision, and with what it is surely fair to call an increase of religious insight into life. In God's eyes, the differences of social position, of intellect, of culture, of cleanliness, of dress, which different men exhibit, and all the other rarities and exceptions on which they so fantastically pin their pride, must be so small as, practically, quite to vanish; and all that should remain is the common fact that here we are, a countless multitude of vessels of life, each of us pent in to peculiar difficulties, with which we must severally struggle by using whatever of fortitude and goodness we can summon up. The exercise of the courage, patience, and kindness, must be the significant portion of the whole business; and the distinctions of position can only be a manner of diversifying the phenomenal surface upon which these underground virtues may manifest their effects. At this rate, the deepest human life is everywhere, is eternal."
This book reminded me most of Walden, where Thoreau engages us in his own reflections on how to live a meaningful life so that he can wake us up to the potential within our own. Samuelson does the same. By writing a book that is a meaningful reflection on how philosophy has influenced his life, Samuelson invites us to try it for ourselves.
On the second to last day of my philosophy class this semester I wrote the title of this book on the board and told my students that if the course had meant anything to them, they should buy it and use it as a springboard to continue their philosophical educations. Also, it just might change their life.
I love the way he uses real lives of people to answer the same paradoxes of the ancient philosophers
His book has really helped me during this time of transition in my life; Dad passed away, aunt passed away, Air Force Retirement..etc to name a few. Practical Socrates, Kant, Plato, Epictetus, Descatres, and Pascal to name a few
His book definitlely has reached the heights and the depths of Practical Philosophy and Questioning
Brilliant personal vignettes tied to the major problems of life.
All philosophy really does begin in wonder: "You will be good when you understand that the Happy are the least Happy" Seneca
Philosophy is a radical response to our way of life
"We will have reached the heights, once we know what it is that brings us Joy" Seneca
"Act well the given part, but to choose it belongs to Another " Epictetus (Enchiridion)
"The Joy of a wise man stands firm without interruption, at all times his thoughts are cheerful and quiet" Seneca
"A man's master is he who is able to confer or shun what that person seeks or despises" Epictetus
"If you wish to be loved-Love" Seneca
"Wealth may procure for man the pleasures of eating and drinking and other sensual pleasures, but it cannot confer freedom from sorrow, or cheerfulness of spirit" Plutarch
A terrific book-read a little, and then stop and think-the stars will become visible again
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Part 3 is called "Is Knowledge of God Possible?Read more