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Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life Paperback – December 4, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Solomon (business and philosophy, Univ. of Texas, Austin; A Passion for Wisdom) has no sympathy for New Age spirituality or any family heritage of traditional religious practice. Nevertheless, he has also grown weary of academic philosophy's tendency toward "clever paradox and puzzle-solving" and "often cynical obscurantism." "Philosophy," he reminds us, "is a spiritual practice." He looks to philosophy itself, especially the work of Hegel and Nietzsche, to provide the tools to pursue a naturalized spirituality, spirituality as "the thoughtful love of life." Separate chapters address thoughtful spirituality as characterized by passion, cosmic trust, and rationality; as facing up to tragedy, fate, and death; and as fostering transformation of the self. This is a warm and wise book. While Solomon does not begin to touch the historical riches of philosophy as spiritual practice (as in the pioneering work of Pierre Hadot), he does begin the important task of reconceiving contemporary philosophy as a passionate spirituality a spirituality for those skeptical of supernaturalism and authority-based religious claims. Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review


"Professor Solomon offers an approach to spirituality (and I think religion, and broader still the philosophy of religion) that many will find extremely attractive and timely.... Solomon treats this subject in a delicate fashion, one that will be the envy of experienced theologians and philosophers of religion."--G. Elijah Dann


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195312139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195312133
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.6 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book. NOT for the New Age "spirituality" group, but for intelligent, skeptical thinkers interested in the investigations of someone who knows Western philosophy well (and a little Eastern) who is asking how to live one's life. Solomon defines spirituality as "the thoughtful love of life" and then asks how we can practice it.
This is a book I go back to and reread periodically because it is so useful, and even inspirational. The "thoughtful love of life" certainly doesn't come naturally to me, but it's a valuable principle.
The last paragraph of the book says a lot:
"In many spiritual traditions, the purpose of life itself becomes the achievement of such transformation. For most people, the transformation of self may be nothing more than total immersion in a group and a tradition. But for those of us who enjoy the mixed blessing of seeing beyond all traditions and thus finding ourselves without an anchor in the world, spirituality is an arduous process, filled with doubts and misgivings, skeptical of glib formulations and platitudes, frustrated with the limitations of the personalities we have worked so hard to create over the course of a lifetime. But if the self to which spirituality and philosophy refers is nothing other than the everyday self, and neither is it just the everyday self, and a tremendous effort to discover or realize our better selves is what spirituality is all about. Spirituality is a process rather than the result." p. 140
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Format: Hardcover
I was a philosophy student for five semesters, sincerely (and naively) searching for truth and wisdom. I nearly completed the major before I just got tired of its irrelevance. Solomon nicely summed up my experience, "What had originally been conceived as the love of wisdom had become a tedious technical enterprise, appealing more to students with affective disorders than to those who were seeking the meaning of life." With such disappointment in the background, I looked forward to recovering a bit of enthusiasm for Western philosophy, to receiving a bit of its wisdom for my life, for my skeptical spirituality.

After reading the preface and introduction to this book on Amazon, I ordered it. I had high expectations. I wanted to see a professional, thoughtful philosopher apply insights from the Western philosophical tradition to the problems of spirituality for skeptics: the meaning of life in light of evolutionary psychology and physical cosmology, ethics without authorities, ritual and worship and wholeness in the emerging skeptical traditions, belonging and identity and coalition formation in a world of deadly technology.

I am sorry to say that's not what I got, and if that's what you want you'll be as disappointed as I was. He seems to have satisfied himself on such questions long before he encountered spirituality. He is not addressing them in any depth here.

Instead, this book is an apology for spirituality in academia, specifically in the discipline of philosophy. Solomon's project is to address the typical moderately liberal concerns of academia and academic philosophy in terms of spirituality. Essentially he's preoccupied with a terminological (cultural) problem: How can a self-respecting academic discuss spirituality. Isn't it just too trite?
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Format: Paperback
This is a great book, but try to avoid approaching it with any SPECIFIC expectations. If you're hoping for a bullet-proof philosophical argument, you'll be disappointed. If you're hoping for a "self help" book, you'll be incredibly disappointed. But if you've struggled with your own "spirituality" or lack thereof, and if you feel like morality and deep meaning are still possible without positing a dogmatic "God," then read this book. I call it "almost" revolutionary because I think it could eventually be the beginnings of a new way to think about spirituality. But it's not a manifesto for spiritual revolution; nor is it intended to be. It's a collection of ideas.

Even if you believe in, say, a Judeo-Christian God, this book is still worth a read. It's an interesting and important exercise to ponder which components of your religion are universally true regardless of the specific dogmas and scriptures unique to it.

As a final check to decide whether or not this book is worth your time: have ever felt deeply connected to something bigger, like "nature" or maybe "community," even in the absence of a belief in God? You're not alone, and Robert Solomon has some very interesting ideas to discuss with you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read Robert Solomon's Spirituality for the Skeptic for a book club meeting, and I don't buy it (the argument, not the book). Solomon is a thoughtful philosopher, his intentions are good, and his arguments are sound. But I still don't buy it.

The goal of the book is to sketch a broader view of "spirituality," one that is not intrinsically religious or mystical, and to include secular skeptics (or, as we more often call ourselves, secular humanists) in it. There are several problems with this project, not the least of which is that the term "spiritual" is so intertwined with religion and mysticism that it is simply hopeless to try to rescue it.

Solomon acknowledges in the preface to the book that he finds "most of what passe[s] as spirituality something of a sham, fueled by pretension and dominated by hypocrisy." Here here, brother. Nonetheless he enlists some of the big guns of philosophy, particularly Hegel and Nietzsche, to make the point that there are more genuine and productive ways to conceive of spirituality. Solomon wishes to "naturalize" spirituality starting from the standpoint that, in his words, "if spirituality means anything it means thoughtfulness" (p. 5). By this he seems to suggest that to be spiritual is to think about and appreciate the world as it is (as opposed to as how one wishes it to be). Spirituality in this sense is not just scientific or even philosophical inquiry -- though the two are necessary components of it -- but includes an aesthetic sense as well. So far so good, but why use the word "spiritual," which immediately conjures up thoughts of, well, spirits? This is where I begin to lose Solomon (and it happens pretty early in the book).

For instance, the author says that forgiveness plays a role in spirituality.
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