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Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life Paperback – December 4, 2006
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Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"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
Top Customer Reviews
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
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?Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent defense of Spirituality for those who are Religious SkepticsPublished 5 months ago by Roland R. Kratzner
A few years ago, I left a religion that no longer held meaning for me. I had tried for years to overcome my doubts, but in the end found them insurmountable. Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by Laurence Devlin
Robert Solomon, who unfortunately passed away in 2007, was best known for his promotion and clear explanation of existentialist philosophy. Read morePublished on November 29, 2008 by Brian Burtt
I read it for a class i took, but it is really interesting. It is difficult reading and very intellectual. Read morePublished on August 19, 2008 by Boredmp
In Spirituality for the Skeptic, as in several of his other books, Robert Solomon laments what he sees as philosophy's relinquishment of wisdom and the consequent hijacking of... Read morePublished on July 11, 2008 by Kerry Walters
This book was really a level above what I like to read casually - not a lot of potential for skimming or chapter highlighting. Read morePublished on June 23, 2008 by Bill Reid