Sunday, January 15, 2012

Philosophical Questions

Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers
Why Is There Something Rather 
Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers 

"I want to talk about the thought of great philosophers, not about their lives,"
- from the introduction, p x.

This is a small book both in number of pages and height - it is only six and a quarter inches tall. But within this small frame Leszek Kolakowski packs a lot of philosophy. It is organized by philosopher from ancient to modern and for each section of about ten pages the book focuses upon one key idea associated with the philosopher being discussed. As Kolakowski says in the introduction: "I do not intend to 'summarize' Plato, Descartes or Husserl: that would be an absurd ambition." [at least within the confines of a small volume like this] "I would like, rather, to approach these great philosophers by concentrating on one idea in the thought of each--an important idea, an idea that was fundamental to his philosophical construction, but also one that we can still understand today; an idea that touches a chord in us, rather than being simply a bit of historical information."
Because of this approach and his deep understanding of the philosophers presented the book is valuable as a catalyst for the thought of the reader, whether one has read deeply in philosophy or not. The fundamental questions raised may spur further reading and thought about these issues. One disappointment is the lack of a bibliography, but there are references in the text to specific works of philosophers which can be used to search out further texts for reading. Those who are already familiar with the works of these thinkers will find this book a refreshing challenge to remember and rethink some key ideas.

Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? by Leszek Kolakowski. Basic Books, NY. 2007


Parrish Lantern said...

Not really read deeply any philosophy for a number of years, the last time was the mid 90's when I worked my way through Nietzsche (Zarathusta my Favourite)but recently & purely out of curiosity (& the fact it was a 99p daily deal)I purchased Breakfast with Socrates, which is "subtitled A Philosophy of Everyday Life, former Oxford Fellow Robert Roland Smith takes various elements of a 'typical' day and provides insight into what an eclectic collection of thinkers might have to offer to make these mundane routines more interesting. After all, as Socrates declared 'the unexamined life is not worth living'."

James said...

Your comment took me by surprise as the ink was barely dry on my post when, as I turned to my email account, I found your missive. Thanks for the comment - and I share your opinion of Zarathustra. In fact my current reading course at U of Chicago is focused on that work and, separately, Maimonides. While I have enjoyed reading Plato's Dialogues, my favorite favorites include Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations