Philosophy as it is frequently taught in classrooms bears little relation to the impassioned and immensely practical search for self-knowledge conducted by not only its ancient avatars but also by men and woman who seek after truth today. In The Heart of the Philosophy, Jacob Needleman provides a "user's guide" for those who would take philosophy seriously enough to understand its life-transforming qualities.
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At the heart of this book about the heart of philosophy is a vision of the tranformative potential of ideas. Needleman distinguishes between genuine philosophical ideas (e.g. the kinds of ideas Socrates inquired about, like Reality and Beauty) and "mere concepts" (i.e. discursive tools, with which we carve up the world). The latter are essential to our day to day practical life, but the former (when presented properly, which is to say Socratically) have the potential to interrupt and transform our habitual ways of being and seeing. To be in the grip of ideas is to experience, according to Needleman, an eros that amounts to both (1) a recognition of the inadequacy and finitude of our concepts, and (2) a passionate drive to challenge and question our everyday life and become better, more beautiful in our thinking and more excellent in our lives. It is an exciting book, that reminded this reader at least of the bewildering enchantment that I felt when I first encountered philosophy...
Jacob Needleman is not a bureaucratic philosopher. His teachings are about an intense search for a meaningful life. In this book he talks about some intense experiences in his own life and also with students and their parents. He also presents a very personal overview of occidental philosophy.
Many philosophy teachers of our days are more concerned about formalities and structures of thought. Past philosophies are studied as dead bodies: cut into pieces, dissolved with chemicals, watched through microscopes.
I have already used this book in philosophy seminars for management students, at the University of Campinas, here in Brasil (there is a Portuguese translation). The response was enthusiastic!
If you want to find more than formalism in philosophy, you will probably enjoy this book.
Without much background in philosophy selected this book to help explain to me philosophy and how philosophy can help shape our lives. Book is easy to read and understand although the questions raised are not always answerable they do make you think about mankinds existence and your own. Highly recommend this book.
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