Friday, March 10, 2006

Long lost philosophy

I'm feeling a need to read a little non-fiction before embarking on my next set of "great books" which include Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Catch-22, and 1984.

So, next up for me is Philosophy by Julian Baggini.

One of my few regrets in my life is that I didn't major in philosophy as an undergraduate at Wellesley. I was one of the most practical-minded 17-year olds to ever attend a liberal arts school and thought economics was the only rationale option if one wanted to go into business. But I had the pleasure of taking a single introductory philosophy course as a freshman and absolutely loved it.

I took one more philosophy class just before I graduated. And loved it as much as the first.

And ever since I look at philosophy as a road not-taken, but I've never done a thing about it. Other than look back with a bit of regret.

Well, it turns out that the father of one of the boys in my younger son's class is a philosophy professor. Of course, I was intrigued. So I asked him if he could please recommend a few books to me. Ones that I could handle given my total ignorance on the topic.

He did more than recommend a book. He actually gave me a book. I was surprised because I rarely even bump into him at school, but the next time I saw him, there he was, book in hand. How thoughtful is that?

Now, I feel ready to delve into it.

It's a thin book, 132 pages, and it discusses the most important works of Western philosophy. The jacket reads:

Designed for complete beginners (that would be me) it unlocks five classic texts by Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Sartre, and Russell. The main arguments of each work are vividly brought to life, along with a selection of major criticisms which will help you think about the question the positions presented.

Would it surprise if you if I said how much I'm looking forward to reading this? I've read the introduction so far, and am totally engrossed just by that. This may be the first step down a long ignored path.


A. Estella Sassypants said...

It sounds most excellent!!

And will this be your first go-round with Gatsby and Lolita?? Those are two of my all-time favorites so I hope you love them as much as I did ( re-read Gatsby at least once a year it seems).

7:24 PM  
Anita said...

Andi -

So far I'm really loving the philosophy text. I just find it fascinating that someone spent time truly trying to understand human nature and how they use logic to do that.

In terms of the "great books", this will be my third go round with Gatsby, but as you point out, that's one that you can read again and again so I'm looking forward to it. But first time reading Lolita!

3:56 AM  
Quillhill said...

Anita, I have been delving into philosophy a bit myself these days. In the bookstore I often play the Gatsby audiobook, and I still laugh at the funny parts and wince at the harsh parts and swoon (can men really do that?) at the poetic parts. Lolita is but a small sample of Nabokov's talent. Catch-22 is brilliant, a form of philosophy itself. Do you think a book is better reading it the first time, when it is all new and fresh, or the next times after it's become familiar?

3:52 PM  
Jonathan Pearson said...

Thanks, Anita, as if my reading list wasn't long enough, I now feel it necessary to add Gatsby, Lolita, and Catch-22 to my list.

5:52 AM  
Anita said...

Quillhill - Ooh, you are getting me excited about my upcoming reading! Thank you. It's nice to know I have good things to look forward to.

Your question is a very provocative one. I'll admit to you that I don't believe I can answer it because I have so very rarely re-read books as an adult. As a child, I used to read books over and over; but now my TBR list is so overwhelming I never feel I can go back and do a book again.

However, I am going to be seeing a few books a second time as part of this whole "read the great books" thing. Gatsby will be my first re-read in forever. 1984 will be my second.So I'll let you know how it goes!

How about you?

6:02 AM  
Anita said...

Jon - I'm sorry, and very, very sympathetic. I've been using this website,, to keep track of my "to be read" list.

Currently I have seventeen books on there. Plus my whole greats list (another 60 or so). Plus at least five on my shelves that I have either purchased or borrowed and have not yet read. And, I'm developing this new interest in philosophy which may spur some reading.

And we haven't even discussed non-fiction.


So many books; so little time.

At least you read FAST.

6:05 AM  
harafish said...

Oh, do let me know how Catch-22 goes. I borrowed it from a friend and returned it an hour later, defeated. But that's what happened to me last year A Clockwork Orange and I ended up racing through it on the second try.
That chainreading website looks great.
I think you'll like Lolita but of course also be disturbed by it.

9:43 AM  
Anita said...

harafish - uh oh. You are scaring me about Catch-22. Hopefully I'm not giving up after an hour 'cause I'm gonna own that sucker. It will stare up at me and make me feel completely guilty if I can't get through it.

I don't mind if I can't get through a really dull, uninspiring book. But if I can't get through a supposedly really great book because it is hard, that will drive me nuts!

3:31 AM  
Heather said...

I hate to admit it, but I hated philosophy in college. Found it boring. I wouldn't have majored in economics either! :) Of course, I am not exactly using my English degree either.

But I hope you like the Great Gatsby. It was a favorite of mine in high school and college. I've been meaning to reread it. I've been meaning to read Lolita and Catch-22 as well.

6:52 AM  
Carrie said...

Catch-22 is amazing. I've read it twice, one as a (too young) kid and later as an older teen. I am quite ambivelant about Gatsby though. It didn't really do much for me.

I like reading philosophy, but I have a hard time doing it alone. I need to discuss it over food...

12:02 PM  
piksea said...

That sounds great! I've recently (re)read the books on your classics TBR list and can't wait to hear your thoughts on those as well as the philosophy book. I definitely need the beginner's book!

7:51 AM  
Anita said...

Heather - I suspect that the quality of a philosophy course is very dependent upon the professor who teaches it. I can see how it might be very boring to some, but I find it fascinating.

I've read Gatsby before so I'm looking forward to re-reading it. It's good to know that the other two are pretty worthwhile as well.

Carrie - I do think it is much better to have someone to talk about philosophy with . . .but this book really does the interpretation and simplification for you. So far, I'm really enjoying it. The author recommends another series that tackles each of the great philosophers. I want to give it a try. I'll be sure to mention it when I do my review.

piksea - Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. It's great to hear from you, and I'm glad you are looking forward to the reviews. I'm sorry I'm so SLOW! Lately, I feel like I'm doing everything at the most sluglike pace . . .and believe me, I needed the beginners book too. And even that requires concentration, but it feels good when you "get it".

9:54 AM  
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