Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breakfast with Socrates

A quick stop at the library today after a fine lunch with a friend at a little French bistro in town. I had chicken salad on a fresh croissant and my friend tried the quiche Lorraine. We were both very satisfied. Tres bien!

I swear I was just going to return one book and pick up another one that was being held for me. But then, a book practically fell off the shelf and tripped me: Breakfast with Socrates by Robert Rowland Smith. The subtitle of the book is An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day. Mr. Smith is a former Oxford Philosophy Fellow. The premise of the book is to take the reader "through an ordinary day with history's most extradordinary thinkers."

This promises to be accessible. The first chapter, Waking Up, introduced me to Descartes ("I think, therefore I am."), Immanuel Kant, and G.W.F.Hegel. But not in a stodgy or convoluted way, but in a way that takes the nugget of truth of each philosopher and plays it against your very waking up or coming into consciousness of the day.

From there he goes to Getting Ready, Traveling to Work, and on through other circumstances of an ordinary day: shopping, going to the doctor, taking a bath, or reading a book. There are 18 short chapters in all. The book itself is small (just over 200 pages) with a cheerful yellow cover showing a silhouette of Socrates and a modern man chatting over breakfast.

Every now and then I get on a kick of reading books on philosophy although I can rarely keep the boys (they are mostly male; women didn't have time to sit around and ponder things, I suppose) and their ideas straight. But you can't fault me for not trying.

If I make it through this one, Smith's follow-up book is Driving with Plato.

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