History of Ideas
James Miller (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: Jan 4, 2011), 432 pages.
We all want to know how to live. But before the good life was reduced to ten easy steps or a prescription from the doctor, philosophers offered arresting answers to the most fundamental questions about who we are and what makes for a life worth living. In Examined Lives, James Miller returns to this vibrant tradition with short, lively biographies of twelve famous philosophers. Socrates spent his life examining himself and the assumptions of others. His most famous student, Plato, risked his reputation to tutor a tyrant. Diogenes carried a bright lamp in broad daylight and announced he was “looking for a man.” Aristotle’s alliance with Alexander the Great presaged Seneca’s complex role in the court of the Roman Emperor Nero. Augustine discovered God within himself. Montaigne and Descartes struggled to explore their deepest convictions in eras of murderous religious warfare. Rousseau aspired to a life of perfect virtue. Kant elaborated a new ideal of autonomy. Emerson successfully preached a gospel of self-reliance for the new American nation. And Nietzsche tried “to compose into one and bring together what is fragment and riddle and dreadful chance in man,” before he lapsed into catatonic madness. With a flair for paradox and rich anecdote, Examined Lives is a book that confirms the continuing relevance of philosophy today—and explores the most urgent questions about what it means to live a good life. ~ Synopsis
John Mark Reynolds (IVP Academic: April 2009), 266 pages.
Christian theology shaped and is shaping many places in the world, but it was the Greeks who originally gave a philosophic language to Christianity. John Mark Reynolds's book When Athens Met Jerusalem provides students a well-informed introduction to the intellectual underpinnings (Greek, Roman and Christian) of Western civilization and highlights how certain current intellectual trends are now eroding those very foundations. This work makes a powerful contribution to the ongoing faith versus reason debate, showing that these two dimensions of human knowing are not diametrically opposed, but work together under the direction of revelation. ~ Product Description
Douglas Groothuis (Wadsworth: June 2002), 96 pages.
Anyone with any mathematical background will have undoubtedly heard of Pascal. His contributions to mathematics are well noted. Groothuis, who is exceptionally familiar with the philosophical work of Pascal, has done an admirable job in a short space of introducing the reader to Pascal the man, mathematician, inventor, and philosopher. The first four chapters lay out the historical background needed to understand Pascal and his work. Chapter 5 introduces the Pensees, the fragments of a grand work that was unfortunately left unfinished by Pascal's early death. Chapter 6 describes the rejection, in the Pensees, of arguing for God's existence from natural theology, the accepted apologetic of the day. Groothuis begins the next chapter by explaining Pascal's apologetic in that he "aimed to spark a philosophical and existential crisis in his readers that would be resolvable only by Christian revelation" (50). Groothuis explores two of Pascal's ideas, "deposed royalty" and his controversial "Wager". Groothuis helps those not familiar with or only passingly familiar with these two topics, as well as the Pensees, to better understand Pascal's thinking and intent. Groothuis' extensive work and expertise on Pascal shines through in this work. Anyone interested in being introduced to the genius of Pascal will find the time they spend reading this book to be well rewarded. ~ John M. Switzer at Amazon.com
Isaiah Berlin (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: August 2000), 672 pages.
Oxford professor, philosopher, and historian of ideas, the late Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909-97) was also one of the finest English essayists in the 20th century. This retrospective collection of 17 of his best essays surveys his entire career as a thinker, including his work in political philosophy and the philosophy of history, his thoughts on the Enlightenment, Vico, and Machiavelli, and his passion for Russian literature. Reprinted are such seminal essays as "Two Concepts Liberty" and "The Hedgehog and the Fox," as well as his reflections on Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Edited by scholars Hardy and Hausheer, who also provides an introduction, and with a foreword by Noel Annan, this book also includes a helpful bibliography. A fitting epitaph for a man passionately and eloquently devoted to ideas. ~ Library Journal