Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review: Examined Lives

I'm not sure that I should have titled this post a "Book Review." I enjoyed abut 2/5ths of this book but in some ways it's a bit like reviewing an issue of a magazine. That is, the book looks at the lives of various philosophers and compares that person's philosophy with how he lived his life. When it came to the Greeks there was some real correspondence between life lived and philosophy espoused. Plato and Aristotle both even tutored young princes (the latter's pupil was Alexander the Great) though not to the effect either philosopher might have hoped. Seneca and Montaigne were also interesting, but after that philosophy became too abstract and there isn't much in the lives of the philosophers to hold one's interest. Whatever one thinks of his ideas, Kant didn't lead a very interesting life. It's a shame because when the book works one does come away with a better understanding of a particular person's views but when it doesn't work it means slogging through an uninteresting mini-biography. I would recommend reading the book but skipping ahead liberally when it gets boring.

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