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Philosophy Meets Storytelling

In the last few years several books have been published that feature compelling storytelling mated it with accessible philosophy. In general, it seems readers have several reasons for not including philosophy in their reading. It’s boring. It’s too hard. It’s unnecessary. Reading is an escape. Reading should be fun. And on and on and on. Well buckle-up, because this reading list is about to send you crashing through the walls of all your negative preconceptions about reading philosophy

 

"Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are", by John Kaag.

"Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are", is a tale of two philosophical journeys--one made by John Kaag as an introspective young man of nineteen, the other seventeen years later, in radically different circumstances: he is now a husband and father, and his wife and small child are in tow. Kaag sets off for the Swiss peaks above Sils Maria where Nietzsche wrote his landmark work "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". Both of Kaag's journeys are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche's philosophy, yet they deliver him to radically different interpretations and, more crucially, revelations about the human condition.

 

"At the Existenialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails...", by Sarah Bakewell.

"At the Existentialist Café" tells the story of modern existentialism as one of passionate encounters between people, minds and ideas. From the ‘king and queen of existentialism'–Sartre and de Beauvoir–to their wider circle of friends and adversaries including Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Iris Murdoch, this book is an enjoyable and original journey through a captivating intellectual movement.

 

 

"The Meaning of Human Existence", by Edward O. Wilson.

How did humanity originate and why does a species like ours exist on this planet? Do we have a special place, even a destiny in the universe? Where are we going, and perhaps, the most difficult question of all, "Why?"
"In The Meaning of Human Existence", his most philosophical work to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species.

 

"The Art of Logic in an Illogical World", by Eugenia Chen.

In a world where fake news stories change election outcomes, has rationality become futile? "In The Art of Logic in an Illogical World", Eugenia Cheng throws a lifeline to readers drowning in the illogic of contemporary life. Cheng is a mathematician, so she knows how to make an airtight argument. But even for her, logic sometimes falls prey to emotion, which is why she still fears flying and eats more cookies than she should. If a mathematician can't be logical, what are we to do? In this book, Cheng reveals the inner workings and limitations of logic, and explains why alogic--for example, emotion--is vital to how we think and communicate. Cheng shows us how to use logic and alogic together to navigate a world awash in bigotry, mansplaining, and manipulative memes.

"Plato at the Googleplex" Why Philosophy Won't Go Away", by Rebecca Goldstein.

Is philosophy obsolete? Are the ancient questions still relevant in the age of cosmology and neuroscience, not to mention crowd-sourcing and cable news? The acclaimed philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein provides a dazzlingly original plunge into the drama of philosophy, revealing its hidden role in today’s debates on religion, morality, politics, and science.

 

 

 

"American Philosophy: A Love Store", by John Kaag.

John Kaag is a dispirited young philosopher at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendent of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology, with whom Kaag feels a deep kinship. It is James’s question “Is life worth living?” that guides this remarkable book.

 

"Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine", by Alan Lightman.

As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a purely scientific view of the world. Even as a teenager, experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of the universe, which is governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws. Those laws decree that all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself--a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial. "Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine" is the result of these seemingly contradictory impulses, written as an extended meditation on an island in Maine, where Lightman and his wife spend their summers.

"Know Thyself: Western Identity from Classical Greece to the Renaissance", by Ingrid Rossellini.

"Know thyself"--this fundamental imperative appeared for the first time in ancient Greece, specifically in Delphi, the temple of the god Apollo, who represented the enlightened power of reason. For the Greeks, self-knowledge and identity were the basics of their civilization and their sources were to be found in where one was born and into which social group. These determined who you were and what your duties were. In this book the independent scholar Ingrid Rossellini surveys the major ideas that, from Greek and Roman antiquity through the Christian medieval era up to the dawn of modernity in the Renaissance, have guided the Western project of self-knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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