Read Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter by Donald D. Palmer Free Online
Book Title: Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter|
The author of the book: Donald D. Palmer
Edition: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages
Date of issue: July 28th 2000
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 489 KB
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Loaded: 1900 times
Reader ratings: 4.6
ISBN 13: 9780767405966
Read full description of the books:
Looking at Philosophy – The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made lighter is an excellent and engrossing pedagogical book, making the great story of Western philosophy come to life, both for beginning students and philosophy dummies like me. My spouse recommended this – and Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy - as an additional read for his introductory course to philosophy to his non-Dutch speaking music students and I feel I learnt a lot from it. For me it not only brushes up what I gathered about philosophy aeons ago (while studying philosophy of law, ethics, logic and epistemology, social and political theories) but also brings together some of the loose ends and dispersed information I picked up in various courses, contexts and books, helping me in discerning more clarity in the connectivity, the continuity and discontinuity of certain philosophical thoughts and theories.
While at first glance one might think this is almost a comic book on philosophy, full of silly drawings, opening with Wittgenstein who would once have said that a whole philosophy book could be written consisting of nothing but jokes - the comprehensible and often slightly funny text is all with all pretty serious. The numerous cartoons and diagrams are often not only amusing but also an astute vehicle to visualize and elucidate the ideas in the text and facilitate greatly in anchoring the endless list of philosophers in your mind. Donald Palmer graciously cycles through the history of Western philosophy from the 6th century BC Pre-Socratic philosophers towards the seventies of the 20th century, closing with the post-structuralist feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray (of whom I had never heard before, she first studied at Leuven). Evidently, every choice in a sense implies a loss and I can imagine that the selection of Palmer could be discussed by people better versed in philosophy, inevitably there will be names and theories you might think crucial to Western philosophy – Auguste Comte, Henri Bergson, Popper- of which you can consider they are missing (or not). As Palmer’s book is solely focussing on Western philosophy omitting the philosophical traditions of India, China, Tibet, Japan, the Islam, you know from the very start you won’t get away with only reading this concise overview anyway.
While reading this book, I was struck by the amount of philosophical thoughts surfacing in some novels or stories I have recently been reading – the clash between the world views of Spinoza and Schopenhauer in Yasmina Reza’s Dans La Luge D'Arthur Schopenhauer (which made me aware how little I know about both philosophers), or the scene in E.B. White’s youth novel Charlotte's Web, where Wilbur the pig retorts the lamb refusing to play with him and telling him that to him pigs mean less than nothing, insightfully echoes Parmenides by pointing out ’What do you mean less than nothing? I don't think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It's the lowest you can go. It's the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something - even though it's just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.’ Even this very morning, reading a crime novel by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Der Verdacht, I bumped into a character asserting X=X, referring so to one of the three basic laws of thoughts, the principle of identity, stating that everything is identical to itself. Philosophy, like history, seems to be omnipresent and for that reason intrigues me.
Maybe overly simplified for some readers, I feel this will be something I’ll return to whenever getting to some more in depth reading, if only because this was the first time I read about Heidegger without getting a headache – no mean feat.
Absorbing this book is, honesty compels me to admit I regret being such a scatterbrain – in the Dutch copy I found a list of exam questions of my spouse and heavens, I am painfully aware I wouldn’t pass at all after a first read. I’ll be re-reading this soon in the third edition, in which Palmer elaborates on ancient Greek philosophy, medieval philosophy, added Maimonides and Averroës and chapters on Frege and Quine. Next to a glossary of philosophical terms and a fair apparatus of footnotes, the third edition also includes a section with ‘topics for consideration’ at the end of each chapter which looks useful to students to evaluate their acquisition of the subject.
Readability implies that Palmer barely quotes from the original works of the philosophers discussed, my personal favourite this formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative: 'Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person, or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.'
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Read information about the authorEmeritus Professor of Philosophy at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California. He is known for writing introductory books on philosophy and philosophers which attempt to make philosophical ideas accessible to novices. He also illustrates his own books.
Currently he is visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.