Examined Lives

From Socrates to Nietzsche
Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche. Farrar. Jan. 2011. c.432p. ISBN 9780374150853. $28. PHIL
Miller (politics, New Sch. for Social Research; The Passion of Michel Foucault) profiles 12 ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern philosophers who, according to him, thought of philosophy as a way of life that would lead one toward self-knowledge—this in stark contrast to what he views as the "technical discipline" of present-day philosophy with its emphasis on logic, language, and theory. Each short biography covers the close relationship between the philosopher's life and philosophical theories. Miller explains that the examined life was different for each philosopher. For example, for Montaigne the examined life looked at what it meant to be human, while for Descartes it meant breaking down past theories and beliefs to find a starting point for philosophy.
VERDICT These short biographies do a wonderful job of providing an easy-to-understand introduction to the theories of a diverse group of philosophers. The book will appeal mainly to students and readers new to philosophy who are interested in more than just a generic overview of the philosophers' theories.
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