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Descartes' Secret Notebook
Amir D. Aczel
0767920333
Oct 2005
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. What Aczel did for mathematician Fermat (Fermat's Last Theorem) he now does for Descartes in this splendid study about the French philosopher and mathematician (1596–1650) most famous for his paradigm-smashing declaration, "I think; therefore, I am." Part historical sketch, part biography and part detective story, Aczel's chronicle of Descartes's hidden work hinges on his lost secret notebook. Of 16 pages of coded manuscript, one and a half were copied in 1676 by fellow philosopher and mathematician Leibniz. For him, Descartes's inscription of the cryptic letters "GFRC" immediately revealed his association with the occult fraternity of the Rosicrucians—Leibniz was also a member. The notebook also revealed to Leibniz a discovery made by Descartes that would have transformed...


The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers
Robert L. Heilbroner
068486214X
August 1999
Paperback
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Review
John Kenneth GalbraithA brilliant achievement.
The New York TimesIf ever a book answered a crying need, this one does. Here is all the economic lore most general readers conceivably could want to know, served up with a flourish by a man who writes with immense vigor and skill, who has a rare gift for simplifying complexities.
Leonard SilkRobert Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers is a living classic, both because he makes us see that the ideas of the great economists remain fresh and important for our times and because his own brilliant writing forces us to reach out into the future.
Lester ThurowThe Worldly Philosophers, quite simply put, is a classic....None of us can know where we are coming from unless we know the sources of the great ideas that permeate our thinking. The Worldly Philosophers gives us a...


Rousseau's Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment
David Edmonds
0060744901
March 2006
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1766, Scottish philosopher David Hume helped the radical Swiss intellectual Jean-Jacques Rousseau find asylum in England; a few months later, the volatile philosopher accused his benefactor of masterminding a murky conspiracy against him and triggered a virulent response. The argument had nothing to do with philosophy (or Rousseau's dog), but, as in their well-received Wittgenstein's Poker, the authors use the dispute as a pretext for an engaging rundown of the two thinkers' great ideas—with a big swig of human interest to wash down the philosophical morsels. Their (sometimes excessively) detailed, meandering account of the feud points to something larger: the contrast between the affable, urbane rationalist Hume and the moody, paranoid, emotionally overwrought Rousseau prefigures, they believe, the...


Soren Kierkegaard
Joakim Garff
069109165X
Feb 2005
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
This is the second major work on Kierkegaard to appear in recent years; Alastair Hannay's intellectual portrait Kierkegaard: A Biography approaches the religious philosopher's life and work in a thematic fashion, discerning behind the veils of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous writings his anxieties and hopes, failures and successes. Garff, associate professor at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center at the University of Copenhagen, proceeds very differently in this biography, portraying a philosopher whose daily life formed the crucible in which his landmark works were written. Drawing not simply on Kierkegaard's most famous writings, Garff also examines in microscopic fashion the minute details of the Dane's life year-by-year from his birth to his death. Garff uses journals, letters, gossip and family...


Madame Bovary (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
Gustave Flaubert
1593080522
April 2005
Paperback
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Book Description
Henry James once said of Madame Bovary, “Emma Bovary’s poor adventures are a tragedy for the very reason that in a world unsuspecting, unassisting, unconsoling, she has herself to distil the rich and the rare. Ignorant, unguided, ridden by the very nature and mixture of her consciousness, she makes of the business an inordinate failure, a failure which in its turn makes for Flaubert the most pointed, the most told of anecdotes.” Along with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Flaubert’s tragic novel stands as the ultimate portrayal of infidelity in Western literature. Inciting a backlash of immorality charges, the novel was an overwhelming success, and today retains the power to generate empathy and compassion for one of society’s lowest stations.

Sylvere Lotringer is professor of...


Confessions of a Philosopher
Bryan Magee
0375750363
May 1999
Paperback
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Book Review
Confessions is a somewhat misleading term in this context: you won't find any lurid tales between these covers. Bryan Magee's memoirs-cum-histories of philosophy aren't even "confessions" in the self-flagellating tradition of St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

So what is Confessions of a Philosopher, then? It's a fascinating excursion through 2,000 years of wondering about the basic nature of existence and reality. As a 20th-century philosopher, Magee has a lot to say about his peers, and he spares no feelings. The "Oxford philosophers," who decided that philosophy was not about the nature of existence but about the nature of language, yet refused to give any consideration to fiction, are particular targets of Magee's intellectual scorn, while the late Karl Popper, a personal acquaintance of the...



The Moral Imagination : From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling
Gertrude Himmelfarb
1566636248
April 7, 2006
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
The intellectuals celebrated in this pleasing collection of essays are not your father's conservatives but your great-great-grandfather's, provided he was a well-to-do English gentleman. Neocon historian Himmelfarb (One Nation, Two Cultures) specializes in Victorian Britain and profiles some of its leading writers and statesmen, along with philosophical forerunners and descendants, to probe the complexities of two centuries of conservative thought. In her subtly revisionist accounts, novelists Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charles Dickens become conservative-minded moralists; liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill emerges as a closet conservative, when not swayed by his father or wife; and "Tory Democrats" Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill, both supporters of early social welfare programs, demonstrate the...


The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Penguin Classics)
Revised by M.T. Clanchy
0140448993
April 2004
Paperback
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Book Review
Abelard and Heloise are nearly as famous a pair of tragic lovers as the fictional Romeo and Juliet; their shared passion for knowledge, religious faith, and one another sealed their destiny. Abelard was a well-respected, 12th-century Parisian scholar and teacher, and Heloise was his talented young student. The two relate their story through a set of letters to one another and intimate acquaintances. Their ardor is unmistakable; as Abelard writes to his love, "So intense were the fires of lust which bound me to you that I set those wretched, obscene pleasures, which we blush even to name, above God as above myself..." This forbidden lust resulted in a pregnancy and secret marriage, and when their union could no longer withstand the challenges in its path, each lover sought refuge in the church--Abelard became a monk...


Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
H. L. Mencken
1884365310
June 2003
Paperback
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Book Description
The first book on Nietzsche ever to appear in English, this examination by legendary journalist H. L. Mencken is still one of the most enlightening. Mencken wrote this book while still in his 20s, but his penchant for thoroughness was evident even at that young age—in preparation for writing this book, he read Nietzsche's works in their entirety, mostly in the original German. A brief biographical sketch is followed by clear and thorough explanations of Nietzsche's basic concepts and attitudes. Analyzed are Nietzsche's much-misunderstood concept of the superman, his concept of eternal recurrence, his rejection of Christianity, and his basic rationalism and materialism. Included are two essays on Nietzsche that appeared in Mencken's magazine The Smart Set subsequent to the publishing of the original edition...


Betraying Spinoza : The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity
Rebecca Goldstein
0805242090
May 30, 2006
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
This biography of 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) may seem out of place in the Jewish Encounters series, devoted to Jewish thinkers and themes, because Spinoza denied the importance of Jewish identity, and Amsterdam's Jewish community expelled him for heresy. But Goldstein, author of The Mind-Body Problem and Incompleteness and a professor of philosophy, reconstructs Spinoza's life and traces his metaphysics to his efforts to solve the dilemmas of Jewish identity. The philosopher grew up in a community of Jews who had fled the Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition. As Goldstein argues, Spinoza's "determination to think through his community's tragedy in the most universal terms possible compelled him to devise a unique life for himself, insisting on secularism when the concept of it had not yet...


Maimonides
Sherwin B. Nuland
0805242007
October 2005
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
Maimonides, one of the preeminent personalities of medieval Jewish history, was a jurist, philosopher, expert in Jewish law, physician at the court of Saladin and a respected and dedicated communal leader. Given all that, it's difficult to understand the decision to present Maimonides's legacy primarily through the lens of his work as a physician. The 12th century was a time of stagnation in the history of medicine, and the author himself concedes that Maimonides contributed very little that was new or innovative to the field. By contrast, his jurisprudential magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, constituted a groundbreaking work in its own day and continues to be authoritative almost a millennium later. Although Nuland acknowledges this in a chapter on Maimonides's religious scholarship, it is dwarfed by the...


John Stuart Mill
Nicholas Capaldi
0521620244
Jan 2004
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
While he is considered to be the greatest English intellectual of the 19th century, Mill (1806–1873) is often reduced to a set of parochial engagements with his "utilitarianism." In this authoritatively comprehensive analysis of Mill’s lifelong explication of the "liberal culture" spawned by the Industrial Revolution, Loyola professor of business ethics Capaldi presents a probing account of the personal, social and environmental influences on Mill and his relationship to major intellectual precursors and contemporaries. Interspersed with a series of close readings of his mostly political essays and reviews, Mill’s life is cast from a diverse quilt of perspectives, including schoolfriends Coleridge and Carlyle, which reveal the pluralistic character Victorian England. From his struggles with his...


Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Volume 2, Books 6-10 (Loeb Classical Library)
Diogenes Laertius
0674992040
January 1925
Hardcover
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A Philosopher's Life
Roger Scruton
0826471315
Aug 2005
Hardcover
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From The New Yorker
Scruton is an English philosopher best known for vigorously defending traditional culture in works like "England: An Elegy" and "The Meaning of Conservatism." His latest book assembles twelve "autobiographical excursions" into a composite account of his intellectual development. In addition to neatly expository essays ("How I Discovered Culture") and a sequence of poems entitled "Miss Hap," the collection includes a reminiscence of the "sleeping cities" of the Eastern bloc and an acute meditation on beauty and religious faith. The blunt wit for which Scruton is known is scarce here, but lyric suits him almost as well as polemic. Such passages as the evocation of a chapel filled with the "soft smell of stone that has grown old in shadow" vividly illuminate the moral import of aesthetic values.
Copyright...


Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
Charles Seife
0140296476
September 2000
Paperback
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Book Review
The seemingly impossible Zen task--writing a book about nothing--has a loophole: people have been chatting, learning, and even fighting about nothing for millennia. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by noted science writer Charles Seife, starts with the story of a modern battleship stopped dead in the water by a loose zero, then rewinds back to several hundred years BCE. Some empty-headed genius improved the traditional Eastern counting methods immeasurably by adding zero as a placeholder, which allowed the genesis of our still-used decimal system. It's all been uphill from there, but Seife is enthusiastic about his subject; his synthesis of math, history, and anthropology seduces the reader into a new fascination with the most troubling number.

Why did the Church reject the use of zero? How did mystics of all...



Krishnamurti : The Years of Awakening
Mary Lutyens
1570622884


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Book Description
In 1909, a boy of fourteen years was designated the savior of our age by the mystic leader of the Theosophical Society. Sent from his native India to study at the finest school in Britain, the charismatic youth was groomed for the messianic role of World Teacher--a mantle he would ultimately cast off, unleashing a storm of controversy within the spiritual community. And through inner doubts and physical agony--through bitter trials of the mind, the body, and the soul--he would follow his own path to enlightenment and become a shining beacon of joy and truth to millions the world over.


Miyamoto Musashi
Kenji Tokitsu
1590300459
Aug 2004
Hardcover
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Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
Simone de Beauvoir
0060825197
Aug 2005
Paperback
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New York Times
"It is a book that will leave no one indifferent, and no one affected in quite the same way."

Saturday Review
"This is perhaps the best piece of writing Mlle. de Beauvoir has yet done; the translator does it justice."

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Tete-a-Tete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre
Hazel Rowley
0060520590
October 2005
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
Though Rowley identifies her engaging and accessible chronicle as the "story of a relationship," it is in fact the story of the many relationships forged by two of the most brilliant, unorthodox and scandalous intellectuals of the 20th century: Beauvoir and Sartre, who from 1929 until Sartre's death in 1980 remained "essential" to each other but never monogamous. Without undue prurience, Rowley (Richard Wright) romps through the major entanglements, loves, triangles, friendships and affairs engaged in by the authors of, respectively,the seminal feminist work The Second Sex andthe controversial autobiography Words. And to place these fascinating interactions into literary and biographical context, Rowley draws from vast stores of published and unpublished writings, correspondence and interviews. Though Beauvoir is...


Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
G.K. Chesterton
0385090021
February 15, 1974
Paperback
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Book Review
It is known that when the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton began his book on Saint Thomas Aquinas (who is, quite possibly, the most influential of all Christian theologians), "his research for the project consisted of a very casual perusal of a few books on his subject." To say that Chesterton was no authority is an understatement. To say further that he has written a masterpiece of elucidation may also be an understatement. Etienne Gilson, the chief scholar of Aquinas in the 20th century, said flatly "I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.... Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being...


Spinoza : A Life
Steven Nadler
0521002931
April 23, 2001
Paperback
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Book Review
Remarkably, given his importance in Western philosophy, there has never been a substantial English-language biography of Baruch (or, as he was later known, Benedictus) Spinoza (1632-1677) until now. Spinoza: A Life makes up for the lack, delving into the archival records of 17th-century Amsterdam to flesh out Spinoza's world in rich detail. The subject himself doesn't even appear until the third chapter; Nadler first provides historical background on the treatment of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and their eventual resettlement in the Dutch Republic. Later chapters explore Spinoza's relationship to the Jewish community and the possible reasons for his excommunication in 1656, as well as the emergence of his philosophical system. Academically rigorous without becoming ponderous, Spinoza: A Life is splendid both as...


The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism
Megan Marshall
0395389925
April 2005
Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Marshall's outstanding debut is a triple biography making clear that Margaret Fuller wasn't the only woman of substance in Transcendentalist circles in 19th-century Massachusetts. The Peabody sisters were bright, gifted, independent and influential; they knew a host of notables, from Abigail Adams to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oldest sister Elizabeth, who according to Marshall helped start the Transcendentalist movement, ran a school with Bronson Alcott, who named his third daughter in her honor. Mary made a name for herself first as a teacher and writer, and as the wife of educational reformer Horace Mann, who founded Antioch College. Youngest sister Sophia was an artist whose work included illustrations for her husband, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Only Elizabeth, by all accounts the most intellectual of...


Tete-A-Tete
Hazel Rowley
0060520604
Oct 2006
Paperback
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The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives: Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero
Plutarch
0140440844
February 1954
Paperback
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Book Description
Rome’s famed historian illuminates the twilight of the old Roman Republic from 157 to 43 BC in succinct accounts of the greatest politicians and statesmen of the classical period. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Language Notes
Text: English, Latin (translation)

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The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell
B. Russell
041522862X
May 2000
Paperback
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Jessica Mitford
"Riveting...the detailed expression of a mind of a genius in the making."

Leonard Woolf
"He is frank about himself--his acts, thoughts and emotions--as Pepys or Roussau, and the book is, therefore, like theirs, an extraordinary psychological revelation."

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