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Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?:…
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Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great…

by Leszek Kolakowski

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This is a small book both in number of pages and height - it is only six and a quarter inches tall. But within this small frame Leszek Kolakowski packs a lot of philosophy. It is organized by philosopher from ancient to modern and for each section of about ten pages the book focuses upon one key idea associated with the philosopher being discussed. As Kolakowski says in the introduction: "I do not intend to 'summarize' Plato, Descartes or Husserl: that would be an absurd ambition." [at least within the confines of a small volume like this] "I would like, rather, to approach these great philosophers by concentrating on one idea in the thought of each--an important idea, an idea that was fundamental to his philosophical construction, but also one that we can still understand today; an idea that touches a chord in us, rather than being simply a bit of historical information."
Because of this approach and his deep understanding of the philosophers presented the book is valuable as a catalyst for the thought of the reader, whether one has read deeply in philosophy or not. The fundamental questions raised may spur further reading and thought about these issues. One disappointment is the lack of a bibliography, but there are references in the text to specific works of philosophers which can be used to search out further texts for reading. Those who are already familiar with the works of these thinkers will find this book a refreshing challenge to remember and rethink some key ideas. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 15, 2012 |
Very clear collection of essay on great philosophers of the past. Not sure why some (John Gray in nyrb, I think) were praising this SO highly, except perhaps because the author takes seriously arguments put forward by some religious philosophers, and so tacitly puts them on a par with Hume et al. ( )
  leeinaustin | Apr 18, 2010 |
Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?
Leszek Kolakowski
March 17, 2010 1:47 PM
Subtitled “23 questions from great philosophers” this is a collection of short essays, each describing the major question or concern that the philosopher addresses in his works. Plato addresses “Why is there good in the world?”. St Anselm discussed “Could God not exist?”. Pascal asks “Why should we believe?” Leibnez asked the title question. Schopenhauer on will and sex, “Why should we not commit suicide?”. Nietzsche asks “Why is there good and evil?” Bergson rates a chapter on “What is the human spirit”; Bergson is unfamiliar to me and I immediately downloaded one of his books to the Kindle reader. The essays usually end with more questions, and I was engrossed for days, while pondering my life and challenges.
Quotes:
“This one phrase contains the core of the Stoic attitude towards the world, and encapsulates the whole of Epictetus’ philosophy: the affirmation of destiny and the love of fate - amor fati.”
“In the whole history of philosophy there is no figure as lonely as Spinoza”
“Descartes thought that the finite must be understood as a limitation of infinity, for the concept of infinity is intellectually prior. Locke, on the contrary, claimed that infinity was a negative concept, which appears when we are unable to imagine the end of a certain reality, for instance the end of a series of numbers or a space.”
“Peoples reports of miracles would be credible, [Hume] he says, only if there falsity could be considered a greater miracle than the events they describe”
“Hegels most famous and most often cited dictum says what is real is what is rational and what is rational is what is real”
From King Lear, summing up Nietzsche’s philosophy: “ I will do such things, what they are yet I know not, but they will be the terrors of the earth” ( )
  neurodrew | Mar 27, 2010 |
I could not bring myself to finish this work. I simply found the extremely annoying and patronizing series of "questions" at the end of each chapter too much to stomach. And accordingly offer no rating.

I normally have a great deal of respect for authors who undertake to write surveys of their discipline for the great unwashed masses (a class from which I by no means exclude myself), but not in this case.

I might also quibble about choosing (say) Anselm at the expense of Epicurus if , but that doubtless says as much about my own biases as anything else. However, the author or editor also seemed to bias this toward Christian thinkers, at least as far as read, through the section on Descrates.
  worldsedge | Oct 7, 2008 |
Great overview of some of the great philosophers and their ideas. ( )
  pmackey | Jul 20, 2008 |
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In introducing these brief essays about great philosophers—men who opened up new directions of thought for future generations—I should start with a caveat: my aim is not to provide a history of philosophy in a pill. (Introduction)
My first great philosopher is of course Socrates.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0465004997, Hardcover)

Can nature make us happy? How can we know anything? What is justice? Why is there evil in the world? What is the source of truth? Is it possible for God not to exist? Can we really believe what we see? There are questions that have intrigued the world's great thinkers over the ages, which still touch a chord in all of us today. They are questions that can teach us about the way we live, work, relate to each other and see the world. Here Leszek Kolakowski explores the essence of these ideas, introducing figures from Socrates to Thomas Aquinas, Descartes to Nietzsche, and concentrating on one single important philosophical question from each of them. Whether reflecting on good and evil, truth and beauty, faith and the soul, or free will and consciousness, Leszek Kolakowski shows that these timeless ideas remain at the very core of our existence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:32 -0400)

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Presents a collection of essays from various philosophers, including Socrates, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, and John Locke.

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Penguin Australia

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