Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Samuelson, Scott. the Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Samuelson, Scott. the Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

Article excerpt

SAMUELSON, Scott. The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. ix + 216 pp. Cloth, $22.50--Scott Samuelson's The Deepest Human Life is a basic but thoughtful introduction to philosophy. Samuelson treats philosophy not merely as a topic or academic subject, but as an approach to life. As a teacher and as a person, Samuelson encourages his students--who, as community college students in a small, Midwestern city, come from all walks of life--and his readers to do the same.

The Deepest Human Life is divided into four parts in which Samuelson explores four fundamental philosophical questions: "what is philosophy," "what is happiness," "is knowledge of God possible," and "what is the nature of good and evil." Each part has two chapters, with the exception of part three, which has three chapters. Four short reflections, or interludes, on quotidian yet intriguing topics, are interspersed between parts.

Part one, chapter one (the portrait of the reader as Odysseus) introduces readers to the nature of philosophy (and critiques some flawed contemporary notions) and the distinctiveness of human rationality before inviting readers on a life's journey of study and reflection. Chapter two (portrait of philosophy as Socrates) provides a more classical introduction to philosophy via the historical figure of Socrates, a review of some key Socratic dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Phaedo, and Crito) and, through these dialogues, a treatment of topics such as knowledge, virtue, law, and immortality.

Part two ("what is happiness") focuses on the schools of Epicureanism and Stoicism. In chapter three, Samuelson explicates Epicurus's balanced approach to pleasure and defends the materialism of Epicureanism against the charge of relativism. Samuelson spends significant time laying out the history and doctrine of Stoicism, including a summary of Stoic disciplines of study, meditation, attentiveness, gradualness, and daily self-examination.

Part three is the longest section of the book. In examining answers to the question of whether knowledge of God is possible, Samuelson outlines the works of three thinkers. He starts with the Moslem scholar al-Ghazali, tracing his personal quest from a quasi-Cartesian skepticism to mysticism. Next, he reviews the thought of Descartes, addressing not only his search for certitude and proof for the existence of God, but also the nightmares that gave rise to this search. …

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