The Deepest Human Life
An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone
Samuelson begins at the beginning: with Socrates, working his most famous assertion—that wisdom is knowing that one knows nothing—into a method, a way of approaching our greatest mysteries. From there he springboards into a rich history of philosophy and the ways its journey is encoded in our own quests for meaning. He ruminates on Epicurus against the sonic backdrop of crickets and restaurant goers in Iowa City. He follows the Stoics into the cell where James Stockdale spent seven years as a prisoner of war. He spins with al-Ghazali first in doubt, then in the ecstasy of the divine. And he gets the philosophy education of his life when one of his students, who authorized a risky surgery for her son that inadvertently led to his death, asks with tears in her eyes if Kant was right, if it really is the motive that matters and not the consequences. Through heartbreaking stories, humanizing biographies, accessible theory, and evocative interludes like “On Wine and Bicycles” or “On Superheroes and Zombies,” he invests philosophy with the personal and vice versa. The result is a book that is at once a primer and a reassurance—that many have trod the earth before us, and they have insights into our very souls.
Prelude on Light Pollution and the Stars
Part 1 What Is Philosophy?
1 Portrait of You as Odysseus
2 Portrait of Philosophy as Socrates
Interlude on Laughter and Tears
Part 2 What Is Happiness?
3 The Exquisite Materialism of Epicurus
4 The Mysterious Freedom of the Stoic
Interlude on Wine and Bicycles
Part 3 Is Knowledge of God Possible?
5 The Ecstasy without a Name
6 In Nightmares Begins Rationality
7 The Terrifying Distance of the Stars
Interlude on Campfires and the Sun
Part 4 What Is the Nature of Good and Evil?
8 The Moral Worth of a Teardrop
9 The Beast That Is and Is Not
Interlude on Superheroes and Zombies
Conclusion: The Most Beautiful Thing in the World
Recommended Further Reading