Philosophical Tales: Being an Alternative History Revealing the Characters, the Plots, and the Hidden Scenes That Make Up the True Story of Philosophy
January 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
Enlightening and entertaining, Philosophical Tales examines a few of the fascinating biographical details of history's greatest philosophers (alas, mostly men) and highlights their contributions to the field. By applying the true philosophical approach to philosophy itself, the text provides us with a refreshing "alternative history" of philosophy.
But why should someone want to know that Kant rolled himself three times in his sheets each night before sleeping, that Schopenhauer pushed a poor old lady down the stairs, or Marx spent as much time on beer and women as he did in the British Library? By examining the seeming trivialities of philosophers' lives - and skewering a few cherished myths along the way - Philosophical Tales provides us with illuminating insights that will encourage a more active, critical way of thinking. Blaise Pascal may have put it best when he said, "To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher."
How to Use this Book.
I The Ancients.
1 Socrates the Sorcerer (469–399 bce).
2 The Different Forms of Plato (ca. 427–347 bce).
3 Aristotle the Aristocrat (384–ca. 322 bce).
II More Ancients.
4 Lao Tzu Changes into Nothing (6th–5th c. bce).
5 Pythagoras Counts Up to Ten (ca. 570–495 bce).
6 Heraclitus Chooses the Dark Side of the River (ca. 5th c. bce).
7 Hypatia Holds Up Half of the Sky (ca. 370–415 ce).
III Medieval Philosophy.
8 Augustine the Hippocrite (354–430 ce).
9 St. Thomas Aquinas Disputes the Existence of God (1225–1274).
IV Modern Philosophy.
10 Descartes the Dilettante (1596–1650).
11 Hobbes Squares the Circle (1588–1679).
12 Spinoza Grinds Himself Away… (1632–1677).
V Enlightened Philosophy.
13 John Locke Invents the Slave Trade (1632–1704).
14 The Many Faces of David Hume (1711–1776).
15 Rousseau the Rogue (1712–1778).
16 Immanuel Kant, the Chinaman of Königsburg (1724–1804).
VI The Idealists.
17 Gottfried Leibniz, the Thinking Machine (1646–1716).
18 Bishop Berkeley’s Bermuda College (1685–1753).
19 Headmaster Hegel’s Dangerous History Lesson (1770–1831).
20 Arthur Schopenhauer and the Little Old Lady (1788–1860).
VII The Romantics.
21 The Seduction of Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855).
22 Mill’s Poetical Turn (1806–1873).
23 Henry Thoreau and Life in the Shed (1817–1862).
24 Marx’s Revolutionary Materialism (1818–1883).
VIII Recent Philosophy.
25 Russell Denotes Something (1872–1970).
26 The Ripping Yarn of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951).
27 Heidegger’s Tale (and the Nazis) (1889–1976).
28 Benjamin Lee Whorf and the Color Pinker (ca. 1900–1950).
29 Being Sartre and Not Definitely Not Being Beauvoir (1905–1980 and not 1908–1986).
30 Deconstructing Derrida (1930–2004).
Scholarly Appendix: Women in Philosophy, and Why There Aren’t Many.
Key Sources and Further Reading.
- Offers a refreshing ‘alternative history’ of philosophy
- Questions whether the some of the great tales of philosophy may actually be fictions, falsehoods, lies and
fibs: Did Plato really write the Socratic Dialogues? Did Descartes ever really utter the words, “I think,
therefore I am”?
- Examines a few of the fascinating biographical details of history’s greatest philosophers, such as Kant’s
need to roll himself three times in his sheets each night before sleeping
- Provides us with illuminating insights that will encourage a more active, critical way of thinking
"Great philosophers only become well known after their deaths. Indeed, to speak of contemporary celebrity philosophers is oxymoronic. Still, one can't help wondering who amongst living philosophers will merit future Philosophical Tales. (The Philosopher, Autumn 2008)“A lover of philosophical ideas and practiced debunker of intellectual sham, Martin Cohen knocks some thirty important philosophers from Socrates to Derrida off their pedestals, and presents in a series of philosophical tales various aspects of their thought, life and personality which few of us ever suspected.” – Zenon Stavrinides, University of Bradford