Saturday, March 03, 2012

Hemlock and rank fumitory

I wanted to love Breakfast with Socrates. I thought it would be an amazingly deep, academic journey through Western philosophy and its relevance to modern daily life.

Surprisingly, it wasn't as academic as I expected, which ended up being both relieving and disappointing. Robert Rowland Smith walks through an average day and connects certain aspects (waking up, commuting, having lunch, shopping) to a larger discussion of being and meaning. Since I was familiar with some of the philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Hegel, Marx), it was a little frustrating that their ideas weren't explained in their complex entirely; and knowing that, I wasn't sure how to put into context the philosophers with whom I was less familiar.

The chapters, each dealing with a different realm of a day, were hit or miss: either I was really intrigued or I was bored. There were even a few instances where the end of a chapter came with an irritatingly moralizing tone (for example, the admonition that you should definitely let your parents buy you lunch, or some of Smith's reflections on the nature of love). However, I did enjoy Smith's writing style: peppered with alliteration and every kind of literary or musical references, he is enjoyably witty. But the book wasn't so much the introduction to applied philosophy as I hoped it would be.