Book Review: A Brief History of Thought

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by Luc Ferry is, in a way, a beginner’s guide to philosopy. I particularly like that Luc Ferry addresses a nonacademic audience. I also like that Luc Ferry tries to place the different philosophical systems in the best possible light, without seeking to criticize.1 I agree with him that we must try to understand before making objections. And by understanding how others think, we get a perspective on our own thoughts.2 That is what I found most valuable with the book!

I’m somewhat surprised that Luc Ferry describes philosophy not only as ‘love’ (philo) of ‘wisdom’ (sophia),3 but also as a road to ‘salvation’ by the exercise of reason – if not from death itself, then from the anxiety it causes.4 Personally, I think loving wisdom – trying to live wisely – is a perfectly valid aim in itself. I also find reason to question reason itself. I have come to believe that reason alone will not save us and the world. Instead, we need to bring our focus ‘upstream’ to where reason and heart may work in common.5

1 Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2011), p.193.
2 Ibid., p.251.
3 Ibid., p.15.
4 Ibid., p.6.
5 The idea of moving ‘upstream’ is from Michael Jones. See Jones, Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of Imagination (Pianoscapes, 2006), p. xi.


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