Philosophy isn't just about cosmic issues. Every day is full of events that raise philosophical questions: why do we eat the things we eat, work the way we work, go to the places we go? What ide
Sunday’s guest is Robert Rowland Smith, author if Breakfast with Socrates and Driving with Plato. These books explore how the sorts of events that happen to everyone can give rise to philosophical thoughts, provide examples of philosophical insights, and be enriched by considering those insights.
From his picture, Smith looks to me like a young guy. I don’t know how he has lived long enough to read all the philosophers he discusses. He has really mastered a fascinating kind of essay. He takes an ordinary event, like taking a bath, and finds all sorts of interesting things to say about it. The chapter ``Going to a Party’’ leads from Leslie Gore --- of ``It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” ---to Machiavelli.
As I read Breakfast with Socrates, it seemed to me that Smith and I seem to take exactly the opposite approach to philosophy. I usually start with something people find intrinsically philosophical and mysterious and extraordinary, like personal identity or consciousness or freedom, and put a lot of effort into finding that nothing all that fascinating is going on. That’s not really how I think of what I do, but it’s how lots of other intelligent people react to it. As if I were trying to make the philosophical into the banal.
Smith, on the other hand, takes having a bath, or driving to work, which seem sort of banal, and makes them philosophically alive, examples of insights from Socrates to Sartre.
We have a sort of a plan for the program. First, we’ll talk to Smith about the Socratic idea, which he has taken near the limit, that examining one’s life makes it more worth living. Then we’ll look at how this plays out over an ordinary day. And then, unless the conversation goes off some other direction, how it plays itself out over one’s life time.