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Breakfast With Socrates: The philosophy of everyday life Hardcover – 22 Oct 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (22 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846682371
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846682377
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.3 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 893,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Philosophy made accessible and applied to the quotidian...manages to be funny without underestimating the reader. (Financial Times 2009-10-24)

Smith's book is structured around a day, interrogating activities such as waking up, commuting, going to the doctor, watching TV, or partying. (The Guardian 2009-10-24)

it's hard not to recommend someone who provides you with an argument for not going to the gym, for promoting the power of using the TV remote control and letting your parents pay for lunch! (Sue Magee Bookbag 2009-10-06)

This charming book wears its erudition with ease and suggests that despite what Socrates says, it is in fact the unexamined day that is not worth living. (Publishers Weekly)

The ancient philosophers - and the author - bring meaning to your day...What has philosophy to do with work? What could Kant's transcendentalism, Hegel's dialectic or even Marx's materialism have to say about the daily grind? Well, this book demonstrates that the wisdom of the sages reveals much. (Management Today 2009-11-01)

Smith has written a remarkable book, which goes through the seemingly mundane events of a day - waking up, having a bath, commuting, reading a book, and so on - and explores them with a philosophical eye to see what insights might be gleaned...joyously wise. (Church Times 2009-11-27)

Breakfast with Socrates takes us on an extraordinary philosophical tour of an ordinary day as we wake up with Descartes' awareness of our own consciousness, go off to work with Weber's self-denial, play hooky with John Stuart Mill's passion for individual liberty, and end the day in a nice, warm bath with the Buddha's heightened consciousness of the moment. Who said philosophers aren't practical? (Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, authors of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar and Heidegger and a Hippo Walk through Those Pearly Gates)

A very thoughtful and continuously entertaining picture of human behaviour ... a filling mental meal that should leave you delightfully satisfied. (Wired)

Book Description

A journey through an ordinary day in the company of some extraordinary ideas - the book of the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair that's already destined to be an international bestseller

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
In "Breakfast with Socrates", subtitled A Philosophy of Everyday Life, former Oxford Fellow Robert Roland Smith takes various elements of a 'typical' day and provides insight into what an eclectic collection of thinkers might have to offer to make these mundane routines more interesting. After all, as Socrates declared 'the unexamined life is not worth living'.

My first thought was that Roland Smith leads an enviously full life since his typical day includes not only waking up, getting ready, travelling to work, being at work, taking a bath, cooking and eating, watching TV, reading a book and falling asleep, but he also manages to find time to go to the doctor, have lunch with his parents, bunk off, go shopping, head to the gym, book a holiday, go to a party, have an argument with his partner, have sex and book a holiday - which he no doubt needs after all that. It's a wonder he finds time to think at all with all that going on. It's a clever structure for the book though.

Both titles to the book are potentially a bit misleading. Socrates makes very limited appearances (the author suggests that the book may as well have been titled 'Having a Bagel with Hegel' which appealed more to the inner Dr Seuss in me) and Roland Smith does not limit himself to traditional philosophers for inspiration. Here you will also find an eclectic mix of psychoanalysts, sociologists, painters, psychologists, political writers, anthropologists and writers as well as philosophers to offer their thoughts.
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Format: Hardcover
Rowland Smith is a truly gifted communicator. This is the only book I've read that's been able to explain, among other things, continental philosophy to the layperson. Rowland Smith is intellectual without being elitist, eclectic without rambling, serious without being stuffy. The book's strength is that it draws not only on philosophy as we would traditionally understand it, but also the realms of art, literature, pyschoanalysis, anthropology etc - whatever will help to illuminate the practice under consideration (having sex, going to a party, for example). This book is for everyone who loves thinking in all its many forms and would make a good Christmas present, I'd say.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this a fascinating book and it is a useful introduction to philosophy and how it relates to everyday life. It doesn't have to read all the way through and can be dipped into as and when you want to read a section. Philosophers from all ages are mentioned from Aristotle and Socrates through to those writing in the twentieth century.

Philosophy can seem totally unrelated to everyday life and to many it is an abstruse subject which no one in their right mind would study. Hopefully this book will dispel some of the myths surrounding the subject and introduce it to more people.

This is an enjoyable book with a serious message and it may just make you think more about things you do every day. There is a useful list of further reading at the end of the book and other authors and books are mentioned throughout the text.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book that can't be rushed. Taking everyday life situations, the author observes their relationships with philosophical thought and past writings to offer a possible understanding of how they can be approached and handled in a way that is beneficial to living. It is not a guide to a good life, more a presentation of possibilities. No, I've not finished it yet, and don't intend to rush to the final page. However, I believe I will return to it again and again to help my understanding by drawing upon the understanding of others.
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This is a lively and engaging read which uses the activities of a rather fully-packed day to introduce key thinkers and cultural theorists with snippets of their thought. So waking up almost inevitably introduces Descartes' cogito ergo sum, `I think therefore I am', dreaming takes us to Freud, watching TV to Raymond Williams, going to a party to Machiavelli and so on.

This is certainly wider than a book about philosophy as it also touches on reader-reception, and a bit of Saussure's linguistic theory; Irigaray, Kristeva and Cixous on the non-essentialism of gender; Lacan (on a shopping trip), Barthes, Foucault, Bakhtin and many other thinkers, some of whom are little more than name-checked.

If I were going to criticise the book I would say that it is sometimes a bit random: so a chapter on food and the anthropology of eating, for example, stretches from Levi-Strauss's structuralist cultural theories to Darwinian survival instinct. I also think the book suffers from `snippet syndrome' offering up soundbites that barely scratch the surface of what these thinkers are really about.

Having said that, this is an enjoyable romp through human thought. It's the sort of book I would recommend to undergraduate students studying social and cultural theory who need a down-to-earth way of applying theory to concrete examples, or to anyone wanting a flying tour through major currents of thought. The `further reading' is rather disappointingly sparse, however, and jumbles up primary and secondary reading in a haphazard manner.

Overall, this reminds me of a BBC documentary: it's fun, it's educational, it's populist - and it might just lead you into a much deeper engagement with the complexities of thought that are, inevitably, merely skimmed over here.
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