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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 December 2011
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 October 2009
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.

There is an old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but with philosophy a little knowledge can also be very interesting, particularly when you are dealing with philosophers like French Foucault and Derrida whose works I have always failed to understand beyond the first sentence. Roland Smith does his best to simplify and provide snippets of thought that make you see things just a bit differently. To a large extent Roland Smith is able to lead the casual reader through some of these ideas.

Indeed, he comes over as a very knowledgeable and affable guide. His points of reference range from his academic studies, to Shakespeare, 'Jaws', 'The Godfather', 'Sex in the City' as well as authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lewis Carroll, and Nabokov. For the most part it's largely jargon-free (or at least effective at explaining the jargon used) and infused with amusing asides - although these can make some of the sentences long and difficult to read.

For me, some chapters worked better than others - he is at his best when he is being more playful than when he gets bogged down in some apparently random trains of thought. At his party, he takes his theme from the 'It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To' opening and the eloping Johnny and Judy, while on discussing an argument with a partner, he takes the example of George and Martha in Albee's 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf'. When he doesn't quite have the same springboard (in the chapters on visiting the doctor or the lunch with parents, for example) it works less well I felt.

The book is much in the style of other 'popular philosophy for all' like Alain de Botton although the publishers have not helped Roland Smith's cause by the format of the book which is much more scholarly in terms of the layout and font than the glossy approach adopted by de Botton's publishers.

Ultimately though, 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!
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on 13 April 2017
A lot of drivel, and the rest half-baked philosophical musings. Some sentences are laughable - Socrates 'assassination' - he drank hemlock, the opening sentence is all over the place, and the rest of the book flaps in the wind like a ragged flag
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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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on 22 October 2009
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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on 18 December 2009
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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on 29 August 2015
Awful pretentious tripe. Completely fails at delivering every day philosophy in the way that Freakonomics was able to do so for Economics and TippingPoint for sociology. Complete and utter epic fail - I cringed at every page and contemplated tweeting the writer. However, my life is too precious I didn't want to waste any more of my time - though warning others against this Book is my civic duty!
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on 20 September 2013
A nice introduction to those who want to get some exposure to philosophy or even those who simply want to perceive everyday activities and relationships in a new way. Some chapters were very though provoking (chapters on sleep & parents) others were a little dull. The link to religion is not as heavy as some other reviews suggest
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on 30 March 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an eye-opener for me about certain issues I had in my life, and it made me think differently, outside of the box. It made me want to tackle things again. There's no have-to's or don't-do's: you make up your mind about what you want out of your life. A self-help book in some sort of way?
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on 13 June 2014
Thank you, great book, it has got me really thinking! I would recommend it to anyone who's interested in philosophy,
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