Learning to Live: A User’s Manual

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Learning to Live: A User's Manual By Luc Ferry, book reviewWhen I had Learning to Live in my hands, although I was supposed to offer it to our loyal book reviewers, I couldn’t resist the temptation to read it myself. I had to peek into this book despite the aversion I feel for all kind ‘for dummies’ books, self improvement or fashionable books. Dumbing-down tendencies that surround us make me cringe but I risked by starting reading this ‘manual’.

To be fair to Luc Ferry he is not advertising his book as self improvement manual which will by the end of the last page give you a clear answer to all difficult questions about our existence. He simply wants to bring philosophy down to masses, whether you are a teenager starting to show interest in philosophy or midlife adult deciding to finally get to the bottom of that all ‘meaning of life’ fuss.

Very quickly I forgot pretentious title and all the hype that comes with the best sellers. It got me sucked in with questions I think over quite often. Amazingly so philosophers from old Greek era up until today were asking themselves the very same questions. The author brings to the focus the very essential questions which bother every thinking being. Why we are here? How it is going to end? What is the point of it all if it is going to end however you believe it is going to end?

The meaning of life and salvation are the central issues tackled in the book, quite naturally, as they are in the centre of philosophy throughout the history. The various schools of philosophy were distinct by the answer they were offering to these questions. Author tries to give us an insight into why and how men pass from one model of reality to another.

There are few things which made the long lasting impression on me while reading Learning to Live.

“I would highly recommend Learning to Live to anyone who is curious about the world around us.”

The one is similarity of issues I was instinctively thinking about and issues addressed by great philosophers. Not that I am thinking that I am very clever or that big philosopher is sitting deep down in my head. It is actually amazing how philosophy is shown as a very live and down to earth science by a skilful author. Another important point is that it made me think about things I never thought before. Although it might look trivial, the question about difference between human beings and animals might reveal so much about why we are what we are.

Not less important is the fact that book gives you a great overview of history of philosophy. Even though it is a digested read for a serious student it is a great resource for us not deeply immersed in the world of great thinkers. I appreciated that great ideas were not explained in a simple and dumbed down fashion. Not that I understood all of the Kant’s views or have an urge to read further on Hegel but I fully stretched my brain and had a pleasure of journeying through vast space of ideas led through by a friendly expert.

I knew that Luc will have to show his allegiance at some point. He makes his views known at the end. Still I was really impressed how he showed respect and tolerance towards other ideas and represented them in the best possible way. He even find ways of reconciling some superficially completely opposite views of the world.

I would highly recommend Learning to Live to anyone who is curious about the world around us.

Learning to Live: A User’s Manual by Luc Ferry
Published by Canongate Books, July 2010
Thanks to Canongate Books for providing a free review copy.

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Learning to Live: A User's Manual
by Luc Ferry

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Written by Vladimir

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