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The Life of the Mind: On the Joys and Travails of Thinking

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  111 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
In The Life of the Mind, Georgetown University’s James V. Schall takes up the task of reminding us that, as human beings, we naturally take a special delight and pleasure in simply knowing. Because we have not only bodies but also minds, we are built to know what is. In this volume, Schall, author of On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs (ISI Books), among many other volum ...more
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published July 30th 2006 by Intercollegiate Studies Institute (first published 2006)
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David Withun
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
The Roman historian Suetonius says that Julius Caesar once, upon seeing a statue of Alexander the Great, sighed deeply at the thought that Alexander had already conquered a vast empire by the age at which Caesar was only new appointed governor of Spain. I often sympathize with Caesar's sad envy when I think of the failings of my own education in contrast with the great intellectual achievements of my literary and academic heroes. As I seek to cultivate an authentic "life of the mind," Schall's m ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: A series of meditations “on the joys and travails of thinking” focused around the central idea that thinking is discovering “what is.”

It is likely the case that other creatures “think” but thinking is one of the things that particularly sets apart human beings. We may also recognize that it is possible to think well or poorly and that an education, even a liberal education, may not necessarily set us up to think well.

This is a book about thinking, about the use of our minds to think wel
Thomas Achord
The book is largely Schall explaining what others have said about the life of the mind. Which is helpful, in a sense. I'd rather Schall explain his views directly without relying so heavily upon commentary of others. However, it is always refreshing to reflect on reflecting.
THIS is one of those unique books that you can return to again and again and always learn something new. The genius of the book is the way it approaches the gaining of wisdom from different perspectives. Thinking, walking, reading, and meditating come to mind as ideas essayed in this small book that is large in its wealth of ideas. In what perhaps could be considered the signature essay of the book, "On Taking Care of One's Own Wisdom" we learn about the importance of understanding ourselves and ...more
Stephen Hicks
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Every so often you come across a book that is tremendously affirming to what you already think to be the case but says it with a lucidity and a brilliance you could only ever dream of. For me, this was that kind of book. Mr. Schall's dexterity and wit is on display as he makes his case for why everyone should strive to be readers and thinkers; not for pride or arrogance sake but because our minds are gifts from God and to allow them to turn into some form of YouTube-ian mush is a great shame.

Amy Meek
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
There's a lot of this that went right over my head but I think if I read it again after acquainting myself better with some of the ancient philosophers, I'll get more out of it.

At times the language seemed to be more convoluted than absolutely necessary but there were also A LOT of enlightening parts too. I also wish it was available in kindle form.
Christian Dibblee
Oct 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: miscellaneous
Enjoyable book and short. I like his central premises, mainly that wisdom should always be obtained to bring about the fullness of the human mind. He shows that, without searching for wisdom, the human mind does not do all that it is meant to do. We are meant to determine the truth of things, to ask what is as the utmost question. I also appreciated his exhortations to constantly be reading but to also understand the risks we run as humans who might eventually conclude there can be no absolute t ...more
Timothy Gibbons
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Time will tell but my first impression of this book is that it is very important. In particular to those that may have just realized that their education is lacking and they are interested in looking for answered about what it means to be and how best to live out our lives. This isn't a book about philosophy per se, but it is a book about how to pursue new found passions for knowledge of what is by reading the great philosophers and theologians of the western tradition. Highly recommended for an ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book should earn beyond five stars. This was the perfect book for me to read at this exact point in my life.

James Schall is a priest and a philosopher that tells us why reading is important, and why reading good books by good authors is even more important. He explains that we as humans are, or should be, intensely curious in what is. We learn about ourselves by learning what is outside of ourselves, and learning what we are not.

Much of this book is devoted to having a good education throu
Amanda Tindall
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Pieper, intellectual life, liberal education, etc. It's essentially a sentimental introduction to "The Idea of a University," "Leisure: The Basis of Culture," and Sertillanges. An enjoyable read, nonetheless.

Andrew Price
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Life of the Mind is a group of repeated essays on the joys on the intellectual life. It is a practical guide to taking Plato's advice of living an examined life. There is also a good reading list at the end of the book for further reading into some of the topics.
Devin Creed
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Poorly cobbled together, quote-happy in a decidedly Dreherian fashion, and simplistic to a fault, I found this book unremarkable.
Steven  Hunter
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this to anyone who is dubbed a "thinker." This book is intelligently written, and Schall is a master at this topic.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely philosophical book about the love of learning. Schall is infinitely charming and insightful.
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  • The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods
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  • Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education
  • The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What it Means to Be an Educated Human Being
  • Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
  • Beauty for Truth's Sake: The Re-Enchantment of Education
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  • A Temple of Texts
  • A Guidebook to Learning: For a Lifelong Pursuit of Wisdom
  • Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child
  • Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 3, 1935-1938
  • Fides et Ratio: On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason
  • Joy of Reading
  • The End of the Modern World
  • Mere Humanity: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition
  • The Art of Teaching
  • Without Roots: Europe, Relativism, Christianity, Islam
Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University.

He was born in Pocahontas, Iowa, January 20, 1928. Educated in public schools in Iowa, he graduated in 1945 from Knoxville, Iowa High, and then attended University of Santa Clara. He earned an MA in Philosophy from Gonzaga University in 1945.

After time in the U.S. Army (1946-47), he joined the Society of Jesus
More about James V. Schall