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The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,493 ratings  ·  268 reviews

The charming and poignant story of the relationship between a philosophy professor and his pet wolf.

Mark Rowlands was a young philosophy professor, rootless and searching for life’s greater meaning. Shortly after arriving at the University of Alabama, he noticed a classified ad in the local paper advertising wolf cubs for sale, and decided he had to investigate, if only ou
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published December 15th 2010 by Pegasus (first published 2008)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  2,493 ratings  ·  268 reviews

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Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not a conventionally nice book -- the author can be a crank carrying around a hypertrophied male ego like a sack of bad gas -- nor is it a sentimental book. Forget Marley & Me. It is a confession and a provocation, the story of a rootless young man becoming a better, more responsible, man by loving a wolf. Yes, it's well-written (Rowlands shares a penchant for employing clear, plain prose with fellow philosopher Colin McGinn) and it has a bunch of Big Philosophical Ideas in it, but those ...more
Jennifer Clement
The Philosopher and the Wolf is an astonishing book, both heartbreaking and heart lifting. Mark Rowlands’ experience of living with a wolf leads him to examine what it is to be human. In general biologists write books of this kind, but as Rowlands is a philosopher, his perspective is profoundly original. The book is a memoir of the author’s day-to-day life with a wolf that leads to a meditation on subjects such as human evil and the pursuit of happiness. Above all, this book is a love story that ...more
This work is a charming love story between a young philosophy professor and a wolf. This teacher will learn a lot from his wolf, and through their lives' report, the author engages in a philosophical reflection. There are heartbreaking pages at the end of the book when the old wolf is first very ill, and his master forced to sting him, and this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys philosophical thinking and loves animals. ...more
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I have perused some other reviews of this book here on Goodreads. Those who didn't like it seemed, above all, to be offended by the author's cynical and sometimes brutal depictions of human motivations.

So if you want to read a book that praises and flatters humanity and your sense of yourself, then stay away!

If you don't mind taking a hard look at yourself and admitting that humans are by far the most brutal and evil species on Earth, then you might appreciate this book.

Here's a characteristic p
'The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness' was kindly provided to me by Netgalley for Open Road Media.

This book is part memoir, part story of the 11 years spent with his wolf named Brenin and the impression that he made on his life, and part philosophical interpretation of what it means to be human. I can’t claim to be a true lover of Philosophy; however, this book and the author’s writing style kept me engaged. The novels main emphasis tends to focus on t
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, usa, men, europe, uk, wolves
3.5 stars

I’m not a fan of philosophy books probably because I never had a proper philosophical education. I can read philosophical essays with pleasure, but very seldom I read any treatises, the way they are written, especially the newer ones – all this pop philosophy, I really miss the appeal. Even when I do agree with the author, I don’t enjoy reading them. This said, I really enjoyed The Philosopher and the Wolf, a book that in a way is a perfect example of this pop philosophy. Which either m
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was difficult to get through. As an animal behavior specialist and an anthrozoologist I found Mr. Rowlands' attempts as defining and bridging the gap between human and wolf riddled with problems. While he clearly had a memorable and life-changing relationship with his wolf, Brenin, he often describes his behavior toward Brenin in terms that are nothing short of indifferent to Brenin's perspectives and filled with the human need for power and control. While I am certainly envious of Row ...more
Jun 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wasn't sure about this until I got to the second page.

This is also a book about what it means to be human - not as a biological entity but as a creature that can do things no other creatures can. In the stories we tell about ourselves, our uniqueness is a common refrain. According to some, this lies in our ability to create civilization, and so protect ourselves from nature, red in tooth and claw. Others point to the fact that we are the only creatures that can understand the difference betwee
Jason Mills
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in animals, philosophy and 'solitariness'
Recommended to Jason by: Someone on
This is a book with three entwined strands. There is the story of Brenin, the author's wolf: his life and behaviour, and his impact on Rowlands' own life. There are philosophical discussions that spin off from anecdotes about the wolf. And, implicit in both, there is the journey, the pathology, of the misanthropic, solitary man who is telling us all this.

The writing is thoroughly engaging: often humorous, always (so far as one can judge) honest and diligent. Rowlands, philosopher that he is, exa
Ata A
I enjoyed the memoir and the critique of the apes. The chapter on deception was interesting. Brenin was an amazing creature, and there were times that Rowlands had me wanting to be just like a wolf. Rowlands' definition on what "ape" really is:

"The 'ape' is the tendency to understand the world in instrumental terms: the value of everything is a function of what it can do for the ape. The ape is the tendency to see life as a process of gauging probabilities and computing possibilities, and using
When I was a freshman at Brown, I majored in philosophy. When I was a sophomore, I escaped from school to the Maine wilderness. Philosophy was just so much yammering and wild speculation. I never wanted to read it again. When I moved back to civilization and returned to college, I made sure I selected courses that relied on data, not twisting words onto words with no proof. I ended up getting a doctorate in Linguistics--which actually had its origins in philosophy, but was data driven at Brown.
Alain Guillemain
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Philosophy has a way of immolating the visceral ways in which we connect. In this book, Mark Rowlands brings to life the interconnection between two beings, and traces their journey together with philosophically-inspired food for thought. Very much worth the read.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was first attracted to this book by the name of the book and the picture on the front of the book. The author suggests that the picture on the front might be an effort to mimic a classic painting entitled "Lone Wolf". This painting is of a wolf on a mountain looking down at the light shining in a domain below. The longing of the outsider to come inside and visit. Would this outsider ever stay? Would the wolf be able to fit into the life of a philosopher?

The author of this book describes himsel
Aban (Aby)
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Rowlands, a professor of philosophy, writes both about the eleven or twelve years of his life, from the time he brought home a wolf cub whom he named Brenin until the latter's death. (During that time he also acquired two more dogs: Anna and Tess.)They lived in the USA, Great Britain, and France. Rowlands adored the animals and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their lives.

Rowlands also weaves his philosophical views into the story. He writes about the nature of intelligence, about what d
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Philosopher and the Wolf is engaging, erudite, and provocative, though Rowlands seems unable to escape his deeply-rooted misanthropy. I sympathize with his attraction to canis lupus and to some of the ethical values that he draws out of his life with Brenin (i.e. the ethical test of how we treat the weakest, etc.). Many of the biographical details of Brenin's life are well-told and the philosophical discussions are nicely integrated. Unfortunately, Rowlands' lone wolf nihilism casts a long s ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Musings on what it means to be human and what it means to be a wolf, thoughts on the meaning of life, happiness and death, all presented in the context of the author's relationship with his wolf. Quite a tearjerker. ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ah, what a brilliant book. It unpacks life in such surprisingly chilling, satisfying and frustrating ways that I swung between feeling furious with the writer and grateful for him almost all throughout the book. If a book elicits emotions so far from each other, then it's arguably a great book. Said that, there are some moments you kind of feel the scholarly arrogance of a philosopher who tries to draw a moral line for everyone, but these fleeting moments come and go. The taste that stays with y ...more
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aberdeen
I think this was the first work I read from the (large) genre "Disgruntled philosopher of life uses book to vent about the analytics and say some wise stuff". There is also a very cute animal who is not a metaphor. ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want a wolf
Zosia Samosia
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My only regret is that I’ve read the book so late in my life. But hey, as the author would say: the time is not linear so it doesn’t actually matter.
Ryan Murdock
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Philosopher and the Wolf is a profound and original book. But I never would have found it if it hadn’t been recommended to me.

Even after I ordered it, it sat on my shelf for over a year before I finally picked it up.

I can understand why the back cover copy didn’t grab my attention, because this is a rather difficult book to describe. It’s not quite an autobiography, because the author is often overshadowed by the wolf, and neither of them is the main character. It’s not quite philosophy — a
Ade Bailey
Rowlands lays out early on the difficulties of writing the book, the time it took and a strangeness of memory that was involved. Also, that he isn't sure how the writing came together, how issues, metaphors and ideas folded into each other across chapters, how "Life rarely allows itself to be dealt with and put to bed." It's actually Rowlands' writing exercise and attempt to think about himself that I find the more interesting aspect of the book.

He is a successful professional philosopher, forme
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the biggest regrets of my college years was not devoting myself fully to a logic/philosophy class I ultimately chose to audit because I was taking 21+ hours and had freaked out after doing poorly on the first exam. (Undue focus on GPA, even though I had no grad school goals. DUH. No logic.) I had, thus, for decades, believed myself incapable of tackling the subject. Enter, stage left, The Philosopher and the Wolf. This book comes via recommendation from the kid running the wine store in A ...more
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons From the Wild On Love, Death and Happiness by Mark Rowlands will open your mind and break your heart. Losing a pet is always heart-wrenching, but losing this wolf, Brenin, will move you.

Rowlands writes of his relationship with Brenin, the wolf that he adopted as a pup and raised until his passing. The relationship the two had was truly one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime. Rowlands tells of what he learned from Brenin and how he was pushed to be the best he
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Easily the best philosophy book I've read in a long time. Accessible to the general reader without compromising rigorous thinking. Partly a memoir of Rowlands' experience living with a wolf adopted as a cub in Alabama and then took with him to live in Ireland and France, Rowlands also reflects on what he learned from Brenin on, for example, the differences and similarities between wolves and primates like humans. A serious look at how a man can co-exist with a wolf that allows both to thrive. Ro ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After reading the book Running with the Pack, I was delighted to find that there was a book that dived even deeper in the bond between wolf and man. For me this is the best type of philosophy book, one that is interspersed with more light-hearted moments from the author's life, contrasted with constructive and deeper musings on the events in his or her life. I noticed that it took me a lot longer to get through the book, just because it took a while for the messages to sink in and understand the ...more
May 09, 2002 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, arc
I'm vacillating between two and three stars on this one, but I think I'll end up with two. There were times, especially in the first half of the book, when Rowland's philosophical musings seemed insightful and original, and his anecdotes about his wolf were interesting and seemed to have a point. But the further along I got, the less focused the book felt. More importantly, I quickly tired of hearing about how crappy "simians" (apes and people) are compared to wolves. Rowland makes valid points, ...more
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This realization sometimes strikes me as a faintly surreal discovery. It is not me I remember striding the touchline in Tuscaloosa; it is the wolf that walked beside me. It is not me I remember at the party, it is the wolf that sat beside me and the pretty girls that approached me because of this. It is not me I remember running through the streets of Tuscaloosa or the country lanes of Kinsale; it is the wolves who matched their stride to mine. My memory of myself is always displaced. That I am ...more
Dean Ryder
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. Rowlands, an academic philosopher, buys a 95% wolf he calls Brenin and most of the book charts their relationship but also uses this to compare species and to decide from this what it is to be human. On the whole, we humans don't come out of it too well - apes who watch each other constantly, waiting for the chance to get some advantage from others whether sexual or otherwise. Although this seems a misanthropic view of humanity (especially for a Quaker to somewhat agree ...more
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Mark Rowlands was born in Newport, Wales and began his undergraduate degree at Manchester University in engineering before changing to philosophy. He took his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University and has held various academic positions in philosophy in universities in Britain, Ireland and the US.

His best known work is the book The Philosopher and the Wolf about a decade of his life he sp

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