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A Guide for the Perplexed

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,020 ratings  ·  124 reviews
The author of the world wide best-seller, Small Is Beautiful, now tackles the subject of Man, the World, and the Meaning of Living. Schumacher writes about man's relation to the world. Man has obligations—to other men, to the earth, to progress and technology, but most importantly himself. If man can fulfill these obligations, then and only then can he enjoy a real relatio ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 31st 1978 by Harper Perennial (first published 1977)
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J. Todd Absolutely. He is highly readable, and this book is a perfect introduction, or fitting conclusion, for readings in philosophy and social analysis. And…moreAbsolutely. He is highly readable, and this book is a perfect introduction, or fitting conclusion, for readings in philosophy and social analysis. And he's brilliant - and right!(less)

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Bob Hamilton
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I remember being very perplexed when I was led to this book. I guess that's what drew me to the title in the first place. I was already aware of "Small is Beautiful" so Schumacher was a familiar name. I was very taken with his notion of philosophical map making. I don't think I had quite fully realised before that I hadn't got such a map. It helped me to understand why I felt somewhat lost in my life. This passage is still poignant.

"The first principle of the philosophical map-makers seemed to b
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
I don't like the arrogant tone or the complaints about "modern society" and its values, which are poorly articulated and not defended. I don't agree that there is a linear progression from mineral >> self-aware human + also maybe God comes after that. Rather, I believe that all four are like leaves on a clover and the clover itself is "God" or Gaia. I don't think self-awareness is effectively defined.. it is used as a cheap philosophical buzzword for the first 80 pages of the book. I don't belie ...more
Peter Darcy
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is one for the ages. It needs demands your attention because Schumacher is brilliant, but that is actually part of the book's message. The effort to develop the "higher faculties" of the human person (mind is one of them) removes us from the one-dimensional, flat, Darwinist, materialist view of reality. Ultimately, this book is a very creative critique of Darwinism, not by taking on the infallible doctrine point by point but by making clear that the material world is only ONE dimension ...more
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
EF Schumacher is one my favorite modern day philosophers. Though he published in the 1970s, his thoughts are only coming to light now. Wouldn't be surprised if social change theories being used and published today were influenced by this works. When he talks about mapping in the first chapter, I felt as if this book practically called me to read it. I've been thinking a lot about maps and how what we map reflect what we care to see and what we value. There were many amazing ideas and frames of t ...more
Philip Jordan
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What amazing incite of life, from one of the great philosophical minds of the 20th century. 140 pages never covered so much difficult terrain... and the ride is so smooth & clear, you won't even spill your coffee! :)

I recommend this book to all those who are done/over/through with a limited "color-blind" experience of life, and are "looking" for internal/expanded access to a "hi-def" experience of life. You can clearly see how this book inspired the the minds & creators of Landmark Education, SC
Aug 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Schumacher makes some useful points, such as that we think of ourselves in terms of our intentions and others in terms of their actions, but his thinking is weighted and prejudiced by his deep religiosity and preference for mysticism. The negative assessments he makes of scientific thinking and achievements seem arbitrary if you don't agree with the Christian perspective he takes as read.

Schumacher sets out the basis of his philosophy as if it must be obvious to all right-thinking people, and la
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In this 1977 book, economist E.f.Schumacher explains the philosophical theory of the Great Chain of Being, the way in which human life is the culmination of a long evolutionary pattern thru history which leads to greater autonomy, freedom and self-awareness. Schumacher's ultimate purpose is to provide a logical alternative to the materialistic, Scientism of his day which basically said that reality only consists of that which can be measured and quantified thru use of the scientific method. By u ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: school-books
I must admit that the only reason I finished this book was so that I could tell you how I disliked it. At first I rather enjoyed the language but soon enough his arguments felt ill prepared and often resorted to the "and therefore this is obviously the right thing" kind of reasoning, when it was not convincing at all. On some smaller points I have no problem to agree, but on his whole structuring of the world I just get upset.

The one good thing I can say about it is that by chapter 3 I was alrea
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm writing a more detailed review for the Eighth Day Books catalog for Fall/Winter 2018, so I'll just say here that if you want to be thoughtful about thinking and if you want philosophical thought made as clear and actionable as possible, this is your book.

I recommend it for everybody who is willing to be challenged a little.
Jul 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
E.F. Schumacher's second book, "A Guide for the Perplexed," starts out by describing a map he consulted in Leningrad (before the fall of the USSR) to find out where he was, only to find out that it had ommitted several enormous churches that were right in front of him. When he asked a guide why the churches were not shown on the map, the guides response was"We don't show churches on our maps." This vignette becomes the opening for the premise of the book: the maps of life and knowledge that we h ...more
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Erik by: James Schall
Schumacher outlines a framework to describe the world and how we know it; it is a map for philosophy. The outline truly does make it easier to grasp various deep ideas that can be hard for the unlearned like myself to get in my head.

The first idea to understand is that there are Four Levels of Being. The first level is matter; objects solely at this level are inanimate, like minerals. The second level includes life; objects at this level are matter but grow and have some organization, such as pl
Harper R
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant book utilzes St Augustine as a departure point to consider 4 zones of human enquiry. The 4 zones are an intriguing way to classify the natural and human sciences. Schumacher shows us fixating on one domain only as having the only real truth - leads to folly and a sick culture unable to respond to its genuine tensions and problems well.

1: How I feel
2: How You feel
3: How I look to others
4: How others look to me.

But I do not subscribe to EFS's somewhat implied cleavage between looking a
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a heavy read, but is an absolutely brilliant piece of scholarship. Really enjoyed reading it.

E. F. Schumacher takes the reader on a journey of how he thinks about the world, with the goal to help you see the world a little more clearly, and to prioritise the use of one's life a little better.

He does this by talking about three major things:
- The Four Levels of Being
- Adequatio
- The Four Fields of Knowledge

As we go through these three areas, he poses some powerful arguments: huma
Misha Parlier
Dec 19, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Someone should fix the ebook version

This book is unreadable, that is, the ebook version. The words are not always put together, ex: "tr y t o re a d s om e t hing l ik e t hi s."

Now imagine entire paragraphs formed in this way. It seems that they attempted to compensate for this problem by adding a Scanned version of the unreadable page, which is rather annoying.

Would love to get my cash back, or at least a version of this ebook that is put together completely.
May 05, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: total-bs
You can shoot a million holes in each argument made on each page. I thought it would be interesting but I gave up after a dozen or so arguments that were just falling out of the air without any proof or whatever.
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Ernst F.Schumacher was at the forefront of the German Economic revival post the ruins and devastation wreaked by the catastrophic World War II. Schumacher in addition to being a formidable economist was also a pioneer in a movement to better understand and preserve the ecological system within which mankind existed. This endeavour culminated in his 1973 Environmental Economics bestseller "Small Is Beautiful". Schumacher advocated a unique blend of Economics which he himself termed "meta Economic ...more
Quentin Crisp
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Basically, brilliant. It's past midnight so there's no way I'm going to write a nuanced review of this.

With this book, Schumacher attempts to provide what might be called a rough map of areas of uncertain knowledge that are, as he claims, much more important than the areas of knowledge in which we can attain certainty.

I knew, in advance, he would make a stop at art along the way, and I was anticipating that my faith in him would significantly wobble at this point, but, actually, it wasn't so ba
Brandon Woodward
Sep 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
This is truly a terrible book. I was assigned to read it for school, which I still can’t believe. E.F. Schumacher, an economist, fails spectacularly at attempting to write a philosophical text with a scope much larger than his skills allow (see: Dunning Kruger effect). I began writing my counter-arguments in the margins of the book and every single page now has black margins. Not because I am particularly smart, but because EFS is a machine that continually pumps out bad takes.

It would have been
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit all over the place. But there are many profound moments. Taken with a huge grain of salt, this has helped me feel ever so slightly less perplexed.
Jeremy Burrows
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding book - a challenging read that expands the mind and changes the way you think.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I do like some points being mentioned in this book. There are several i am not on the same page with and some others made me confused. Reading this book to me feels like going on another class of ontology and epistemology, which is not my cup of tea.
May 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
The author starts out very well. In the beginning, he makes the case that perception of reality is not the same as measurable reality. He uses the example of mathematicians through history spending their whole lives chasing after measurable facts in search of the fabric of reality. The author goes on to say that our own faiths, beliefs, and imaginations add a depth to life that math cannot quantify. After that, the story goes downhill. The author begins talking about "Levels of Being" - some met ...more
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book in a first-year philosophy course almost 20 years ago, and returned to it recently when I needed some guidance. Like some of the other reviewers here, I got my back up a bit at first because I perceived the author's Christianity as arrogant and his criticisms of science as ill-informed. I kept reading, and I'm glad I did, because there is a lot to value in this book.

For me, probably the most valuable takeaway was realizing that the search to know oneself, though it can be looke
Evan Lutz
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This, if not the best non-fiction book I've ever read, then is at least the most insightful, informative, and impacting. It is amazing to me how much good content is contained within this short volume.

Schumacher uses basic, common-sense principles to construct a philosophical map, as he calls it. As he journeys through the philosophical course he sets out for himself, he finds room to comment on various interesting topics, such as the art of self-knowledge, meditation, the nature of science, th
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Very interesting book named after the classic by Moses Maimonides. States clearly the differences between inanimate objects, organic matter, sentient creatures and human consciousness. Also of interest, Schumacher explains the distinctions between the outer self and the inner self.

Schumacher was a Buddhist who, I think, later became a Catholic or Anglican, but he is more or less open to every religion with regard to the phenomenon of religion itself in this book. The conclusion is fascinating i
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
A profoundly important book.

I read this at a time i was searching for answers and it taught me to stay curious but instead of endlessly searching, to start making my own maps.

If I had to have a bible, it would be this.
As people turned their interests increasingly to the visible world, the distinction between soul and Spirit became more difficult to maintain and tended to be dropped altogether; man, therefore, was represented as a being compounded of body and soul. With the rise of materialistic Scientism, finally, even the soul disappeared from the description of man—how could it exist when it could be neither weighed nor measured?—except as one of the many strange attributes of complex arrangements of atoms
Nathan Albright
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
It took me months to get this book from the library.  I requested this book originally three months ago, and the book was lost within the library system for most of that time.  Then when the book was found and finally sent to me, it took three weeks to get transferred to me.  I think that some people were reading it along the way and didn't want to pass it along to me.  Of course, I only felt this way after having read the book as a whole.  Upon beginning the book, I didn't feel as fondly about ...more
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading. The author set out to define philosophical mind map for modern humans. He begins by defining the four levels of being--- including the observation that humans have consciousness and are capable of self awareness, thus delineating them from animals. With the ability to be self aware, a human being is only at his most human if utilizing those abilities of self awareness. Self knowledge comes from the act of observing oneself objectively internally and externally. Only after this ...more
Feb 06, 2021 rated it liked it
There are quite a few analogies, arguments and examples that makes you question things in this book, and that's good. The issue is that I find it difficult to move on and just accept each point the author makes as lots of these points are debatable, and they are not fully explained in his book (which is understood, given that it is not intended to be an expansive philosophical work).

Yes, the book provides few arguments and examples against using science as the sole guide for the perplexed, and i
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Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher was an internationally influential economic thinker, statistician and economist in Britain, serving as Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board for two decades. ...more

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