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The Heart of Philosophy

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Philosophy as it is frequently taught in classrooms bears little relation to the impassioned and immensely practical search for self-knowledge conducted by not only its ancient avatars but also by men and woman who seek after truth today. In The Heart of the Philosophy, Jacob Needleman provides a "user's guide" for those who would take philosophy seriously enough to understand its life-transforming qualities.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1982

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About the author

Jacob Needleman

77 books98 followers
Jacob Needleman is Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, former Visiting Professor at Duxx Graduate School of Business Leadership in Monterrey, Mexico, and former Director of the Center for the study of New Religions at The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He was educated in philosophy at Harvard, Yale and the University of Freiburg, Germany. He has also served as Research Associate at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, as a Research Fellow at Union Theological Seminary, as Adjunct Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of California Medical School and as guest Professor of Religious Studies at the Sorbonne, Paris (1992).

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5 stars
37 (35%)
4 stars
44 (42%)
3 stars
20 (19%)
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3 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Maughn Gregory.
982 reviews29 followers
January 12, 2012
"Whether we are speaking about the education of young people, or the education of what is young and searching in ourselves, it is first of all necessary to support the love of wisdom, the sensitivity to universal ideas that throw the whole of our common life in question. To think in new categories; to envision life within a vast, new frame of reference; and, through that, to awaken and orient that impulse in human nature which is deeper and higher than ego--this is the first task of real philosophy." (p. 177)

I've been reading and learning from Jacob Needleman for a few years now, and was delighted to accidentally discover this book, in which he addresses all the most important themes of my own work: philosophy, wisdom studies, and education. In some chapters Needleman discusses how certain philosophers (Socrates, Pythagoras, DesCartes, Kant, Wittgenstein) have followed philosophy's impulse toward self-questioning and the transcendence of ego; in others he tells stories from his own childhood in which he became of aware of this impulse within himself; in others he relates how he attempted to make that kind of self-discovery the point of a philosophy program he started in a high school in the 1970s. (Needleman also wrote a nice piece about this for our journal _Thinking_, 1982).

I highly recommend this book for anyone involved in Philosophy for Children / Philosophy in Schools programs.
286 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2019
A fascinating book and a great introduction to philosophy but one with a very clear agenda from the outset. I am surprised by his many omissions, especially Thomas Aquinas, because we seem to jump in time from Plato to Descartes.
His re-interpretation of the thought processes behind both Socrates and Hume was interesting. It is a book I intend to re-read.
Profile Image for Robert.
159 reviews6 followers
March 6, 2021
Needleman seems more interested in presenting himself as a kind of New Age guru than exploring any serious philosophical inquiry.
301 reviews
April 20, 2010
I thought this book would be a nice introduction to philosophy. Unfortunately for me, it does assume a familiarity with Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein. So there were sections of this book that I did not understand as I have never studied philosophy. My personal experience reading this book was probably at 2 stars.

But I gave it 3 stars, because I did like the parts I understood. I found Needleman's description of teaching philosophy to high school students and their parents to be interesting. I learned a bit about Wittgenstein's philosophy, with which I was completely unfamiliar. I was inspired to learn more.

In the Conclusion, Needleman says that his book "is a plea for the return of one of the modalities of this higher influence in human life - philosophy, philosophical ideas." I got that when I read the Conclusion. I'm not sure that I realized that was his goal as I was reading the parts that led up to the conclusion. So I'd recommend reading this book, assuming you have already studied philosophy.
Profile Image for May Ling.
1,071 reviews287 followers
January 2, 2020
The book delivers on that which the description describes. This book attempts to make philosophy more approachable by recounting significant discourses in the context of the authors life experience. It is actually a fairly effective technique for introducing the subject.

As an entry into some of the major ideas and faces of Philosophy, it's not bad. I think if it wasn't trying to broadly tackle philosophy but started smaller, it might be slightly even more effective. I always think of Phaedrus and how much Socrates tackled in such an adorable little story.

1 review
March 19, 2014
Good read with great ideas

some of the book is a little out there and hard to understand but only in a few small parts. definitely more difficult towards the end. however, most of the reading was easy to understand and the material is great for anyone starting out with an interest in philosophy. I read this book for college but that has not stopped me from recommending it to a few friends already!
Profile Image for Joshua.
37 reviews4 followers
August 8, 2008
Needleman explores our need for meaning in life. Probing our deep, even subconscious, desires to know our place in existence. Using Plato, Aristotle, and many others he weaves an entrancing theory.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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