Stories of the first philosophers


What exactly distinguishes the good life? Is it pleasure? Is it virtue? Is it wisdom? Or is it something else? Each of the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome had an answer, because for them it was the most important question. Stargazers takes us into their lives, depicting their efforts to understand the nature of ultimate reality and to live a life in accord with that understanding. Thus transported, we discover also the source of many of our own ideas concerning the cosmos, God, humankind, and the flourishing life. Stargazers is an invitation to return to the beginning, extended cordially to all, but most especially to those who have yet to encounter Platos "dear delight," philosophy. The quest begins and ends in wonder, and, along the way, reveals its power to transform both our perception of the world and our way of living in it.


A very important book that can help us better understand a lot of today's logic. Central to the theme is the sense that philosophy is a way of living, not something that one does, but rather something that one is. A great way for someone who is interested in ancient philosophies, but who is not a scholar, to learn more about the who, what's, why's and how's of early thinking. ~ , Odyssey

The origins of Western philosophy, which itself was concerned with the nature of origins as well as the underlying substance of the universe. A very good summary, reminding us that the question "what is the good life, and how is it to be achieved?" is still with us today. ~ , Network Review

This is a rather different approach to introducing the field of philosophy, a topic whose contradictory attractiveness and difficulty over the years has spawned many different approaches by many different authors. The introductory path the author follows is more through subjective meaning and ultimate value than abstract logic (think New Age a little), and Bjarnason brings both knowledge and a visceral sense of commitment to that task. He has taught this material to high schoolers, and it shows. The author focuses just on the first Greek world philosophers, from Thales to Plotinus, 600 BC to 200 AD. Each philosophical profile begins with a succinct Prelude section, setting person and era in clear context. Then follows a two-to-six page "story," aiming to pull the reader deeper and more personally into the life and thought of the philosopher at hand. Some readers might turn directly to the big three--Socrates, Plato and Aristotle--but the sections on lesser-known thinkers are often the most brilliant. This is a book that could be used in a variety of classes: history, ethics, philosophy or humanities in general, and, I'd guess, from 8th grade up. Students most likely can read it on their own with relative ease. Also included are a helpful chronology and a short, solid list for further reading. S--Recommended for senior high school students. A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. *an exceptional book ~ Daniel Levinson, Teacher, Thayer Acad., Braintree, MA, KLIATT

I was profoundly impressed by this work. Stargazers will prove to be a wonderful source of inspiration for the youth of today and tomorrow. ~ Eiichi Shimomisse, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, California State University

The book contains twenty-one short stories about the first philosophers, before each story a prelude sets the context for the story informing us of what we would need to know to understand the story. Stories range from a feast, a philosopher on trial and a philosopher on his death bed. Stories about notorious philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are included with many others. ~ Ryan Murray, TCN Reviews

Although the book will be of interest to those readers who especially want to learn more about the origins and tenets of philosophy, it will delight readers of any stripe for its lyrical verve and the author's obvious passion for his subject. History, as Herodotus practised it, is not always what happened so much as what would have been appropriate or poetically just; hence, if we subscribe to this ancient "cautionary tale" approach to biography, we can relish Paul Bjarnason's anecdotalizing about the ancient philosophers, regardless of whether such things as Thales' tumbling into an irrigation canal actually happened. Such humorous stories humanize Bjarnason's subjects, making them seem both timeless and contemporary. ~ Philip V. Allingham, Adjunct Professor, Dept. of English, Lakehead University

Reading this is an enjoyable experience. It will appeal to many people: the general public and students beginning their study of philosophy, among others. The interweaving of paraphrase, quotations, commentary and imaginative recreation gives the book a vitality that will, I believe, attract the reader to keep on reading. ~ Dane R. Gordon, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts

Provided a view which I could not have gained from reading the dry texts alone, and deepened my appreciation of their philosophical contribution. "Stargazers" will be appreciated by anyone who has enjoyed reading Mary Renault's 'The Last of the Wine'. ~ Dr Geoffrey Klempner, Director of Studies, International Society for Philosophers

I very much enjoyed reading this book. It is both an entertaining and enlightening introduction to the larger than life characters who helped bring philosophy out of myth in their quest for the good life and how to achieve it. Useful to those both new to, and versed in, the subject, Stargazers reminds us that philosophy, as a tradition that began with a concern for human happiness, is as relevant now as it was then. ~ Andrew Sewell, International Baccalaureate philosophy teacher, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific

Paul Rossetti Bjarnason
Paul Rossetti Bjarnason A Canadian of Icelandic and Italian descent, Paul Rossetti Bjarnason was born in Vancouver in 1944. After completing a philosophy degree an...
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