The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers
By Eric Weiner. Avid Reader Press, 2020, 330 pp.
As Eric Weiner observes in his introduction to The Socrates Express, "In the literary world, how-to books are an embarrassment, the successful but uncouth cousin. Serious writers don't write how-to books, and serious readers don't read them.
How bold then to write a how-to book about that most serious subject, philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom. A clash of high culture and low, you might think.
But Weiner, a former foreign correspondent for NPR, in searching for ways to deal with his own "persistent melancholy," has created a work of applied philosophy that is thoughtful, entertaining, and useful. He renders the abstract practical by focusing on 14 philosophers who were themselves practical. "It was not the meaning of life that interested them," he says, "but leading meaningful lives."
Framing each chapter as a train journey to a relevant place—"philosophy and trains pair well," says Weiner—he visits Athens for "How to Wonder like Socrates"; Frankfurt, for "How to Listen like Schopenhauer"; Bordeaux, for "How to Die like Montaigne"; and Ashford, in the UK, for "How to Pay Attention like Simone Weil." Read More