At the Existentialist Cafe, Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails

At the Existentialist Café, Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell, Other Press, New York 2016

When Philosophy meets up with the actualities of life that are happening on your doorstep, what happens? Bakewell takes existential philosophy out of the theoretical and abstract and breathes life into it with stories of the challenges, arguments, loves, and bitter fallings-out amid the world changing crises of the times that the most well-known expounders experienced. Heidegger, Sartre and Beauvoir, Camus, Merleau-Ponty and others are fleshed out with the colors of the events that formed the stage they played their scenes on in Paris, Berlin, and wherever else they were driven at times to flee.  The passionate questions they asked and the unsettling answers they variously found helped shape a generation of thought that sent echoes still vibrating now in the 21st century.

Not your grandfather’s philosophy textbook but a book that offers fertile ground for understanding that ideas of life come from people who have done some living outside of the ivory towers their works may end up in. What answers would we find today for what it means to be free, is human nature variable or fixed, how does morality mesh wish loyalty, what does it mean to live authentically? A few interesting questions for our own times, this is the way philosophy should be taught, in my humble opinion. Bakewell has given us an ideal primer.

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