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Philosopher: A History in Six Types

by Justin Smith Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 288 pages
AU$39.99 NZ$43.47
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What would the global history of philosophy look like if it were told not as a story of ideas but as a series of job descriptions--ones that might have been used to fill the position of philosopher at different times and places over the past 2,500 years? The Philosopher does just that, providing a new way of looking at the history of philosophy by bringing to life six kinds of figures who have occupied the role of philosopher in a wide range of societies around the world over the millennia--the Natural Philosopher, the Sage, the Gadfly, the Ascetic, the Mandarin, and the Courtier. The result is at once an unconventional introduction to the global history of philosophy and an original exploration of what philosophy has been--and perhaps could be again.


By uncovering forgotten or neglected philosophical job descriptions, the book reveals that philosophy is a universal activity, much broader--and more gender inclusive--than we normally think today. In doing so, The Philosopher challenges us to reconsider our idea of what philosophers can do and what counts as philosophy.




Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
1 Singular Things and Timeless Truths
Featuring the Curiosa 21
2 Philosophy and Philosophia
Featuring the Sage 54
3 Inside and Out
Featuring the Gadfly 120
4 Body and Soul
Featuring the Ascetic 159
5 Mountains and Valleys
Featuring the Mandarin 190
6 Money and Love
Featuring the Courtier 223
Conclusion 237
Notes 241
Bibliography 253
Index 263

"A thoughtful, provocative, and quietly confident account of what it is to do philosophy."--Sarah Gustafson, Key Reporter


“Clear, engaging and enlightening.”Stephen Gaukroger, Times Literary Supplement
Justin E. H. Smith is university professor of the history and philosophy of science at the Université Paris Diderot—Paris VII.