The Truth about Everything: An Irreverent History of Philosophy, with Illustrations

Matthew Stewart, Author Prometheus Books $38.98 (482p) ISBN 978-1-57392-110-7
Stewart, an ex-academic who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Oxford and works as a management consultant in New York City, has written a deliciously iconoclastic and often funny historical survey of Western philosophy. In his analysis, Plato, Socrates, Heraclitus and their circle (""a group of people who walked around in bedsheets"") did not invent Western thought; instead, they revived an earlier, mystical tradition that perpetuated theological biases. In Stewart's often unconventional assessments, Sartre mostly purveyed familiar truisms in fancy dress; Nietzsche was more of an enlightenment thinker than an irrationalist; and Spinoza, often regarded as a rationalist crusader for modernity, was actually a throwback to the Stoics, fetishizing reason as a magical key to the cosmos. Leavening his thoroughgoing critiques with imaginary dialogues and letters, off-the-wall parables, short biographical sketches, barbed satires and deceptively simple drawings, Stewart deflates what he considers the inflated claims, obscure language, pretensions and grandiose metaphysical structures of Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Kant, Hegel, Descartes, Kierkegaard and Foucault. This irreverent tour will goad armchair philosophers to independent thoughtDfulfilling Stewart's belief that philosophy is, by its nature, the province of amateurs. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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