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About the Author

Considered one of the most independent and perceptive analysts of contemporary intellectual culture, Jonathan Lear has authored several thought-provoking works including Aristotle and Logical Theory; Aristotle: The Desire to Understand; Love and Its Place In Nature; A Philosophical Interpretation näytä lisää of Freudian Psychoanalysis; and Open Minded, among others. He is a member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and has been recognized as John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor. (Bowker Author Biography) näytä vähemmän

Includes the name: Jonathan Lear

Image credit: Photo courtesy the University of Chicago Experts Exchange (link)

Tekijän teokset

Associated Works

Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985) — Esipuhe, eräät painokset516 kappaletta
The Blackwell Guide to Plato's Republic (2006) — Avustaja — 38 kappaletta
A Companion to Socrates (2006) — Avustaja — 38 kappaletta
Essays on Aristotle's Poetics (1992) — Avustaja — 33 kappaletta
Erotikon: Essays on Eros, Ancient and Modern (2005) — Avustaja — 23 kappaletta
A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature (2010) — Avustaja — 15 kappaletta
Aristotle and Moral Realism (1995) — Avustaja — 10 kappaletta
Sarunas ar filozofiem (2018) — Tekijä — 1 kappale

Merkitty avainsanalla




I can hardly praise this book too highly. It’s truly exceptional. A few years ago, after reading many of Plato’s dialogues, I decided to try tackling Aristotle and got the Modern Library Basic Works. But where to start? With Plato it’s fairly easy – early, then middle, then late dialogues, and beginning with those centered on Socrates’ death. And Plato’s a literary great – his art draws you into his philosophy. Aristotle’s a far harder case: his extant works are probably lecture notes, famously dry. And there’s no obvious point of entry or sequence of study. But concepts that are spread throughout his work are integral to an understanding of the parts and the whole.

I was at a loss until I found Lear’s book. He’s clearly spent many years contemplating Aristotle’s thought, with the result being breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding, fortuitously combined with lucidity in explication and an inspired choice of the sequence of topics. Then he adds invaluably to this by making reading suggestions at each chapter and most subheads. I followed these suggestions, so it took a while to get through the book – getting through hundreds of pages of Aristotle in the process – but Lear shines all the more when taking that approach. I highly recommend it.

This will necessarily be overly simple, but I’ll give a sense of the book’s content and flow. It starts with Aristotle’s view of man as the rational animal, having a desire to understand - the product (and reflection, more or less) of an intelligible cosmos. So this desire is integral to the nature of the cosmos. Lear very clearly explains Aristotle’s complex and nuanced causality – something pretty foreign to the modern mind but important throughout Aristotle’s thought, as is his affinity for the mean and for finding solutions through the middle of conundrums. Lear takes us through fundamental Aristotelian concepts from his Physics – the nature and structure of the physical cosmos and of time and change (critical issues in Pre-Socratic philosophy), of life (from the biological works) and the soul and mind. Then ethics and the good life (primarily from the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics), leading through the logical works (a great achievement) to the heart of the Metaphysics.

It gets dense here, but Lear’s paved the way brilliantly. This last part revolves around substance and essence; Aristotle’s God, his activity and relationship to the cosmos; the concept that all things “desire” God, however unconsciously, and are most fully actualized in pursuing this desire; and that man is most fully actualized, paradoxically, by transcending his nature (as a political and social, i.e. ethical, animal) and becoming the most God-like he can be through the contemplative life. Lear points out that some of this is conjecture on his part and varies from some common traditional understandings of the Metaphysics.

There’s much in Aristotle’s conception of God I don’t accept, and I have problems with aspects of his conceptions of the good life and the best life, along with some other things in his thought. But studying Aristotle has been richly rewarding and has given me concepts and perspectives I hadn’t even conceived of before (as with Plato). I don’t know how I would have approached Aristotle or processed much of it without Lear’s help. Perhaps the book weakens slightly at the end as Lear seems to want to tidily wrap up Aristotle’s philosophy as a self-consistent, reasonable and fairly comprehensive whole. Perhaps. But that’s a minor quibble and maybe not even a fair or accurate one. I’d have to study Aristotle longer and more deeply to better judge that. Regardless, if you’re looking for a guide to Aristotle’s philosophy, Lear’s outstanding and I imagine you could hardly find a better one than him.
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garbagedump | Dec 9, 2022 |
Lear offers an interpretation of the dreams, life, and actions of Crow chief Plenty Coups. I appreciated his concision and the focus of this argument as well as exploring a particular nation within the United States and their ability to navigate apocalyptic catastrophe.
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b.masonjudy | 1 muu arvostelu | Feb 7, 2021 |
This is a valuable book for individuals working with people or groups of people whose way of life is undergoing change due to the pressure of outside forces. This includes refugees; immigrants; the young and adult children of refugees and immigrant; cultural and social minority communities; employees working long-term in a culturally and socially foreign country; individuals grieving a spouse or child; etc. The author looks at the intersection of social and cultural anthropology, philosophy, and ethics. To locate his heady analysis in real life circumstances, the author utilizes the autobiography-as-told-to Frank B. Linderman of Plenty-Coups, the last great Chief of the Crow. Plenty-Coups led his tribe through the transition from their Plains Indian life hunting buffalo and warring with neighboring land-hungry tribes into a world dominated by the Euro-American settlers, an absence of buffalo, and restriction to reservation land. His wisdom and radical hope enabled the Crow Nation to retain almost all their land.

To best appreciate Lear's book, it is necessary to first read "Plenty-Coups: Chief of the Crows" by Frank B. Linderman, preferably the 2002 "New Edition."
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PlymouthCC | 1 muu arvostelu | Sep 30, 2020 |
I bought this insightful and mostly fascinating book because of another LTer's excellent review earlier this year and, rather than repeating a lot of what he said, I will mostly focus on my reactions to the book.

The author, Jonathan Lear, is both a philosopher and a psychoanalyst (nonpracticing, I believe), and he approaches Freud's key ideas primarily from a philosophical perspective. Neither an apologist for Freud nor a dismisser of him, he is not afraid to criticize Freud for ideas that haven't held up or weren't well thought out in the first place, but he also isn't afraid to applaud him for his innovative and creative theories. As he notes:

"It is worth reminding ourselves that the central concepts of psychoanalysis emerge as a response to human suffering. Freud listened to ordinary people who came to him in pain, and his ideas emerged from what he heard. Some of his ideas are speculative extravagances and deserve to be discarded, but the central concepts of psychoanalysis are closely tied to clinical reality. One aim of this book is to bring the reader back to clinical moments and show how theoretical ideas develop out of them. . . .

Just as a doctor probes for the hidden causes of physical diseases, so Freud took himself to be probing the unconscious for hidden meanings making the patient ill. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that a certain clinical brutality flows from this self-understanding. . . . It also blinds him to the profound philosophical and ethical significance of his discoveries. Another aim of this book is to bring this significance to light."
pp. 9-10

In successive chapters, Lear explores Freud's ideas on interpreting the unconscious, sexuality, interpreting dreams, transference, mental functioning, the structure of the psyche, and morality and religion. I found the first chapters the most compelling, the ones in which Lear discusses the ideas at the heart of psychoanalysis, and the later ones, in which Lear discusses and mostly criticizes Freud's broader theories, less interesting. It was fascinating to learn about how anxiety can prevent us from examining our true motivations, how many of our strategies for avoiding troubling ideas extend back into childhood, how astoundingly complex many of the associations from our dreams can be, how we can repeat behaviors without realizing we're repeating them, and much more. I also liked the way Lear describes some of the people Freud treated (always acknowledging that he relied on Freud's notes, not on knowing the people himself), focusing on how they presented themselves in the clinical setting.

I was also interested in the way Lear brings in philosophical concepts, including those of ethics and freedom, and the way he illustrates how philosophers such as Socrates thought of the psyche. I know a little more about psychiatry than I do about philosophy (about which I know almost nothing) and I found Lear's philosophical discussions fascinating.

Unfortunately, I stopped reading this book for several weeks in the middle of it, and so some of the most interesting material isn't fresh in my mind. But for the most part I found it well-written, intriguing, compassionate, and perceptive.

As Lear notes in his conclusion:

"The aim of psychoanalysis is not to promote homogenization of the soul but to establish active communication between what hitherto had been disparate and warring parts. These lines of communication serve a bridging function -- uniting the psyche by bringing its different voices into an common conversation. Conflicts will still arise. It is a condition of life itself that the psyche will never be a conflict-free zone. But when they do arise, they will be experienced as conflicts -- rather than in some disguise. . . . .

Plato, who did so much to bring philosophy to life, was ever wary of the myriad ways it could go dead. . . . Philosophy, he said, was not so much a matter of acquiring beliefs as of
turning the soul away from fantasy and towards reality. It seems to me that Freud -- whatever mistakes he made, whatever warts he showed -- made a significant and lasting contribution to our understanding of what soul-turning might be." pp. 222-223
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rebeccanyc | 1 muu arvostelu | Nov 9, 2013 |


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