Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche – Review

Examined LivesPart of my personal research is about deepening my understanding of philosophy. I do this by reading books on philosophy in general, books by some of the most prominent philosophers and books that tell the story of these philosophers. I have just finished reading Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller.

Half the fun of reading these types of books is to see who they will include in their list of philosophers. Every list is different, with a few names appearing in most. Miller chose to include in his list:

  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Diogenes
  • Aristotle
  • Seneca
  • Augustine
  • Montaigne
  • Descartes
  • Rousseau
  • Kant
  • Emerson
  • Nietzsche

I was more familiar with some more than others. I have read a fair bit about Plato and Aristotle, but almost nothing about Montaigne and Emerson. However, I found that even with those philosophers that I had read about, I still learned something new in each chapter. I really appreciated the biographical sketches that Miller provides. Philosophy books can be boring, even books about the history of philosophy, but Miller has a very readable style. He traces certain themes throughout the chapters. Even though each philosopher is different, ancient and modern, Christian and atheist, there are some similarities. I found myself looking forward to each chapter and what I would learn next.

If you are looking for a good introduction to the major philosophers, Examined Lives is probably the best book that I have read on this theme.

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