Against the background of an age that saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning, Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence as well as the Italian Renaissance, which they did so much to sponsor and encourage. Interwoven into the narrative are the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola.
"An Intriguing Lens on the Renaissance"
Immanuel Kant taught and wrote prolifically about physical geography yet never traveled further than forty miles from his home in Kvnigsberg. How appropriate it is then that in his philosophy he should deny that all knowledge was derived from experience. He insisted that all experience must conform to knowledge. According to Kant, space and time are subjective; along with various "categories," they help us to see the phenomena of the world, though never its true reality.
Aristotle wrote on everything from the shape of seashells to sterility, from speculations on the nature of the soul to meteorology, poetry, art, and even the interpretation of dreams. Apart from mathematics, he transformed every field of knowledge that he touched. Above all, Aristotle is credited with the founding of logic. When he first divided human knowledge into separate categories, he enabled our understanding of the world to develop in a systematic fashion.
"Trying to be a novelist"
Death in Florence illuminates one of the defining moments in Western history - the bloody and dramatic story of the battle for the soul of Renaissance Florence. By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. In an exhilaratingly rich and deeply researched story, Paul Strathern reveals the paradoxes, self-doubts, and political compromises that made the battle for the soul of the Renaissance city one of the most complex and important moments in Western history.
"Extravagant rich peacocks and true believers"
David Hume reduced philosophy to ruins: he denied the existence of everything, except our actual perceptions themselves. I alone exist, he argued, and the world is nothing more than part of my consciousness. Yet we know that the world remains, and we go on as before. What Hume expressed was the status of our knowledge about the world, a world in which neither religion nor science is certain.
A handsome recluse, plagued by indecision and hypochondria, Franz Kafka nonetheless exhibited an extraordinary strength. He developed the uncanny ability to observe himself with cool objectivity, and he cultivated this ability in his writing, where it appeared in increasingly original metaphorical form. His works became among the greatest of the twentieth century, and his influence permeated far and wide, transcending literature.
One of the two major philosophical traditions of the twentieth century was linguistic analysis, derived largely from Wittgenstein. The other, diametrically opposed, came from Heidegger, and its fundamental question was, "What is the meaning of existence?" For Heidegger, this question could not simply be "analyzed away". It was beyond the reach of logic or reason. It was the primary "given" of every individual life. To confront it, Heidegger needed to develop an entire new form of philosophy.
"Less isn't more"
With Friedrich Nietzsche, philosophy was dangerous not only for philosophers but for everyone. His ideas presaged a collective madness that had horrific consequences in Europe in the early 1900s. Though his philosophy is more one of aphorisms than a system, it is brilliant, persuasive, and incisive. His major concept is the will to power, which he saw as the basic impulse for all our acts. Christianity he saw as a subtle perversion of this concept, thus Nietzsche's famous pronouncement, "God is dead."
"A short biography"
Spinoza's brilliant metaphysical system was derived neither from reality nor experience. Starting from basic assumptions, with a series of geometric proofs he built a universe which was also God, one and the same thing, the classic example of pantheism. Although his system seems an oddity today, Spinoza's conclusions are deeply in accord with modern thought, from science (the holistic ethics of today's ecologists) to politics (the idea that the state exists to protect the individual).
"Very Useful for the Beginner"
Latin American literature was never primitive; yet, from its beginnings, it was suffused with a fresh, often childish lyricism. Gabriel Garcia Marquez stands on the shoulders of a great Latin American literary heritage, but he is a modern rarity: a writer with aspirations to high art who also remains hugely popular. For those who fall under his spell, his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the richest literary dreams ever written.
"Very good introduction to Marquez"
Just a century after it had begun, philosophy entered its greatest age with the appearance of Socrates, who spent so much of his time talking about philosophy on the streets of Athens that he never got around to writing anything down. His method of aggressive questioning, called dialectic, was the forerunner of logic; he used it to cut through the twaddle of his adversaries and arrive at the truth. Rather than questioning the world, he believed, we would be better off questioning ourselves.
"I thought it was OK"
The Republic of Venice was the first great economic, cultural, and naval power of the modern Western world. After winning the struggle for ascendency in the late 13th century, the Republic enjoyed centuries of unprecedented glory and built a trading empire which at its apogee reached as far afield as China, Syria, and West Africa. This golden period only drew to an end with the Republic's eventual surrender to Napoleon. The Venetians illuminates the character of the Republic during these illustrious years by shining a light on some of the most celebrated personalities of European history.
During his lifetime, Jean-Paul Sartre enjoyed unprecedented popularity for a philosopher, due partly to his role as a spokesman for existentialism at the opportune moment, when this set of ideas filled the spiritual gap left amidst the ruins of World War II. Existentialism was a philosophy of action and showed the ultimate freedom of the individual. In Sartre's hands, it became a revolt against European bourgeois values.
"In 90 Minutes Series overview"
In an age when philosophers had scarcely glimpsed the horizons of the mind, a boy named Aristocles decided to forgo his ambitions as a wrestler. Adopting the nickname Plato, he embarked instead on a life in philosophy. In 387 B.C. he founded the Academy, the world's first university, and taught his students that all we see is not reality but merely a reproduction of the true source. And in his famous Republic he described the politics of "the highest form of state."
"A wonderful summary - concise and interesting."
Schopenhauer, the "philosopher of pessimism", makes it very plain that he regards the world and our life in it as a bad joke. But if the world is indifferent to our fate, it doesn't thwart us on purpose. The world's facade is supported by what Schopenhauer calls the Universal Will, blind and without purpose. This Will brings on all our misery and suffering; our only hope is to liberate ourselves from its power and from the trappings of individualism and egoism that are at its mercy.
Rene Descartes spent most of his childhood in solitude, a situation that also came to characterize his adult life. Fortunately, these countless lonely hours helped Descartes produce the declaration that changed all philosophy: "I think, therefore I am." Eventually convincing himself to doubt and disregard sensory knowledge, Descartes found he could prove his existence through his thoughts. This internal information, he believed, was the true reality and external forces were hopelessly deceiving.
Karl Marx's devastating critique of capitalism, and his proposal of communism as the answer to the failings of the capitalist system, bore their greatest fruits in the twentieth century with the formation of the communist state in the Soviet Union. This great venture has now all but completely failed. Yet the force of the communist belief offered the prospect of "justice on this earth" to countless numbers. And Marx's critique has influenced generations of thinkers who call themselves Marxists.
"Save your 90 minutes"
In Rousseau we encounter a walking ego, naked sensibility. Feeling triumphs over intellectual argument in his works, which are both deeply stirring and deeply inconsistent. Yet while his contemporaries Kant and Hume may have been superior academic philosophers, the sheer power of Rousseau's ideas was unequaled in his time. It was he who encouraged the introduction of both liberty and irrationality into the public domain.
Borges in 90 Minutes offers a concise, expert account of Borges' life and ideas and explains their influence on literature and on man's struggle to understand his place in the world. The book also includes a list of Borges' chief works, a chronology of his life and times, and recommended reading for those who wish to delve deeper.
"Jorge Luis Borges"
We see our age as the greatest in human history, filled with seemingly unending originality. Yet such dynamism is not a necessary characteristic of great eras. Among the most long-lasting and stable civilizations was that of medieval Europe. There stasis was achieved, and with it a stability that permitted the development of structured thought and intellectual embellishment of unparalleled degree.
"A mixed bag"