Family Pictures: A Philosopher Explores the Familiar

Chicago, Ill.: Open Court Publishing (1998)
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Abstract

This series of intimate snapshots of family life shows how the ordinary journey through marriage, maturity, and parenting is fraught with extraordinary questions about ethics, knowledge, and metaphysics. Humorous and poignant depictions of family members are presented in the context of classical philosophical questions. The reality of family life brings these questions down to earth, while the author's imaginative use of philosophy deepens the reader's understanding of what is at stake for an individual enclosed in the sphere of the family. The author's romantic vision of love as a spiritual anchor gives way to mock horror at discovering her new husband's philosophy of life. A respectful description of her mother-in-law's attempts to stave off death by clinging to physical possessions is followed by an outrageous account of her mother's ability to constructively ridicule the foibles of others. A meditation on the importance of learning from children about the value of human life is juxtaposed with the record of a futile attempt to learn from an art exhibit while chasing a wriggling infant. Family Pictures brings philosophy to a wider audience, by showing how philosophical questions arise in ordinary experience, and how practical philosophy can be in understanding personal and spiritual transformation.

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