Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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****Astonish Yourself!

101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life

by Roger-Pol Droit

translated by Stephen Romer

Reviewed May 7, 2004.
Penguin Compass, New York, 2002.  210 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (100 DRO).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #3, Other Nonfiction

I find this book delightful, surprising and amusing.  Who knew that experiments in philosophy could so easily be integrated into every day life?

The book consists of 101 two-page “experiments.”  The title of each experiment gives the basic instructions, then we’re told the duration, props needed, and the effect the experiment should have.  The text of the passage explains in detail the process to follow and the direction it will turn your mind.

Some of the experiments are things a child might naturally experiment with anyway, such as “Empty a word of its meaning” (by repetition), “Watch dust in the sun,” “Follow the movement of ants,” “Count to a thousand,” and “Look at people from a moving car.”  It’s fun to have these dignified by the name of philosophical experiments.

Others are more completely bizarre, such as “Peel an apple in your head,” “See a landscape as a stretched canvas,” “Call yourself,” “Descend an interminable staircase,” “Rant for ten minutes,” “Make a wall between your hands,” “Turn off the sound on the TV,” “Dread the arrival of the bus,” “Invent headlines,” and “Shower with your eyes closed.”

Roger-Pol Droit invests all of these seemingly innocent activities with deep significance and food for philosophical thoughts.  I confess that I didn’t actually try very many of the activities, though those that I did worked just as promised.  Mostly, I enjoyed reading through them.  They made me think, but they also made me laugh.  It comforted me to know that there was someone out there with far quirkier ways of looking at the world than mine!

A delightful and mind-bending book.

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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