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Breakfast with Socrates

The Philosophy of Everyday Life

By Robert Rowland Smith
15-minute read
Audio available
Breakfast with Socrates: The Philosophy of Everyday Life by Robert Rowland Smith

Breakfast with Socrates (2009) whips you through a normal day with commentary from history’s most venerated thinkers, explaining exactly how their major contributions to philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology impact your daily routine: wake up with Descartes, brace yourself for a world of Freudian conflict, and when you go to work, either submit to Marx’s wage slavery or embrace Weber’s work ethic. Argue with French feminists and then slip into a warm bath, bubbling in Buddha’s heightened consciousness. Finally, end the day by drifting away into Jung’s collective unconscious.

  • Anyone who loves asking big and small questions about the nature of our world
  • Anyone who wants to discover deeper, wiser ways to think about their everyday lives
  • Anyone who studied the great philosophers in college but needs a refresher course in their main ideas

Robert Rowland Smith is a former Oxford Philosophy Fellow who currently writes for the Independent and London Evening Standard. He has been featured in The Sunday Telegraph and Observer magazines, and on BBC Radio and the delightful Philosophy Bites podcast. Smith lives in London and regularly delivers lectures regarding the philosophy of everyday life.

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Breakfast with Socrates

The Philosophy of Everyday Life

By Robert Rowland Smith
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Breakfast with Socrates: The Philosophy of Everyday Life by Robert Rowland Smith
Synopsis

Breakfast with Socrates (2009) whips you through a normal day with commentary from history’s most venerated thinkers, explaining exactly how their major contributions to philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology impact your daily routine: wake up with Descartes, brace yourself for a world of Freudian conflict, and when you go to work, either submit to Marx’s wage slavery or embrace Weber’s work ethic. Argue with French feminists and then slip into a warm bath, bubbling in Buddha’s heightened consciousness. Finally, end the day by drifting away into Jung’s collective unconscious.

Key idea 1 of 9

Descartes: If you’re awake, you’re thinking, and therefore you must exist.

Even though we do it every day, waking up can be quite a shock – we can wake up with a wicked hangover, after too little rest, or next to the wrong lover.

But why does waking surprise us so? It is because in the moment before you awake, you are, by definition, asleep. You are not conscious of the fact that you are about to wake.

Philosophers have dwelled for hundreds of years on the subject of consciousness.

Clearly, consciousness is complicated. How can you be certain you are awake? How can you know you’re not dreaming about being awake? How do you know that everything around you is not an illusion meant to trick you?

In the 1630s, French philosopher René Descartes set out to answer these very questions. He committed to doubt absolutely everything and took nothing for granted, starting with consciousness. Descartes arrived at the basic understanding that he could doubt everything except the fact that he doubted. And since doubting meant thinking, he knew he was thinking. And since thinking meant living, he knew he was living.

Descartes then famously concluded,“Cogito, ergo sumI think, therefore I am.

Even if you think you are asleep or dead, you are still thinking and therefore you are alive. You exist.

This is Descartes’ proof of existence.

This is why waking each morning is deeply philosophical. It is a daily embrace of consciousness and a re-affirmation of your own existence.

Descartes: If you’re awake, you’re thinking, and therefore you must exist.

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