John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand - Richard Reeves

This readable intellectual biography of John Stuart Mill (Overlook, $40), the great political philosopher, is the first book by Richard Reeves, a British journalist. Mill was born in 1806 and received a hothouse education from his father. Although deeply influenced by the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, who acted as a kind of uncle to the family, Mill began early to develop ideas of individual responsibility. His romantic and intellectual relationship with Harriet Taylor refined his views.  In the long chapter on Mill’s seminal work, On Liberty, Reeves describes Mill’s philosophy: individuality “is the essence of a good life…each person should be free to think and live as they wish, so long as they do no harm to others.” Reeves concludes, “his causes—for liberty, for women, for justice—have advanced and are fought for still. And his questions are our questions once again.” 

John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand Cover Image
ISBN: 9781843546443
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Published: Atlantic Books - September 1st, 2008

Giordano Bruno: Philosopher Heretic - Ingrid D. Rowland

He was a poet, a playwright, a preacher, and a philosopher. He had an astonishing memory, and believed that the universe is infinite and composed of atoms, that God’s mercy is so great that even devils will be forgiven, and that men and women are fundamentally the same. Ingrid D. Rowland has written a respectful biography of a man whose life has been re-interpreted to suit the claims of each subsequent generation, a martyr for everyone from atheists and scientists to pantheists, a heretic many of whose claims the Church has long since conceded, an early scientist who was also a mystic; in short, a deeply complex man who defies easy categorization. Giordano Bruno (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27) reminds us to question our own unexamined assumptions.

Giordano Bruno: Philosopher / Heretic Cover Image
ISBN: 9780226730240
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Published: University of Chicago Press - September 1st, 2009

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir - Donald Worster

“I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness,” said John Muir in 1874. Born in Scotland, reared in rural Wisconsin; resistant to industrial and agricultural life, yet a talented carpenter, engineer and fruit rancher; an autodidact of botany and geology; and given to taking walks, long walks, of, say 1,000 miles or so, Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, indeed exhibited A Passion For Nature (Oxford Univ., $34.95). Until discovering the beauty of the Sierra Nevada and falling in love with California in general, Muir felt restless and alienated from both farming and urban life. Donald Worster’s biography sets Muir within the currents of his time, showing his struggles to harmonize scientific views of nature with spiritual belief, and to advocate wilderness preservation in the face of civilization’s relentless expansion. Generous quotations from Muir’s letters and sketches from his notebooks bring the man to life.

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780195166828
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Published: Oxford University Press, USA - October 21st, 2008