The Philosophy of Practical Affairs: An Introduction addresses the problems of everyday life, problems that from time to time fate drops on normal twenty-first-century western individuals. Addressing both students and philosophers, Joseph Agassi considers the usefulness of the treatment of daily problems within academic philosophy, including rationalism and fundamental issues of practical wisdom, the community, and the individual’s relationship to community. Unlike most philosophy-of-life literatures from pop-philosophy—especially religious homilies or wisdom literature, including the (pseudo-)cabbalist or (pseudo-)Buddhist, and their like—the book acknowledges real, disturbing situations. Warning the reader against various kinds of intellectual dishonesty, and committed to their rational autonomy, the author thinks through philosophical concepts that are in the end practical issues of philosophy of life.
Joseph Agassi is professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University and York University.
Part 1: Background
Chapter 1: Universalism: The Siblinghood of Humanity
Chapter 2: Universalism versus Particularism
Chapter 3: Background to Radicalism
Chapter 4: Gradualism and Pluralism
Chapter 5: Magic and Science
Part 2: The Revolt against Reason
Chapter 6: The Problem of Rationality
Chapter 7: Theories of Rationality
Chapter 8: The Flotsam and Jetsam of Philosophy
Chapter 9: The Romantic Idea of Reason
Part 3: The New Enlightenment
Chapter 10: Minimal Standards in Ethics
Chapter 11: Minimal Standards in Politics
Chapter 12: Minimal Standards in Science
Chapter 13: Optimism as an Imperative
Chapter 14: Democracy as Optimism
Conclusion: Autonomous People in Free Society
Different in approach and style, Agassi follows Socrates in interrogating the borderline between academic philosophy and the “philosophy of life,” posing provocative assertions as invitations for readers of all backgrounds to critically engage, refute, and rethink. With a wide range of questions and the problems they address, we are reminded of the richness of the history of philosophical investigations still worthy of debate. Defending liberalism with erudition, Agassi does not shy away from controversial topics, exposing their fault lines and the potential ways of eliminating or resolving them.
I consider this book a must read for modern philosophers. I will surely use it for teaching on all levels of philosophy and psychology, as well as for training psychotherapists, and I am confident that others will, as well. It is a rare manuscript with the breadth and originality to serve all these needs on the humanities academic market.