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Who Am I?
Cover of Who Am I?
Who Am I?
And If So, How Many?
Borrow Borrow
#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

TRANSLATED INTO 23 LANGUAGES, WITH MORE THAN ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD
 
What is truth? What is love? Does life have meaning? Bestselling author Richard David Precht, “the Mick Jagger of the nonfiction book” (Tagesanzeiger Zürich), has traveled the globe searching for answers—and his odyssey has become one of the most talked-about books around the world. Combining classic philosophy and cutting-edge neuroscience, Precht guides readers through the thickest jungles of academic discourse with the greatest of ease, taking on subjects as challenging and divisive as abortion, cloning, the eating of animals, euthanasia, the ethics of reproductive science, and the very future of humanity.

Who knows? By the end of this wildly entertaining journey, you just might be able to answer, Who Am I?
#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

TRANSLATED INTO 23 LANGUAGES, WITH MORE THAN ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD
 
What is truth? What is love? Does life have meaning? Bestselling author Richard David Precht, “the Mick Jagger of the nonfiction book” (Tagesanzeiger Zürich), has traveled the globe searching for answers—and his odyssey has become one of the most talked-about books around the world. Combining classic philosophy and cutting-edge neuroscience, Precht guides readers through the thickest jungles of academic discourse with the greatest of ease, taking on subjects as challenging and divisive as abortion, cloning, the eating of animals, euthanasia, the ethics of reproductive science, and the very future of humanity.

Who knows? By the end of this wildly entertaining journey, you just might be able to answer, Who Am I?
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  • From the book Introduction
     
    The Greek island of Naxos is the largest of the Aegean Cyclades islands. Mount Zas rises more than three thousand feet in the middle of the island. Goats and sheep graze on the fragrant fields; grapes and vegetables flourish. Back in the 1980s, Naxos still had a legendary beach at Agia Anna, with miles of sand dunes where a few tourists had put up bamboo huts and spent their time snoozing in the shade. One day in the summer of 1985, two young men who had just turned twenty were lying under a rock ledge. Jürgen, from Düsseldorf, was one; I was the other. We had just met at the beach a few days earlier, and we were discussing a book I had plucked from my father’s library to take along on vacation: a dog-eared paperback, its pages yellowed from the sun, with a Greek temple and two men in Greek clothing on the cover: The Four Socratic Dialogues of Plato.
     
    The atmosphere in which we passionately exchanged our modest ideas left as deep an impression on me as the sun did on my skin. That evening, while our group enjoyed cheese, wine, and melon, Jürgen and I continued our discussion. We were especially taken with the Apologia, the speech Plato tells us Socrates gave before being sentenced to death for corrupting youth.
     
    It eased—for a while, at least—my fear of death, a subject I found deeply unsettling. Jürgen was not as convinced.
     
    I can’t remember what Jürgen looked like. I never ran into him again, and I’m sure I wouldn’t recognize him if I passed him on the street today. And I’ve heard from a reliable source that Agia Anna beach, to which I have never returned, is now a resort town with hotels, beach umbrellas, and lounge chairs you have to pay to lie in. But entire passages from Socrates’ apologia have stuck in my mind and will surely follow me right to the old age home. It remains to be seen whether they will retain the power to soothe me.
     
    I never lost my passionate interest in philosophy, which has lived on since my days in Agia Anna. When I came home from Naxos, I signed up for a stultifying community service job in lieu of joining the military. My job as a parish worker did not exactly spark bold ideas; once I’d seen the Lutheran Church from the inside, I warmed up to Catholicism. But I did retain my interest in seeking the meaning of a life well lived, and in finding convincing answers to the great questions in life. I decided to study philosophy.
     
    My course work in Cologne got off to an inauspicious start. I had pictured philosophers as fascinating people living lives as exhilarating and uncompromising as their ideas: people like Theodor W. Adorno, Ernst Bloch, or Jean-Paul Sartre. But my vision of bold ideas and a bold life evaporated the instant I caught sight of my new teachers: boring middle-aged gentlemen in pedestrian brown or navy suits. I thought of the writer Robert Musil’s surprise that the modern and progressive engineers in the Wilhelminian era who were conquering new worlds on land, in water, and in the skies still sported old-fashioned handlebar mustaches, vests, and pocket watches. It struck me that the philosophers in Cologne were similarly failing to apply their inner freedom of mind to their outer lives. Still, one of them ultimately taught me how to think by training me to probe for the “why” behind every question and not to settle for easy answers. He impressed upon me the need to keep my lines of thought and argumentation unbroken, and to be careful to build each individual step on the one before it.
     
    My student days were wonderful. My memory has...
About the Author-
  • Richard David Precht is a German philosopher, writer, and journalist. He lives in Luxembourg.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 10, 2011
    Precht, a German journalist, synthesizes philosophical views on topics like morality, happiness, and the soul with insights gleamed from biology and the neurosciences. While the accounts of philosophers like Immanuel Kant, anatomists such as Ramón y Cajal, and neurosurgeons like Robert White are necessarily brief and somewhat narrow, the author emphasizes the many and instructive intersections between them—what Wittgenstein and studies of deaf children can teach us about language, what Descartes and neurobiology tell us about identity formation. Precht moves between his various topics with the easy style of Alain de Botton; however, the conceit of tying each chapter to a specific city or place, thereby giving currency to the book's subtitle, is forced and redundant in light of the author's ability to move through philosophical and scientific fields with such fluency. Nonetheless, as an introduction to philosophy and one that shows its continuing relevance in a world increasingly determined by biological definitions of identity and behavior, it is a remarkably informative and lively read.

  • Publishers Weekly "Precht moves between his various topics with the easy style of Alain de Botton...
    A remarkably informative and lively read."
  • Booklist (starred review) "Precht takes his title from the ravings of a drunken friend. But he takes the framework for his wide-ranging inquiry from a stone-cold sober Immanuel Kant, who reduced the philosophic project to four questions: What can I know? What should I do? What can I hope for? What is man? But inebriated friend and sober philosopher share an interest in the human experience, an experience Precht illuminates by showing that no matter how much modern neuroscience and psychology may have reframed Kant's first three questions, it is sill the philosopher who must supply the final answers...Readers learn, for instance, that while neuroscientists can explain the biochemistry involved when the brain acquires new knowledge, only philosophy can interpret the way the human self distills knowledge in language and moral judgment. Similar reasoning demonstrates why the philosopher seeking understanding must move beyond brain mapping to explain morality and beyond hormones to fathom love...serious readers...
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Who Am I?
Who Am I?
And If So, How Many?
Richard David Precht
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