Friday 6 April 2007

The Best Things In Life by: Peter Kreeft

The Best Things In Life: A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth & the Good Life
Peter Kreeft
IVP Books
ISBN 0977849226

Peter Kreeft is known for writing in the dialectic style. Though Kreeft is famous for using this style, he does not pull it off in this book as well as he does in some of his other books. This book is written as a dialogue or series of dialogues between Socrates and two University students. ‘Peter Pragma’ and ‘Felicia Flake’ both of whom have 6 discussions with Socrates on different subjects.

That is just the beginning; the names are all puns in the book, as we have seen from our two main protagonists(Peter and Felicia). The puns continue through all the professors and personalities encountered. The president of Desperate State University is “Fudge Factor” and is as inept as his name implies. We also meet “Marigold Measurer”, the scientist who is addicted to data but without really understanding its purpose or use. Felicia has some mentors in her life - “Pop Syke” who is the guru of pop psychology, and “Karl”, the communist who is brother to “Adam”, the Capitalist.

Having read a number of Kreeft’s other books, this one was a bit of a letdown. The puns with the names got to be so trying and tiring that it was hard to finish the book. The same information could have been conveyed in conventional prose, with half the words. The dialogue grew boring and irritating. I just wanted the meat from this book and had to go through a lot of bone and grist to get to it.

The book has a lot to offer in the examination of why someone does what he does, and to help one live a more examined life. But the book often does it in a very long, roundabout way.

I never like to give a book a bad review, and often go back and read a book a second time before I will do so. This book, though hard to get through the first time, was more than worth it the second time. It teaches you the basics of philosophy, the Socratic method, as well as the Oxford method, for having an argument or discussion.

Much like some of his other writings - for example, Between Heaven and Hell and Making Sense out of Suffering - this book is one I will return to and re-read many times during my lifetime. So even if it seems cheesy and trite at first, I encourage you to persevere. It will be well worth the effort.
(First Published in Across the Creek 2007-04-02 "Book Look' Book Review column.)

Other Kreeft Reviews:
Socrates Meets Jesus
The Sea Within
Handbook of Christian Apologetics
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The Journey
The Unaborted Socrates
The Best Things In Life
Between Heaven Hell
Doors in the Walls of the World
Catholic Christianity

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