Men of Ideas Critical Essays

John J. Loeper


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Loeper’s opening chapters discuss the meaning and relevancy of philosophy. He points out that many people philosophize without realizing it. In order to demonstrate this claim, he cleverly packages ordinary speculation in categories used by philosophy: Questioning worth, good or bad, is engaging in ethical thinking, and stating that a thing is beautiful is discussing aesthetics. Loeper chose to examine philosophers of the past because much of the sciences, the governments, the legal systems, the religions, and even the economies of the present day derive from the ideas that they put forward.

Loeper makes the study of philosophy relevant to the young reader with these statements. Life’s great questions—such as why the world exists, what is important in life, and how people should be treated—have been asked throughout the ages and are still being asked, he argues. Studying the great philosophers provides insights into answers arrived at in other times and places.

Having analyzed the basic worth of philosophy, Loeper immediately begins his descriptions of the great philosophers. He could have used a different format for his book. For example, he could have written on the evolution of ideas by devoting separate chapters to politics, theology, and the uses of the senses and the mind to know the world. Writing about the people as well as the ideas themselves, however, makes the subject more accessible. The author makes connections between these individuals’ lives...

(The entire section is 610 words.)