101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life.

Title: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life.
Author/s: Pol Droit, Roger.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Penguin, Non-Classics (2003).
Format: Paperback (224 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0142003131, ISBN-13: 978-0142003138.
Area and topic: Popular philosophy. Practical philosophy. Thought  experiments. Philosophy and daily life/culture/experience.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessible.
Purchasing and information: 1) amazon.com 2) fishpond.co.nz.
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life’ presents 101 one page practical philosophical experiments. Although the content is generally playful, the intended aim here is to bring about deeper philosophical reflection on life – especially with regards to existential concerns.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Roger-Pol Droits highly original book is a reassessment of our day-to-day engagement with life … Droit invites us to reconsider our most ordinary actions as unexpected philosophical events: peeling an apple, trying to lie in a hammock, watching someone sleep, hearing your voice on an answering machine, playing with a small child – activities when considered outside their routine, invite us to experience the familiar in startling new ways. Droit encourages us to go further: pretend to be an animal of your choice, create a wall with your hands, and try to walk around your room in total darkness. Each exercise takes a specific time, uses materials that lie to hand, and has a designated effect upon the spirit. Our simplest actions come to seem metaphysical, refashioning our sense of the common place as an altogether more surprising and provocative, landscape. ‘101 Experiments’ encourages astonishment, un-wedges us, topples the world a little, unscrews the coffin of habit. Influenced by Zen thought, it is a course in philosophical fitness, conducted in the gymnasium of what passes for ordinary life’.
  •  ‘Not every idiocy contains a philosophical pearl. But there exist ordinary situations, everyday gestures … each which can become the starting point for that astonishment that gives rise to philosophy. If we are ready to accept that philosophy is not a matter of pure theory … then it should not be impossible to imagine experiments to be lived through which might incite further enquiry… Each experiment … is to be carried out properly … you must really apply yourself if you are to really feel the unsettling of reality that they seek to produce. [The content is intended to] shake a certainty we have taken for granted: our own identity say, or the stability of the outside world, or even the meaning of words … No one is obliged to share these views. The only thing that counts is that we should be stung, or tickled, into exploring further’ (Preface).
Strengths: A notable strength of ‘101 Experiments’ is the rather alternative, experiential, personal and experimental approach to philosophy. This may serve as a nice complement to the more traditional ‘theory heavy’ approach and may therefore attract students who feel a certain affinity with the arts. Notably, the intention behind these experiments is to regain a sense of childlike wonder, within our practical and mundane involvement with the world, and as a means to open up otherwise unnoticed possibilities for philosophical investigation. The effect is one of inviting the reader to cultivate and hone a certain aesthetic sensibility to life; this approach (as already intimated), lends itself to being incorporated into subjects aligned with the arts (drama, creative writing, fine art, poetry etc). In the classroom, the experiments may be used as entertaining warm-up or homework exercises or as sources and models for making one’s own experiments.
Limitations: The somewhat experimental, ‘artsy’ nature of the approach being adopted in ‘101 Experiments’ is not the way philosophy is generally taught – if in fact one can really call this philosophy at all! Furthermore, although it may not be a problem, the structure and content does not readily lend itself to any obvious form of assessment.

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