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Review: The Best Things in Life by Peter Kreeft

 

The Best Things in Life.  What are they?  Peter Kreeft tackles that question in his book, subtitled:  A Contemporary Socrates Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth, and the Good Life.  In twelve dialogues, ‘Socrates’ discusses contemporary life, combining his traditional method of questioning with kindness, humor, and careful logic.  These conversations, which take place at Desperate State U, are ideal for older homeschooled teens.

In the first half of The Best Things in Life, Socrates comes across Peter Pragma studying and begins to ask questions.  What is Peter doing, and why?  Why bother with college?  Why a career?  What is important in a career?  What is important in life?  His incisive questions help Peter discover a whole new way of existing. Throughout, Socrates’ questions help Peter determine where his ideas are unclear, illogical, or even foolish.  Peter is a pragmatic, intellectual kind of guy and Socrates gently guides him to deeper thought and the religion department.

Peter and Socrates discuss:

  • education and E.T.,
  • liberal education and careers,
  • technology and inchworms,
  • artificial intelligence and college presidents,
  • superstition and Santa Claus,
  • success and the greatest good.

The second half of The Best Things in Life features Felicia Flake, a hedonistic young woman who greets Socrates with a cheerful, “Hi, man.  Lookin’ for a joint?”  Over and over Socrates’ and Felicia’s cultures clash.  Time and again, Felicia, who has studied logic and some philosophy, acknowledges that the old philosopher makes sense.  They, together with some of Felicia’s gurus, discuss the many practical aspects of modern life, and Felicia realizes that a lot of the attitudes she prided herself on are not so praiseworthy or rebellious after all.  To her dismay, she comes to the conclusion that there must be objective values…and Socrates steers her, too, towards the religion department, reminding her that religion is not a course but a relationship.

Felicia and Socrates discuss:

  • pot and happiness,
  • rock… and music,
  • s*x  and love (sorry, I want to avoid triggering your internet filters),
  • sexism and pop psychology,
  • communism and capitalism, and
  • objective values.

Peter and Felicia learn the methods of philosophy as well as the deep logic of traditional common sense.  They discover how prideful and foolish some ideas are, and how similar others are.  Although Socrates nudges both of them toward the religion department, this is not a call to Christianity.  Rather it is an appeal to reason.

And that’s where the Omnibus 1 commentator begins to criticize.  (Aside: Kreeft’s book is used in Omnibus 1 and this is part of my review series about the Omnibus program.)  By using Socrates as a protagonist, Kreeft exalts reason, ‘the master’.  He does a great job of showing the defects of many modern points of view and he suggests religion is involved in the answer, but he does not point to Jesus Christ.  Biblical truth is missing, so the Best Things in Life tells only half of the story.  

In Kreeft’s defense, Socrates obviously lived before Jesus, but the point Omnibus 1 raises is both valid and important.  Reason is not our master; God is.  On the other hand, by not being explicitly Christian, Kreeft expands his audience to secular youth as well, and hints to them that the best things in life have something to do with religion.

What do we think of The Best Things in Life?  As Mr. 17 said, “This Socrates is not as deep and dignified as the real one, but he’s more logical and applicable.  He’s funny, too.”   

In The Best Things in Life Kreeft lightheartedly uses logic and reasoning to examine and debunk many popular ideas.  Although this is not light reading, it is an enjoyable and worthwhile book that is made even more valuable by the commentary in Omnibus 1.  

We highly recommend The Best Things in Life by Kreeft.  It can be used as a textbook to study modern worldview issues as well as a supplement to a study of logic. And, as mentioned, it is part of the book list for Omnibus 1.

Disclosure:  We borrowed these books through interlibrary loan for use with the Omnibus 1 program, but we will be buying them. 

Note: This review is part of a series of posts involving Omnibus, Veritas Press’s excellent literature/Bible/history curriculum. The Best Things in Life is one of the secondary readings in Omnibus 1.

For more about classical education, please visit Trivium Tuesdays.  This is yet another book in the in the 2012 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and is also linked to Saturday Reviews.

2 Comments

  1. Amy says:

    Well I’m thankful that I do not have to answer some of those questions with my kids yet…but I know it will come soon! Did you use veritas press stuff when your kids were younger too, or just omnibus? I’m not very familiar with veritas press, otherwise I would probably recognize whether the stuff you’ve written about before was from them. It looks like good curriculum, but I’ve never used anything from them. Thanks for sharing this with us at Trivium Tuesdays!

  2. Annie Kate says:

    No, for younger children we did not use Veritas Press materials extensively. I prefer a more Charlotte Mason approach for younger children as it’s gentler and less time-consuming for both children and moms but produces similar learning.

    I am able to guide my younger children in their learning myself, but that changes as they grow. I want my older children to be challenged by the ideas in great books while guided by trusted experts. Omnibus does that for me, and I’m very grateful to Veritas Press for the monumental work they put into this series.

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