Cover image for A map to the end of time : wayfarings with friends and philosophers
A map to the end of time : wayfarings with friends and philosophers
Manheimer, Ronald J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 332 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


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HQ1061 .M335 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Teaching philosophy to retired people should be a path to wisdom, Ron Manheimer thought. He was right, but in an unexpected fashion. His lively Socratic "dialogues" with older people led him into hilarious and provocative conversations with a colorful cast of fellow seekers: from his bon vivant Danish mentor Augie Nielsen to his strong-willed elderly student Hildegard, from his ironic teenaged daughter Esther to his wisecracking Uncle Joe.Like James Carse in Breakfast at the Victory, Manheimer reinvigorates the ancient tradition of using storytelling to explore truth. What is romantic love? How do we shape the stories we tell ourselves about our own pasts? Does the purpose of life become clearer in old age? How do we find common meanings across religious, ethnic, and generational divides? What is the essence of a person? What does it mean to live a "full" life?Showing how ideas and lives can illuminate one another, Manheimer's engaging narratives address these questions while providing an inviting exploration of the ideas of thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mill, and Martin Buber. A great teacher, Manheimer shows how these philosophers might provide the footgear for treading everyday paths of human experience, on our inevitable journeys to "the end of time."

Author Notes

Ronald J. Manheimer is research associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and executive director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Twenty years ago, Manheimer responded to a poignant reading of Tennyson's "Ulysses" by volunteering to teach philosophy at a senior center. Now, in retrospect, he realizes how much he owes his senior students for teaching him--delivering their most important lesson by showing him how we transmute experience into meaning as we approach death, the end of time. As these irascible students grappled with the doctrines of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, they found in their own memories the key to understanding. For these students, as for Manheimer's own unpredictable friends and family, truth distills not in scholarly journals but in real-life stories shared within a close I-Thou relationship. In a lively and readable narrative, Manheimer rescues philosophy from academic sterility and restores it to living significance. --Bryce Christensen

Library Journal Review

This is a book about aging, teaching, and philosophy itself. On the surface it is a running narrative of Manheimer's experiences teaching philosophy to the elderly. His students and his own teachers appear as characters in a dialog; as in his earlier book (Kierkegaard as Teacher, 1977), his message is partly that the complexity of philosophy is best presented as an interplay of voices. But here a minor theme from the earlier book becomes dominant: philosophy is an expression of the need to make sense of one's own life. The elderly have a special contribution to make, for their long lives demand reflection. In complementary fashion, philosophical reflection may reveal the significance of growing old. Manheimer writes with charm and humility, but teaching readers to philosophize is difficult. Stanley Cavell (A Pitch of Philosophy, LJ 5/1/94) almost succeeded in combining narrative and system, but Cavell's is a much more egocentric book. Manheimer's is a good choice for any public library.ÄLeslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

As the millennium ends, we are often reminded that more people are living longer lives than ever before. Hence, as reflected in the publication of Andrew Blaikie's Ageing & Popular Culture (1999), aging is "in" as a subject for popular and critical reflection. Manheimer (Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville) adds to the growing list of books in this area by recording his conversations--on issues such as faith, memory, love, eternity, and the acceptance of mortality--with a wide variety of older friends, relatives, acquaintances, and some senior citizens he taught in a philosophy class. Numerous philosophers are discussed, ranging from Plato to Schopenhauer and Emerson. All the schmoozing yields a number of sparkling insights, as when, discussing Kierkegaard with his devoutly Jewish Uncle Joe, Manheimer is led to contrast the humor of the Danish philosopher with that of the Hasidim. Some minor inaccuracies do slip in. For example, humor is not an existential "stage" for Kierkegaard, but the "boundary" between the ethical and religious stages. Recommended not for college or graduate class use, but for readers with general interests in philosophy, and aging-related or intergenerational issues. E. J. Ziolkowski; Lafayette College