About Confessions of a Young Philosopher

Abigail Rosenthal, as she looked in the opening scenes of Confessions

About Confessions of a Young Philosopher

A few months have gone by since I actually put the concluding punctuation marks on Confessions of a Young Philosopher. Since then, it has been making its way through the strange maelstrom of the publishing world today. The university presses? Well, if Confessions is to get assigned in courses, it would be rather a breakthrough assignment. It’s of interest in connection with gender, race, identity, sex, oppression, spirituality, religion, good and evil, mind control, culture — and it breaks many taboos – but the taboos it breaks are not the ones now fashionable to break. They are the real taboos. So the prof would have to be of a rather heroic makeup, just to take it on for one course or two. It’s not a regular for the large Intro sections.

The trade presses? That’s a more natural fit, but the readership for Confessions can’t be identified in advance. It’s not a cookbook or a spy thriller. Lots of people used to buy and read novels, memoirs, biographies, and so on, and libraries to stock them. There was a time when people lived partly through the books they read and these books were what they talked about when they got together. Editors used to exist – not many but some — who lovingly shepherded the authors they spotted as having talent and originality through the rocks and the shoals to the great wide uplands of a large reading public. Authors looked for reviews in periodicals that everybody read who wanted to be au courant. Those periodicals are gone and the reviewers they hired largely gone too. The trade presses will only look at manuscripts submitted by agents they know and those agents look for work that will fit the recognized niches.

It’s not because editors and publishers are mean or narrow-minded. It’s because there used to be money in the book business, but now not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m just thinking out loud. Here I’ve written a book of manifest literary quality with its own original and high-level meaning. Hence the natural question: Now what?

That side of the difficulty belongs to the conditions of the world, objective conditions that prevail outside me.   But there is another side to it, which can be obvious to everyone but the writer herself. There are my attitudes.

What are they? Well, I am a person who, for most of her life, has carried a number of secrets. Possibly for that reason, or possibly because, temperamentally, I experience every encounter in an extra-amplified way, I try to tip toe through the world unheard and unseen. We’re not talking about mere shyness here. Ideally I’d like to be invisible. As the title of Confessions suggests, my book makes me – and a fair number of these secrets — all too visible.

So why the hell did I write the book, if that’s the way I really feel? Is it because, in spite of everything I just said above, deep down within me there lurks a Repressed Exhibitionist? Really? Don’t make me laugh. I have to go to this much trouble to make myself the subject of public leering, self-congratulatory pity, moral and psychological rank-pulling and general misunderstanding? Gosh, I can’t wait. What an alluring prospect!

Why did I write it?

There were hard problems to solve, both conceptual and concerned with who I was and how I got here. I’m a philosophe. For me, the unexamined life is not worth living. That’s not said in order to quote Socrates.

To me, that’s just obvious.

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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2 Responses to About Confessions of a Young Philosopher

  1. Abigail says:

    I guess that’s true.

  2. Elmer Sprague says:

    Remember, dear Abigail, the only book worth writing is one that the writer would like to read, one she’ll never find on any shelf unless she writes it. We write to live, and live to read.

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