Volume 20, Issue 1/2, 2012
“I Must Change My Life”
Review of Matthew Lipman, A Life Teaching Thinking
Born in 1923 and recently deceased after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, Matthew Lipman wrote this brief but detailed autobiography just before his illness made it impossible to write any more. It begins with memories of earliest childhood and his preoccupation with the possibility of being able to fly, moves through the years in which his family struggled with the effects of the Great Depression, through his service in the military during World War II, his discovery of the joy and beauty of philosophy, his quick academic rise at Columbia University, his sojourn in Paris, and his early and later career. “I feel for philosophy,” he writes in the last paragraph of this, his last book, “what an astronaut might feel at the sight of the earth’s sphere, all green and brown and blue, as it appears from a space station.” He then expresses the hope that Philosophy for Children “will build a better and more reasonable world for our children and their children to inhabit: a world that looks as beautiful from across the street as it does from the distance of space.” (170) Lipman’s memoir is a modest testimony to an extraordinary life-trajectory, and an exemplification of the philosopher as one with the form of double-vision—seeing life from outer space and from across the street—that is perhaps philosophy’s most profound vocation.