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This week, Jews celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, during which it is traditional to read one of the most philosophically interesting books of the Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes. The narrator of the book, known by Jewish tradition to be King Solomon, has spent his life exploring the many corners of human endeavor, from the responsible life of politics to the pleasures of body and mind, and he has come to say that each corner, no matter how satisfying to certain parts of us, cannot answer our deepest needs—or perhaps cannot answer anything at all. Everything is vanity, the book whispers famously, and nothing more.
This week’s podcast guest, the Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, admires Ecclesiastes not for its ultimate answers to the fundamental questions of life but for its honest look at human problems. As he writes in his own commentary, “honest hedonism is spiritually superior to dishonest self-delusion.” In conversation with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver, he mines the biblical book for the wisdom it may offer.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.
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