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July 2013

Home / Archive / Book Reviews - January 2008

The Philosophy of Tolkien,
Peter Kreeft

Review by Elizabeth Smailes

Where were you when you first read Lord of the Rings? Most of us have a vision of ourselves in a cozy corner with that outstanding book and we can recall the joy of being invited into a new world. But the book I am reviewing is not about that world, but about Tolkien’s worldview. The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft is appropriately subtitled The Worldview behind the Lord of the Rings. This isn’t a book of warm fuzzy platitudes, this is a book of 50 metaphysical questions which Kreeft answers using the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

There are three reasons why you should read this book. First, this book asks profound questions. For leadership mentors this is an indispensable skill. Peter Kreeft’s book contains questions such as, “Are we both fated and free?” “Are Platonic; ideas real?” And, “Does mercy trump justice?”...just to name a few. The questions presented are not only boldly asked, they are boldly answered using Lewisian and Tolkienian metaphysics.

Secondly, he asserts that answers to difficult questions lie in paradox and the vehicle to deliver the paradox is myth or story. Modern reductionists discount paradox and limit man to “mere” biology. Kreeft, however, uses Tolkien and Lewis because these mythopoeics treat biology as “mere” and metaphysics as reality. Mythic characters such as Frodo and Edmund answer important questions through the lives they live, in a world that will never exist but sometimes seems more real to us than our own. But this in itself is a paradox.

Third, and best of all, it is an introduction to philosophy. As the reader annotates this book he will find a wide variety of philosophical subjects and authors usually not found within one work, and, “When we see our lives from this higher point of view, we share in a tiny bit of God’s mind.”

However, this book comes with a warning. As G.K. Chesterton says, “Avoid metaphysics; they are too exciting.” Print

Elizabeth Smailes is a Mentor at George Wythe College. Mrs. Smailes has owned and operated her own business for the last 17 years. Liz earned her B.A. in Statesmanship in 2002, a Masters in Education in 2004 and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at George Wythe College. Although she is grateful for all of her life’s experiences, her greatest claim to fame is her 5 children and 3 grandchildren. Mrs. Smailes resides in Cedar City, Utah with her husband Joe.