Review of A Short Philosophy of Birds, by Philippe J. Dubois and Elise Rousseau

A Short Philosophy of Birds

by Philippe J. Dubois and Elise Rousseau
translated by Jennifer Higgins

Dey St. (William Morrow), 2019. First published in France in 2018. 176 pages.
Review written May 15, 2020, from a library book

A Short Philosophy of Birds is a collection of twenty-two short essays that refer to details in the lives of various birds and then draw philosophical conclusions and suggestions for human lives.

Many of the topics discussed have birds with contrasting behaviors. For example, some types of birds have equality in parenting duties and others don’t. Another fun example is that it turns out robins generally have more courage than eagles. So we’re often asked which type of bird we’d like to emulate.

I enjoyed the essay that talked about the joy a hen displays when taking a dust bath. Here’s a bit from that:

The hen’s bath should give us pause for thought. Why don’t we bathe with the same intensity of purpose? Our lack of plumage means that we don’t need to spend so much time cleaning ourselves, but even so . . . Dogged as we are by duties and commitments, worries about the past, the future and the sense of being in a hurry – always in a hurry – we rarely find a moment to experience true delight in the act of cleansing ourselves. The hen does not wash if she is stressed. No, she doesn’t take her usual jubilant bath, but either sits still and silent or rushes around screeching. But we still wash even if we’re worried or tense, so how can we manage to savour the moment, as the hen does?

Each chapter is only several small pages long, and so they’re just the right length to read one essay per day and have something to mull over. Along the way, you’ll learn many interesting facts about the life of birds and perhaps become more observant. But you’ll also have many occasions to think about your own philosophy of life.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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