When a father suffering from dementia writes a Will which sees one son favoured ahead of the other, it prompts serious soul searching and difficult questions for both of them.
Perhaps the cruel illness twisted his views of the brothers to cause an unfair assessment? Maybe the son who was left nothing had actually done something so unforgivable that the old man’s position was perfectly reasonable?
Or it could be that the discovery of the Will risked a unnecessary re-assessment of the Father’s loving nature?
The scenario might sound like an issue up for debate on a television programme or radio phone-in show, but this is just one of the contemporary scenarios that author Nicky Hansell uses to explore some of world’s best known philosophical ideas through history.
The Sage Train is the first book from the former Richmond School teacher whose passion for philosophy is obvious as soon as she starts talking about her work.
“You can’t go through life without making decisions and philosophy underpins absolutely everything we do. A friend described it to me as being able to change the way we examine our lives which I thought was a good way of putting it.”
When the opportunity arose to take a sabbatical from teaching in 2011, Hansell started work on the book, alongside other activities which also see her produce films used in teaching A level philosophy and ethics classes.
A curious hybrid of fact and fiction, the Sage Train introduces the reader to the minds of eight philosophers; Aristotle, Kant, Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, the pleasure seeker Aristippus, A J Ayer, Aquinas and Baruch Spinoza.
In the preface to the book, she explains that the chosen philosophers were ‘not randomly selected.’
“I could have included others, but the fact is that these were the men who spoke to me and in whole there is remains huge richness. They were wise as well as being clever.”
Within each of the Sage’s stories featured in the book, Hansell brings the philosophy to life by allowing the reader to compare the ideas and how useful they still are today.
Amazon’s description describes it further: “Hailed as a triumph by teachers, students and dinner party guests, this book has a humorous, accessible tone that makes abstract ideas seem easy and shows how philosophical questions remain at the core of our lives.”
And it won’t be her last book as Hansell’s second work is already well underway – a trip back to Tudor times with an exploration of the history of Jervaulx Abbey.
The Sage Train is for sale at Castle Hill Bookshop in Richmond or can be ordered online here.