I experienced my first taste of philosophical escapism, Mackie's The Miracle of Theism, in a cramped, rented apartment in Glyfada, a suburb of Athens. Mackie's wonderful book had been recommended by H.M. Kuitert, a Dutch reverend and theologian, in the Saturday Books section, in a page devoted to "unread treasures," of NRC Handelsblad on Dec 24, 1994. The conceit behind the section was, I think, to ask people to read a non-fiction book that they owned (and probably should have read long before).* Mackie's elegant book with its crisp, clear prose and razor-sharp arguments was the perfect companion to distract me from my shame at my failure at being loved. This shame stared me in the face whenever I glanced at my beloved.
To be sure, engaging with philosophy is not so cerebral that one feels nothing. Like David Hume I am inclined to think that most thought is felt; in particular, focused, philosophical thought can be intensely felt. So, in reading Mackie I displaced the possibility of painful shame (held at bay by my numbness) with joy and marvel at the intellectual world that he opened up for me. Such displacement is routine in philosophy. Given the drabness of many feelings and the dreariness of many experiences, such displacement may well improve the lot of our lives.