Lost in the Cosmos

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First edition
(publ. Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book is a mock self-help book and social satire on the American value of autonomy by Walker Percy. It was published in 1983 by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Organized into roughly four sections that explore ideas of the self, Percy's thesis is that the social ills which plague society are a result of humanity's epic identity crisis. Percy uses semiotic theories (the theories of signs) to argue that human consciousness of the self is unique from all other 'interactions' in the universe in that it is triadic. It requires two sets of dyadic interactions between that of the sign user, the sign, and what the sign stands for in order to be complete. As a result, persons are thrust into the predicament of finding a sign that 'places' themselves.

The book contains numerous essays, quizzes, and "thought experiments" designed to satirize conventional self-help texts while provoking readers to undertake a thoughtful contemplation of their existential situations and the search for meaning and purpose that could derive from such reflections.

The book is a favourite of prominent philosopher Peter Kreeft, of Boston College, and a lecture on the subject appears on his personal website.

Further reading[edit]