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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2004
After reading the reviews here I couldn't wait to get started on this book. But when I did, I was intensely disappointed. The book is shelved in my local bookshop under "Philosophy". Its title describes it as applying "philosophy" to life. But it seemed to me to bear no resemblance at all to a work of philosophy, in that all it really consists of is a series of unargued assertions.
In fact I happen to agree with a lot of these assertions. It's not that I'm a rabid right-winger who is opposed to the author's standpoint. The problem is that the conceptual underpinning of that standpoint - which forms the starting point for the assertions in the book - isn't mentioned at all. And I expect more of a book which is marketed as "philosophy" than for it simply to parrot back my own beliefs at me without any reasoned argument.
For instance, at page 142 (in the chapter on poverty), the book confidently states that: "One of the measures of a good society is how it treats the poor".
This is an assertion with which most of us (I guess) are going to agree. But surely it marks the conclusion of a philosophical argument about the nature of good, the nature of society etc, and the beginning of a practical argument about how to put that conclusion into effect? The author doesn't give any indication of the underlying philosophical argument, only the resulting practical one.
I don't think this cop-out is justified by the title: if you're applying philosophy to life, don't you need to have some idea of the ingredients in that philosophy, and why you've come to the conclusions you have? Surely "practical application" requires understanding, and thus a good grounding of reasoned argument?
The book seemed more to me like a selection of political opinion pieces in a newspaper than a philosophical work: and on looking at the introduction I see that's because that is exactly what it is. (It started life as a series of articles in the Guardian newspaper.) It's moderately interesting, but no more philosophy than an Observer editorial is.
I'm sure there are better practical guides out there to the "application of philosopy to life". I seem to remember a book by Peter Singer, called "Practical Ethics" which hit the spot. And hasn't Mary Warnock written in this area?
If you think you want a challenge, rather than an unargued re-assertion of your own views, I'd have a good look at this in a bookshop before buying, because it may well not be what you're after.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2004
Beware : this book is also available as "Meditations for the Humanist" - so don't be fooled or misled into buying the same book twice - my approving review has already appeared elsewhere .....
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2003
Wow.This book even though philosophical 'heavy' read it was as pleasant as any gripping novels. I couldn't stop reading it and I had to finish at the same night I've started. The quotations the writer chose for the beginning of each 'chapter' were elusive and very very thought provoking ones. And his comments about a variety of subjects were absolutely smart too. It replaced most of my thoughts with his. If you really want to prove it to someone that philosophy is not as confusing as people think then recommend this book as it is a delight for the hungry minds.
Nice work
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2004
This book is a wonderful gift by AC Grayling to the reader.
He conveys his deep understanding of philosophy and the world in an accessible way - this is something that cannot be said about too many philosophy books. The book is structured in short essays meaning it can be picked up, enjoyed and then put aside to allow time for rumination.... then it can be dipped into all over again. I must have read each essay several times and I still put it down feeling I have gained a little more from re-reading it. Highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2003
I'm sure any reader of this book will take away some favourite sections. For me, the consecutively-placed entries on Betrayal, Loyalty & Blame were exemplary juxtapositions of those complementary topics.
I would also recommend the entry on Racism.
Given the brevity of the articles, sure they can't give you an in-depth discussion on the topic, but its just deep enough to get one thinking about the topics.
I think this would be an excellent 'pocket-book' to dip into for anyone in their late teens trying to come to terms with the world.
Having read this book, I moved directly to reading Graylings follow-up book, The Reason of Things.
Only disappointment - no Bibliography, so when Grayling frequently quotes other Authors / Philosophers, I don't know where to go to for further reading.
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on April 10, 2014
A worthwhile read for anyone who is looking to put this crazy world into a bit of perspective. It takes the emotion out of the immediate argument without discounting its impact.
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on November 18, 2013
I will admit to being a bit disappointed in this book. The book is basically a bunch of chapters, each covering a single topic such as "hate", "moralizing", "capitalism", etc. One would assume that with a title like "The Meaning of Things", each chapter would be attempting to provide real meaning to the topic, but I found myself thinking that the treatments were fairly light weight. I am struggling just to finish the book because it is deadly dull. Example, the chapter on "Intemperance" starts as "A night of alcohol-assisted celebration ...". The author does present the idea that intemperance can be seen from the viewpoint of understanding the boundaries. He brings up Epicurus, but in the end, it is less about meaning and more about definition. Rather than stimulating the mind, it is more stimulating to my eyelids, as in sleep.
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on January 16, 2013
Haven't finished reading it yet, but even the first few chapters have made me think of the way i treat others and the reality around me :)
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