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Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (December 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195168909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195168907
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Grayling teaches philosophy at the University of London, writes a weekly column for the Guardian, and frequently contributes to the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. Here he has written a primer designed to stimulate thinking on various aspects of "the problems and possibilities of being human," as he observes on the book jacket. Ranging in length from two to ten pages, the 60-plus essays are divided almost evenly into three categories: "Virtues and Attributes," "Foes and Fallacies," and "Amenities and Goods." They are balanced, intelligently written, at times caustic, and always (as intended) thought-provoking. Consider, for example, what Grayling has to say regarding love: "Despite appearances, the kinds of love that are most significant to us are not those that fill novels and cinema screens. They are instead those we have for family, friends, and comrades; for these are the loves that endure through the greater part of our lives, and give us our sense of self-worth, our stability, and the framework for our other relationships." This is a superb little book, partly because it reminds us of what we intuitively know but perhaps overlook and partly because it stimulates us to rethink beliefs we have perhaps held too long. Highly recommended. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


"A distinctive voice somewhere between Mark Twain and Michel Montaigne.... Give this book to the more thoughtful heads on your Christmas list--but read it yourself, first."--Psychology Today


"Most challenging, yet simultaneously most satisfying."--The Black World Today


"This is a superb little book, partly because it reminds us of what we intuitively know but perhaps overlook and partly because it stimulates us to rethink beliefs we have perhaps held to long. Highly recommended."--Library Journal


"This is a book to be dipped into and savored over time...deeply humane and subtle in its thought as well as being imbued with a rare spirit of enlightenment."--Peter D. Smith, The Financial Times


"The pieces are neatly turned, well researched and dense with quotations and aphorisms from an impressive variety of writers and traditions."--Simon Blackburn, The Sunday Times



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Customer Reviews

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I highly recommend this book to anyone that feels the need to calm themselves.
ALICE A HENNESSY
In either case, the essay or essays in question will provide an simple and excellent springboard from which the reader can explore their own thoughts.
D. Carlson
Moralizers claim a monopoly on moral judgment and the right to decide on others' behalf what is good for them.
Ishraq Freericks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By vere ayer on August 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
These pithy, lucid and elegant essays are about the things that really matter in life. A. C. Grayling is a philosopher who brings a remarkably wide range of reading and thought to bear on the big questions, in a way that is accessible to everyone, while being full of surprises and illumination. Not many philosophers these days are able to speak with authority yet clarity to anyone interested to read; and he does so with profound good sense strongly fortified by the great resource of literature and ideas in the Western tradition. He writes about the human condition for human beings; he has no truck with superstitions and religions, and believes that the good for humankind is to be found in the best human things - kindness, reason, culture, education and love - which is a message of hope and aspiration. There is something about A. C. Grayling's beautiful style and unflinching steadiness of purpose which makes these essays, even when he affirms anew the old wisdoms, belong to the same vintage as Montaigne and Bacon, Hazlitt (about whom he has written a wonderful biography: see elsewhere in Amazon) and Emerson, J. S. Mill and Oliver Wendell Holmes. This is a very good read, and a very educative one.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bukkene Bruse VINE VOICE on July 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age" is a collection of 61 short essays, many only 2 pages long, that are meant to prompt reflection on a range of ethical questions and other issues of the human condition. As the title suggests, the book attempts (quite successfully) to address its topics from a perspective orthogonal to that of Christianity and other religious systems. The longest essays are, however, "Christianity" and "Faith," and Grayling does discuss religious viewpoints when relevant.

Grayling writes with wit and his arguments are both persuasive and well reasoned (other than his essay, "Speciesism," which uses the underlying false argument that 0.98 is so close to 1 that (0.98)^n = 1 for any n.) But the best reason to read "Meditations for the Humanist" is that it is uplifting in its ethical and moral message - and by being so proves many of its points.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This excellent collection of short, pithy, elegant essays on life's great questions is a best-seller in England, where it was first published, and it attracted rave reviews which your readers should know about (all the following appear on the British paperback edition): "Grayling writes with clarity, elegance, and the occasional aphoristic twist, conscious of standing in that long essayistic tradition that runs from Montaigne and Bacon to Emerson and Thoreau" (Sunday Telegraph); "This is a book to be dipped into and savoured over time; deeply humane and subtle in its thought as well as being imbued with a rare spirit of enlightenment" (Financial Times); "Astute and informative" (Independent on Sunday); "The essays are neatly turned, well researched, and dense with quotations from an impressive variety of sources; I admire the sheer courage of the undertaking - there is much to like" (Sunday Times);"Enlightened and enlightening" (Private Eye);"Grayling combines wide learning with wise argument to fulfil the role he assigns to these essays - to be prommpts to reflection" (Freethinker); and so on for many more. - I think this book makes a difference for the good, and everyone should read it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Keith Appleyard on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Beware : this is actually a perfect duplicate of "The Meaning of Things" - so don't be fooled or mislead into buying the same book twice, like I was.
However, here is my review for "The Meaning of Things" :
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Carlson on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Grayling's work consists of a series of thought-provoking essays with a decidely humanistic and secular theme. Grayling's essays are direct and focused. They're bold enough to provoke thoughts, and challenge the reader, and yet their ethic is human enough to resonate in most people. The reader will find themselves drawn to some essays, and rejecting others. In either case, the essay or essays in question will provide an simple and excellent springboard from which the reader can explore their own thoughts.

Which is exactly what a good book of meditations should do. I recommend this book to anyone interested in contemplating secular ethics. Their humanistic premise makes Grayling's essays especially good for secular humanists, atheists, agnostics, and others with similar leanings.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazonbombshell on July 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a compact, readable, and very interesting introduction to non-religious ethical thought. The author considers religion to be one of the greatest evils humankind has inflicted on itself, and so he has written brief (two to several pages each) essays on how we might begin to think about poverty, racism, sex, kindness, etc, without tripping over religion.

Many will not agree with his assertions about religion, but we live now in a world where it is not only possible but desirable (for many) to live their lives without religion. It will do us no good to step up conversion efforts; the world is changing (as always) and the only way forward here is to be able to talk about ethics and what makes a good society without religious language.

This volume does not delve particularly deeply into any one subject, nor try to explain the whys of anything at all. It is a collection of reasoned musings, intended to inspire the reader to think about his own life and decisions, to ask herself why she does what she does.

MEDITATIONS is not quite philosophy -- although that's the heading it's under -- so don't expect it. If you're a philosopher-type, you may find Grayling's essays good food for thought, or you may find you've walked this path before. On the other hand, if you hate philosophy, this one's definitely for you.
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