45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2002
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.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
"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.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2002
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.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2004
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2006
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2006
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2007
I'm still reading this book but what I've read so far is great. There aren't too many inspirational books out there for Humanist so it was a treat to find this one. It is a good size book with over 200 pages with subjects such as love,loyalty,betrayal,lying and courage. There is at least a page and a half on each subject and an index so you can look up a particular subject if you want to read just that one. I would recommend it as a gift for sure to a follow Humanist.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2010
Or Grayling contra Comte-Sponville.
Years ago, Andre' Comte-Sponville wrote a little book entitled 'A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues' in which he enumerated the clasiical and developing Virtues and supplied explanations and examinations of each. His book, though thorough and technically proficient left me with somwhat a cold feeling. Something was lacking, though at the time, I couldn't quite put my finger on what that something was.
Enter A.C. Grayling with this other little book. Certainly not a manual on Virtue, but rather laconic observations on some small little things and some great big things that can inform one's attempt at life. For as Grayling informs us, breathing is not tantamount to living in all cases. Life is an Art and not all are Artists or Artisans.
With subjects ranging from Hope to Death to Blasphemy to Prudence, some highlighted as Virtues, others simply as signs that can point to a richer, fuller life, Mr. Grayling allows us a glimpse and more into from what I see is a fairly complete representation of the Human Soul. More, Grayling comes through in these pages as someone who has lived these experiences, developed ideas from contemplating the subjects, and as a result is one who displays much Wisdom.
This perhaps for me is where Comte-Sponville was finally lacking. Although his treatise was written stringently and intelligently, it lacked Soul.
In 'Courage', Grayling contrasts the subject with Rashness - bold action with lack of Fear or Forethought, and highlights the advantages of not only this Ancient Virtue, but goes further in providing day to day examples of what Courage means in our ordinary lives. This moving from the Lofty, Ethereal Archetypal Virtues to the everyday and ordinary is a mark of Genius on Grayling's part, in my humble view.
Well written and truly a miscellany, the book can be picked up and opened at will, where whatever subject one chances upon is guaranteed to be thought provoking and Lively (even bordering on the emotional.) This again is a signature of Grayling in that he is not afraid to inject his subjects with subjectivity and psychological insight, of which the author obviously has both in reasoned yet ample amounts.
Not a Humanist yet? Let Grayling convince you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2010
I highly enjoyed 'Meditations for the Humanist.' Every essay was thought-provoking and elegant. AC Grayling puts things into perspective, and I recommend this book to all.
on November 22, 2013
In this book, Dr. Grayling opines on ways to look at fundamental concepts of humanity, without the authoritarian preaching of established "religion". Four stars rather than five, because the ideas and associated insights presented are not really up to the good doctors usual standard, and four rather than three because the material is, as always, better than average. (Quotes identify words whose meaning is not clearly established anywhere).