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A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt--And Why They Shouldn't Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0199934454 ISBN-10: 0199934452

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A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt--And Why They Shouldn't + A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (March 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199934452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199934454
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Philosophy professor Irvine begins this intriguing book with an examination of the various types of insult: verbal and physical, of course, but also practical jokes, the silent treatment, backbiting, insults by omission, insults by implication, accidental insults, sarcasm, and so on. Readers looking to add to their stock of insults will find much good material here, but they’ll also find an insightful analysis of the way we insult each other, why we do it, how we react, and how we can adjust our notion of insults and modify our reactions to them. Do we tend to overreact to insults? Do we see an insult where none is intended? Especially interesting is the author’s look at the ways we, as a society, have attempted to deal with insults and his analysis of whether these approaches are successful, or even necessary (perhaps the best way to deal with insults is simply to laugh them off). Written in a lively, entertaining style, the book is intended for a general audience, and anyone who picks it up should find something of interest. --David Pitt

Review


"A Slap in the Face is an earnest book offering some good advice as well as some memorable insults." --Daniel Akst, The Wall Street Journal


"Readers looking to add to their stock of insults will find much good material here, but they'll also find an insightful analysis of the way we insult each other, why we do it, how we react, and how we can adjust our notion of insults and modify our reactions to them...Written in a lively, entertaining style..." --Booklist


"We may not like to admit it, but the impulse to wound with words has long been a part of human history, Irvine contends in this mélange of philosophy, psychology, and cultural study. Insults may range from barbs meant as flirtatious bait to the famously eloquent gibes of Shakespeare, but Irvine pragmatically argues that regardless of intention or context, we must understand insults in order to deal with them." --Publishers Weekly


"After providing readers with a catalog of amusing insults, Irvine analyzes the role they play in everyday life and offers invaluable advice for reducing their sting. His suggestion that you laugh at yourself when you are insulted--a form of verbal aikido--is nearly foolproof."
--Mark Frauenfelder, founding editor of BoingBoing.net and editor-in-chief of the technology magazine Make


"This intriguing book is written in a very engaging style about a topic to which everyone can relate. William Irvine uses leading research in the field to present information in a very accessible manner about the various forms that insults can take, reactions that people have to insults, and ways to more appropriately respond to insults. The points that Irvine makes will 'slap you in the face' as you quickly become aware of the prevalence of insults, your own and others, in your daily life."--Robin Kowalski, Professor of Psychology, Clemson University


"Aristotle said we were rational animals, but the Stoics noticed that we were insulting animals. Other animals establish social hierarchies with claws and fangs, we do so with words. William Irvine is a collector and a connoisseur of insults, and well-chosen examples keep this book lively. But he also understands insults; he has important wisdom to impart, backed by his own common sense, some science, and some philosophy, about how to deal with the insults we are likely to get, and inclined to give." -- John Perry, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of California at Riverside and Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Stanford University



More About the Author

William B. Irvine is professor of philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. For more on his life and writings, visit his author website at WilliamBIrvine.com.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Davor on February 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read the author's A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, I got this book. It is a well written, quick and entertaining read. The book provides a clear classification of various kinds of insults, philosophy and evolutionary psychology behind the insults and our reactions to them, and provides an intro into the way Stoics handled them. It will be easier for you to recognize subtle insults and to avoid making them. Read this book first, and then read A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy in order to expand the Stoic's approach to handling the other aspects of your life.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bronx book nerd VINE VOICE on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I thought of giving this review an insulting title like, "Doofus Professor Makes Marginal Claims", just to see how the author reacts: will he be insulted? Then I decided against such a sophomoric approach. I actually want to give this book a good review but here are my issues with it. Despite the claims that this is not a book of insults but a book about insults, the most memorable bits are the actual insults recorded, including some very famous ones by Winston Churchill. If the Second World War were fought with insults instead of traditional weapons, the war would have been over in a week, with Britain scoring a resounding victory.

Although Professor Irvine covers a lot of ground on the how, what and why of insults, and much of it is backed up in the footnotes by study, a lot of it feels like speculation on his part. For example, he writes about people who join groups wanting to be teased by other group members because that teasing is a sign of acceptance. I don't buy that. Then again, Irvine also says that the playful teasing may actually be a subtle way of insulting someone, something of which we may not even be conscious of. That's too much speculation and complexity packed into one concept. My biggest problem with Irvine's thesis, however, is his over reliance on evolutionary psychology as his explanatory linchpin. He also relied on this thesis in On Desire: Why We Want What We Want. I think the claims of evolutionary psychology are fundamentally wrong. The premise is basically that any emotional or psychological traits that exist today exist because they were kept us alive until the next generation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MS on October 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fast read and gives a decent overview of the topic of insults. But it has no new insights. The authors suggestion to imitate the stoics by just ignoring insults is laughably bad, but he admits that in part in the end.
As typical for philosophy it lacks in empirical evidence and has a lot of speculation like the topic of stoicism.
For people who want a quick overview it's ok, for people with deeper and maybe scientific interest in the topic it is of little value.
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By arkleo on April 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It intends to be a psychological essay on insults and is not at all interesting or fun to read.
I did not like it at all
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Irvine has a brilliant mind and shares much insight regarding just why we behave the way we do, and why we often hurt those we love the most. It will change the way you see the world and make you grateful it did. The asking price is little in what is given in exchange, so purchasing shouldn't be a hesitation. Please do so! -Ryan
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