The Art of Life

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ISBN-13: 978-0801489792
ISBN-10: 0801489792
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

These three books take different approaches to the basic question, How can we live a meaningful life? To find an answer, Vanier (Becoming Human) turns to Aristotle, offering a detailed account of his views on the virtues. Vanier shows that Aristotle based his ethics on a cultivation of individual excellence that did not exclude the values of friendship and life in society. Vanier does not, however, wholly embrace Aristotle, arguing that his system was elitist and needs to be corrected by Christian compassion. Like Vanier, Kekes (The Examined Life) emphasizes the virtues, but his approach to the good life is pluralistic rather than Aristotelian. Arguing that no formalist doctrine such as Kant's can provide universally valid rules for leading a moral life, he instead maintains that the study of admirable individuals furnishes the guidelines we need. Among those Kekes finds worthy of emulation are Montaigne and Thomas More, who balanced public responsibilities with private commitments. Kekes offers a close analysis of their conduct, thereby hoping to convey a sense of how choosing a personal ideal is influenced by general moral constraints. Bell suggests a more personal way of addressing life's meaning, discussing incidents in his own life that may help others find an answer to this question. In particular, he stresses his need to subordinate personal ambition to the Civil Rights Movement. His principled stand involved him in several crucial conflicts, one of which led to his resignation from the faculty of Harvard Law School. (He is now a visiting professor at NYU.) Bell also presents insights on his friendship with women and on religion, again from a personal perspective. These three books are highly recommended for all public libraries.
David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Arguing that no formalist doctrine such as Kant's can provide universally valid rules for leading a moral life, Kekes instead maintains that the study of admirable individuals furnishes the guidelines we need. Among those Kekes finds worthy of emulation are Montaigne and Thomas More, who balanced public responsibilities with private commitments. . . . Highly recommended for all public libraries."―Library Journal, 11/15/02

"Accessibly written, originally conceived, and refreshingly literate, John Kekes' The Art of Life is a book explicitly composed for serious non-specialists who are interested in what philosophical reflection can teach us about living good lives. It is also one that should engage and challenge even the most serious academic philosophers, those whose devotion to specialty is subordinate to something larger."―George Harris, College of William and Mary.

"Kekes belongs to a flourishing school of thought known as 'virtue ethics.' He and his colleagues believe that mainstream moral philosophers since the time of Kant and Bentham have been barking up the wrong tree. Instead of seeking to define morality in terms of abstract universal principles, they should have stuck to the traditional methods of Aristotle and Cicero, exploring what it might mean for particular individuals to have a virtuous or vicious character, or to lead an honourable or a despicable life. 'The Art of Life' is an impressive attempt to tackle this task directly."―Times Literary Supplement, December 5, 2003

"John Kekes has been a steady and important contributor to recent discussions about life. . . . The Art of Life demonstrates unequivocally the value of rigorous philosophical reflection on something that we all want, spend most of our time and energy trying to achieve, fret about endlessly, but understand only dimly, namely, a good life. The Art of Life is both a pleasure to read and an illuminating piece of philosophical work. Kekes brings a lifetime of serious thought to this 'most important of all human activities.'"―Frederik Kaufman, Ithaca College, The Journal of Ethics 8, 2004

"John Kekes is an important contributor to the literature in ethics and social philosophy. His views are distinctive, typically well-argued, and provocative."―Peter A. French, Arizona State University

"The Art of Life is an unusually good book. It is philosophically sharp and complex,and avoids easy solutions."―Joel Kupperman, University of Connecticut

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (March 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801489792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801489792
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,932,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Ann St James on November 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
Loved this book. It is the first book I've read by Kekes and I find his intelligence stunning. Philosophers can be pompous and pedantic, he is not. This book is clear, simple, and easy to read, yet his style is elegant and his method of supporting his position is brilliant. I have ordered two other books by Kekes and can't wait for them to arrive.
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