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Eros and the Good: Wisdom According to Nature Hardcover – April 1, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In EROS AND THE GOOD, philosopher James Gouinlock examines the nature of human ideals, the state of contemporary culture, the self-image of man, and the meanings of life. With breadth of learning and reflection, Gouinlock presents a searching examination of the nature of morality and the good life. Whether it be the trained philosopher, or the professional inquirer concerned with the moral life and its presuppositions, or any individual who seeks wisdom about human existence, the reader will find a wealth of challenging and rewarding ideas.

In a candid, original, and disciplined analysis, Gouinlock contends that stability and fulfillment in life depend on specifiable natural conditions. These conditions are not mere conventions, and they are not indefinitely manipulable. While they permit of diversities, they also constitute well-defined limits. To know these conditions 0 or orders, as Gouinlock also calls them - is to possess wisdom according to nature. Our generic moral problem is not that of certifying moral judgments as absolute but in identifying and establishing forms of life that are suitable to the real demands and promises of natural existence. Wisdom is not a form of moral absolutism, nor is it by any means a form of relativism. Wisdom requires that definite moral principles and practices be accorded very high priority in our behavior, or failure and even disaster await us. We learn of these natural orders throughout this lucid and eloquent study.

Gouinlock affirms that natural discipline and potentialities support human flourishing and happiness, but we must develop the virtues appropriate to them. Drawing upon such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Santayana, and Dewey, Gouinlock offers an account of the forms of excellence that are truly suitable to the human condition. He argues convincingly that the virtues are the greatest human asset, and they withstand any assault from moral relativism. The forms of ideal life that the exercise of virtue might yield are set forth in detail. This is the life of eros: devotion to ideal goods. Not in generations has any philosopher written of the life of eros in such a compelling manner.

This is a book to seize anyone's moral imagination. At the same time, it brings a clarity and understanding to moral thought and moral life that will be welcomed by all those who seek intelligibility in this most important dimension of human endeavor, whether they be philosophers, psychologists, social scientists, or students of the humanities.

About the Author

James S. Gouinlock (Atlanta, GA) is professor emeritus of philosophy at Emory University and the author or editor of six books, including Rediscovering the Moral Life: Philosophy and Human Practice and The Moral Writings of John Dewey.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021483
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,374,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Eros and the Good reclaims the traditional approach to philosophy. That is, the author presents a full-scale world view, where he situates the main activities and concerns of human life, including our values and ideals. This was the way of people like Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Hegel, Nietzsche, Dewey, or Sartre; but this way of philosophizing seems to have disappeared in recent times, and it has made the subject boring and usually pointless, as far as I am concerned. I want to know how our lives and values have meaning in the full nature of things, and I look for a philosopher who can take up the subject in that way.
Gouinlock, in Eros and the Good, fulfills this approach very successfully. He reviews many of the past attempts and shows where we can draw upon them to good effect and where they seem to be a dead end. Eros is the ancient Greek idea of love for the ideal possibilities of existence. Gouinlock has respect for religion and religious interests, but he is not a religious believer. It is refreshing to see how religious values (among others) can be modified and retained instead of being either swallowed whole or just dismissed. His last chapter, "Meanings," talks of piety, spirituality, and immortality while remaining naturalistic. The author has remarkable insights into the ways that human beings can remain fully realistic about their lives and still develop forms of ideal life in the context of the life of action.
The book is written with much appreciation for human limitations but also for our highest possibilities. I was most impressed by his discussion of moral virtue. He makes the most convincing case for it that I have ever seen, and that includes Plato.
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Format: Hardcover
One does not have to agree with Gouinlock to admire his critical approach to the moral life, but one cannot afford to ignore it either and yet hope to see fully the problems that continue to perplex contemporary ethical theories. He has given us a profound and penetrating understanding of human conduct in its widest moral texture. He emerges as a fair critic of the most fertile traditions of the past, from Aristotle and Nietzsche to many leading contemporary theorists of the moral life in our times. In fact, he has succeeded in naturalizing the moral life more reliably and coherently than the generation of Dewey, Santayana, and their heirs. Gouinlock has given to the Platonic conception of Eros its proper place in the pursuit of meanings, completions, values and moral ideals. In its own right, this book, written with elegance and graceful style, may well prove to be a landmark for the philosophical understanding of the moral conception of life in our times.
John P. Anton
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By A Customer on April 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Right from the opening sentance, you can tell that this is not the usual book in philosophy. Gouinlock is not out ot make himself popular with his academic colleagues or with the intellectuals to the day. He calls them as he sees them, and this is refreshing. His book restores your faith that philosophy can be humanly significant and exciting. Eros and the Good does not deal with fragmentary issues, but works at comprehensiveness and integration and asks the question of the possible meanings of existence. He makes his own case on every question, drawing upon his favorlite philosophers--mainly Plato, Aristotle, Nietzche, Dewey, and Santayana-- and attacking some sacred cows, such asKant, the utlitarians, and political correctness. Eros is the central theme: love of the noble and the beautiful is the essential source of all that is ideal
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