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Good Book: A Secular Bible Hardcover – April 1, 2011
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Praise for The Meaning of Things `Deeply humane and subtle in its thought as well as being imbued with a rare spirit of enlightenment' * Financial Times * `Grayling writes with clarity, elegance and the occasional aphoristic twist...straight alpha material' * Sunday Telegraph * 'An enthusiastic thinker who embraces humour, common sense and lucidity' * Independent *
About the Author
A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a multi-talented author. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news.
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This book is not a compilation of work. You will not open it up and find passages from various works called out by author. It is truly written in the style of the Bible - Grayling has taken the collected wisdom of hundreds of secular philosophers and melded it together in the flowery prose form typical of the Bible. There is no reference list at the back to tell you where anything came from, he has taken the ideas and the texts and melted them together.
The Good Book begins with Genesis, where you can see the ideas of Darwin laid out in an inspirational way. Reading through this I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I'm used to this language being peppered with things I don't believe in, and listening to it at weddings or funerals generally gives me a lump in my stomach. Here was the same kind of lofty language, but saying the things I believed! I didn't realize how much I would enjoy hearing Darwin's theory of evolution told as a beautiful story of how we began and the cycle of life.
As you make your way though the book, you can clearly see where he has incorporated Plato's dialogs, but without specific references. Characters are mentioned in the same way as the Bible, introduced without preamble, just snippets of conversation or story which attempt to showcase an idea. There are passages on grief and death as well.
If you are looking to learn the works of these philosophers in an intellectual way, this is not the book for you. This book is meant to absorb the ideas they upheld in a more spiritual feeling way. I wish this book had been published before I got married, I would have looked for a passage from it to read at my wedding. I could see reading it at a funeral, there really is something cathartic about having grief and death and moving on with life written in this way.
I feel in some ways as an Atheist this may have been what I was missing and didn't realize it. I didn't have anything to help me find a way to feel good about my place in nature's greater story, I just felt the absence of the belief in an afterlife. I also feel like this is a book I could read to my kids to help them figure out how to be a good person in a world which is not always good and in which you cannot rely on a all powerful being to save you from your problems. The language is flowery and poetic, but its also much more accessible than say Kant's Metaphysics of Morals. I minored in philosophy in college, I'm by no means an expert, but I have read some of these works and they are by no means easy to absorb.
So, I think for what this book is trying to accomplish, what it says it is in the description, it is a great work.
Others say dense, I say full of subtleties.
Others say hard to read, I say filled with english of the highest degree.
Others say devoid of references, I say the knowledge is timeless.
Do not delve into this looking to have atheistic beliefs reinforced, passages by ancient authors quoted, summarized, and referenced, or to have science presented as a refutation to the biblical history of the world. This is a work that should be taken wholly unto itself. Enjoy.
This book contains exactly what it is titled, an immense amount of philosophical, historical and ethical prose, and writings from many of the greatest minds that have existed with humanity.
Now don't get me wrong, you aren’t going to find every word within deeply inspiring or for that matter helpful, but this is not a book that should really be read cover to cover in one sitting, though it can be, but a book which should be read a little, flipped through and digested for in my opinion, probably many years to even a life time.
This is a book that I keep on the edge of my desk, and find myself, when I am pondering on situations in my life, or perhaps lost in thought on some random path. I will pick the book up and flip to a "book" which I feel may help give a little bit of insight into this thought.
Overall, this is a wonderful book, the only complaint I have is it would have been nice to have even just had endnotes or a little more direction as to whom was the writer of passages, but in the long run, with the advent of Google now-a-days, it’s easy to type in a phrase and pretty quickly find this.
Love how so much of what we are reading are things we have studied in history so far, it's wonderful to make all these connections with my children...even my four year old is getting into it! which is amazing because he is so hyper! (we read at mealtimes, it helps the boys not bicker, and gives us something to talk about besides pokemon, or minecraft - hahaha)