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On Kindness Paperback – June 22, 2010
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To live the successful modern life, we are enjoined to become less kind and more selfish. That is this small but profound volume’s animating premise. Phillips and Taylor argue that in today’s fast-paced, anything-to-get-ahead culture, kindness “has become our forbidden pleasure.” Kindly behavior is perceived as both dangerous and suspicious, nothing less than empty sentiment and simplistic moralizing. Most of all, kindness is taken as a sign of weakness. Though written by a historian and psychoanalyst, On Kindness wears its erudition lightly and with great grace. It looks at attitudes toward kindness from a historical perspective, from the Stoics to Christian thought; to Hobbes, Hume, Adam Smith, and Rousseau; to Freud; and to the current day. For centuries, people thought of themselves as being naturally kind. Phillips and Taylor explore the various ways in which that attitude changed over the centuries and also comment on the often devastating and tragic consequences of that change, of “how in giving up on kindness, we deprive ourselves of a pleasure that is fundamental to our well being.” --June Sawyers --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Tightly packed with insights into our riven human heart . . . Seamless and a pleasure to read . . . a rich and provocative book, revealing the complexity of a simple-seeming virtue.” ―The Washington Post Book World
“Readable and absorbing . . . a concentrated essay on a limited but deeply important subject is to be highly valued. ” ―The Guardian (UK)
“Eloquent . . . A profound exploration of [kindness] . . . highly recommended.” ―Library Journal
“Employs history, social theory, and psychoanalysis to chart how kindness has become a pejorative word over the years.” ―Time.com
“On Kindness wears its erudition lightly and with great grace.” ―Booklist
“If we have all become more self-interested and self-serving, Phillips and Taylor suggest a little more altruism as an antidote to angst and alienation . . . Theirs is a true tract for difficult times.” ―Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)
“Part of the purpose of this short book is to reinstate [kindness] as something necessary both to our personal happiness and our communal well-being. This seems to me a totally admirable aim . . . A concentrated essay on a limited but deeply important subject is to be highly valued.” ―Mary Warnock, The Observer (London)
“[An] elegant meditation on kindness . . . In a competitive, stressed-out, paranoid, cynical, celebrity-obsessed, credit-crunched society, this might seem a barmy philosophy. As Phillips and Taylor show--clearly, coherently and completely unsentimentally--it's a completely sensible one.” ―David Robinson, The Scotsman
“[Phillips is] one of the finest prose stylists at work in the language, an Emerson of our time.” ―John Banville on Adam Phillips
“The curious thing about reading Phillips is that he makes you feel smart and above the daily grind at the same time as he reassures you that you are not alone in your primal anxieties about whether you are lovable or nuts or, perhaps, merely boring.” ―Daphne Merkin on Adam Phillips, The New York Times Magazine
“Phillips is . . . a bit like an Oliver Sacks of psychoanalysis, both affable and unalarmed.” ―Gail Caldwell on Adam Phillips, The Boston Sunday Globe
“[Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination] will be essential reading for many years to come . . . Superb . . . Well-written.” ―Caroline Franklin on Barbara Taylor, The Times Literary Supplement
Top customer reviews
This book is a rigorous argument, based on the history of European ideas and psychoanalytical doctrine, that we fail to recognize and value intelligently one of life's greatest pleasures: generosity. It goes deep into the the scientific and political sources of our contemporary confusion and unhappiness.
The authors explain brilliantly how misunderstanding the paradoxical relation between kindness and hatred contributes to our chronic ambivalence toward other people and hence our inability to choose our actions well.
Beautifully written and succinct: the sort of book you finish in an afternoon and will definitely read again.