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Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age Paperback – December 18, 2003
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From Library Journal
Grayling teaches philosophy at the University of London, writes a weekly column for the Guardian, and frequently contributes to the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. Here he has written a primer designed to stimulate thinking on various aspects of "the problems and possibilities of being human," as he observes on the book jacket. Ranging in length from two to ten pages, the 60-plus essays are divided almost evenly into three categories: "Virtues and Attributes," "Foes and Fallacies," and "Amenities and Goods." They are balanced, intelligently written, at times caustic, and always (as intended) thought-provoking. Consider, for example, what Grayling has to say regarding love: "Despite appearances, the kinds of love that are most significant to us are not those that fill novels and cinema screens. They are instead those we have for family, friends, and comrades; for these are the loves that endure through the greater part of our lives, and give us our sense of self-worth, our stability, and the framework for our other relationships." This is a superb little book, partly because it reminds us of what we intuitively know but perhaps overlook and partly because it stimulates us to rethink beliefs we have perhaps held too long. Highly recommended. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A distinctive voice somewhere between Mark Twain and Michel Montaigne.... Give this book to the more thoughtful heads on your Christmas list--but read it yourself, first."--Psychology Today
"Most challenging, yet simultaneously most satisfying."--The Black World Today
"This is a superb little book, partly because it reminds us of what we intuitively know but perhaps overlook and partly because it stimulates us to rethink beliefs we have perhaps held to long. Highly recommended."--Library Journal
"This is a book to be dipped into and savored over time...deeply humane and subtle in its thought as well as being imbued with a rare spirit of enlightenment."--Peter D. Smith, The Financial Times
"The pieces are neatly turned, well researched and dense with quotations and aphorisms from an impressive variety of writers and traditions."--Simon Blackburn, The Sunday Times
Top customer reviews
I have summarized some of my favorites.
A man who moralizes is usually a hypocrite ~Oscar Wilde
A Moralizer is a person who seeks to impose upon others his/her view of how people should behave. They want people to conform to their views and may use coercion. They defend their actions by saying they are trying to defend others from harm. Moralizers claim a monopoly on moral judgment and the right to decide on others' behalf what is good for them.
The knowledge of courtesy is a very necessary study; like grace and beauty, it breeds mutual liking ~ Montaigne
The loss of civility means that social feeling has been replaced by defensiveness. Ill-mannered people are generally so because they falsely estimate their own worth and think that a waiter (who is probably a medical student earning extra pocket money), or a bus driver (who is probably writing the next prize-winning novel in his spare time) is to be valued by their occupation / income rather than their humanity.
Happiness depends on wisdom ~ Sophocles
A very controversial subject between philosophers. Grayling indicates that if life's goal is really happiness, then perhaps we can easily achieve it for all mankind by pouring a happiness-inducing chemical into the world's water supplies. We would not notice things if they begin to work inefficiently, and would not mind if disasters ensued, for the chemical would keep us smiling through.
However, most of us resist the idea of being in a passive condition and which undermines things we value more: our striving and yearning, our improvement and growth, invention and discovery. Happiness frequently accompanies these endeavors, as smoke does fire; and when it does, it enhances them.
When we are well, we all have good advice for those who are ill ~ Terence
Two thousand years ago, Plutarch prescribed a moderate diet, exercise and restful sleep as the basis of good health. A lot has happened to make his advice obsolete. People dig their own graves by using drugs that blunt their unrest, from alcohol to sleeping pills.
Bertrand Russell offers a simple but powerful prescription: The key to happiness, he said, is to worry about things only when relevant. If you cannot do anything about your overdraft at three in the morning, stop thinking about it until you can.
"Health exists for life, and life exists for the love of music and beautiful things," says Chesterton.
Grayling writes with wit and his arguments are both persuasive and well reasoned (other than his essay, "Speciesism," which uses the underlying false argument that 0.98 is so close to 1 that (0.98)^n = 1 for any n.) But the best reason to read "Meditations for the Humanist" is that it is uplifting in its ethical and moral message - and by being so proves many of its points.
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Years ago, Andre' Comte-Sponville wrote a little book entitled 'A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues' in which he enumerated the...Read more