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The Other Side of Virtue: Where Our Virtues Come From, What They Really Mean, and Where They Might Be Taking Us Paperback – April 9, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This is one of the most important books you can read. 'The Other Side of Virtue' explores territory that is vitally important to understand at this critical time in our history. Reading it will deepen your soul. It might seem strange to recommend cheating when discussing a book on virtues and ethics, but let me say this: this is one of the most important books you can read, but if you doubt this, turn to the very last two pages of the book and read the final passage marked 'The Messenger'. Better still, start at the beginning and let the book deepen your soul and broaden your understanding. Philip Carr-Gomm, Author of "Sacred Places", Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids [selected] The Other Side of Virtue is a bold reviving of the deepest ethics of past heroic societies, of spirited people living in a world of ultimate immensities, crafting lives of intrinsic value and meaning. This is a book full of fascinating insights and well worth the interest of readers concerned with the ethical dilemmas of the modern world. It is filled with arresting insights, unexpected turns of analysis, and the kind of rich analytic context that will more than repay the efforts made by its readers. It has given me much to think about, and much to re-think. Gus DiZerega, Professor of Political Science, St. Lawrence University; author of Pagans and Christians, and Of Fish and Men

About the Author

Brendan Cathbad Myers, Ph.D., has worked as a musician, an environmentalist, a labour union leader, a university lecturer and as a simple country gardener. He has appeared on several U.S. radio stations (including NPR) and half a dozen podcasts, and writes a regular column in several Pagan newsletters and journals. He lives in Southern Ontario, Canada
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Moon Books (April 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846941156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846941153
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James E. Goodwin on May 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Other Side of Virtue is an impressive book. It is not only an examination of virtue throughout the ages but also a ... guide is not really the right word, there are no "how to's" in this book, but it is a guide none the less in that Dr. Myers lays out (from his perspective) what a virtuous life looks like, and how to know when one is on the right track. As Brendan explains it "familiar" virtue is the following of laws and rules, the "Other Side" of virtue is the exploration of "who we are". The very first thing I can, and should, say about this book is that it is amazingly well researched. There would be no doubt in my mind, even had I not known, that Dr. Myers received his Doctorate in Philosophy, he obviously has a fantastic grasp of philosophy and an ability to distill very complex theories and perspectives into easy to read and understand segments.

The book follows virtue through the ages. Starting with heroic cultures (Cheiftan societies), moving through civilized societies (city states), through the Renaissance, Age of Reason, Romanticism, and even into modern expressions of fantasy like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. He then begins the exploration of how these expressions of virtue are manifest in our lives. The primarily vehicle he uses to explain this is in the experience of what he calls "an Immensity" that is a situation that calls to us to make choices which in turn create changes in our lives. From my understanding of his meaning, an immensity is a problem or situation one faces in which ones life will be forever changed. How one responds to these experiences or, to to use Dr. Myers language, an Immensity is when one most clearly lives with virtue.
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Format: Paperback
Author Brendan Myers, a.k.a. Brendan Cathbad Myers, tackles the subject of virtue ethics in the ancient and modern world. He investigates the ethics of Heroic and Classical peoples of ancient Europe, charts the history of virtue through the Renaissance and into modern times, and advocates a modern ethics informed by ancient forms of virtue. In addition to these things, he offers a counter to passive forms of virtue, a critique of modern individualism, and a new way to understand the spiritual experience. All this he delivers in a book accessible to the general reader.

Unifying Myers' approach are two basic convictions: first, that we must find the source of our ethics in ourselves ("Know thyself"), and second, that community is also indispensable. It is a philosophy not of rule-based obedience, but of character-based action. The emphasis falls not on the laws or commandments we follow, but rather on the qualities in which our characters may excel. These qualities are called virtues.

This is not the same as what Myers calls the "familiar side" of virtue: a host of "passive" and "self-denying" qualities we have inherited largely from Christian tradition: faith, hope, charity, humility, chastity, and most of all docility.

Of greater interest is the "other side." Here Myers invokes a more ancient and original usage, derived on the one hand from the Latin virtus, rooted in the word vir ("man"), and on the other hand from the Greek arete ("virtue" or "excellence"). In short, this usage refers to the ways in which a person's character excels. Myers' ethics is not about docility, but about excellence of character.

Myers articulates the "other side" of virtue in five segments called "movements.
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It's difficult to know, in this age of constant distractions, how much of who we culturally are has been lost or remains undeveloped. We suffer from this void every second of every day, clinging to distractions just to survive.

Brendan Myers' book, The Other Side of Virtue, goes a long way in re-introducing us to our cultural roots. Here we find the social event of storytelling that once united people by forming communal dynamics while transmitting a common identity down through the ages. He unveils the virtue of the heroic mindset, and the desire to be remembered for outstanding deeds as the only grasp for immortality we can count on. He then challenges the herd mentality of those who relinquish their will for discernment. By resurrecting the concept of the noble soul, and how the Immensities of life confront by asking who we are, Myers shows us the means to authentic living.

A book well worth reading, and keeping.
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I have referred back to this book time and time again, after my initial read, because it is full of great information concerning ethics and morals from a Pagan perspective. Myers has a straight forward easy to read writing style that makes understanding the text very simple. I have recommended this book to several people that I know, including local Pagan groups, and all have loved it as well. I highly recommend this book looking to study and survey virtues and how to apply said virtues to their lives.
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I've had a signed copy of this book sitting on my "to read" shelf since I saw Brendan at the Western Gate Festival a couple of years ago, but only now finally got around to finding time to read it. I'm sorry I waited.

This book could be a modern manifesto for humanistic Paganism; but its theories can also be applied to most modern Pagan practice. And it could also be read and enjoyed by humanists and naturalists of any faith. It could possibly even be held up to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking as an answer on the value of philosophy. Philosophy is not dead, Myers argues. It has merely changed form. A hard-core rationalist might ask "What use does philosophy have in the modern scientific and rational world?" The answer is "to teach us how to live a good life without faith to fall back on." But that being said, it does not challenge the existence of faith; rather, it suggests that ethics and values are essential and positive driving forces that cross the boundaries of religion or spirituality, and are equally applicable to everyone.

Myers postulates that classical heroic values are as relevant to the modern world as they were in the classical and heroic ages. He makes a good case for this by explaining modern humanist values as a natural outgrowth of classical values. Then he applies these values in the process of confronting what he calls "The Immensity." I have spoken of these things in previous articles as "the big human questions" and I have postulated that the degrees of Wicca are intended as rituals to help us to confront three of the Immensities that Brendan names: Life, Death, and Love; or as he puts it, The Earth, Death, and Other People.
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