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Hunger (The Art of Living)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2009
Not just Ogres are like onions, as it becomes quite obvious in this book, humans have layers as well: layers of hunger, among others. In this elegantly written erudite meditation demonstrates Raymond Tallis how if one looks close enough at one basic aspect of being a human, one can find in that reflected the whole of the human condition. Of course, hunger is also not just any odd aspect of human life but quite a central one. While we can assume that animals do suffer from malnutrition in different degrees of awareness, no animal seems to have quite the same relationship to it that humans have. Presumably, the basic need for food is the same for animals and humans, which is why it makes such horrendous sense to speak of humans being reduced to animals by the pains of severe hunger, it is curious that if the basic need is satisfied the hunger still does not stop but just finds ever new objects. This leads to hedonistic hunger for enjoyment, the hunger for others, or more precisely the recognition by others, and finally to what Tallis calls the fourth hunger, which is the hunger for meaning, spirituality, and vague hopes for wholeness and general fulfillment. The tragedy is of course that none of these hungers can ever end, that's just the nature of life, whatever we achieve we will get used to it and it will lose its nourishing, exciting qualities. The most poingnant aspect is that basic hungers need to be satisfied at least temporarily to allow people to go beyond those simple animal needs, and that the management of hungers (our daily bread, keep looking for new goals) is the best we can ever hope for. In the end, there is the beautiful irony that maybe the best way to deal with the fourth hunger for meaning and general fullfillment is to engage in helping unfortunate others to escape from the first hunger.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
`Hunger' is a part of a larger series of books (`The Art of Living' series) that addresses that old Hellenistic question `How should we live?' And because of this it occupies a distinctive (as far as I know) place in Raymond Tallis' philosophical opus as a primarily ethical text, rather than philosophical anthropology or literary theory. That does not mean, however, that it is disconnected from Tallis' larger philosophical undertaking to, `make the obvious less obvious' or, indeed, philosophical anthropology, which is certainly not neglected in `Hunger'. This book fits neatly with Tallis' enduring fight against reductionism in all its forms, e.g. scientism, cliché, ideology, empty obscurantism, etc. an undertaking somewhat indebted to phenomenology. However, as well as being a great and accessible introduction to Tallis' philosophical pursuit in particular, `Hunger' is also a good introduction to philosophy in general.

In commencing on this philosophical inquiry Tallis' critically and cleverly draws on Jean-Paul Sartre, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Baruch Spinoza, Blaise Pascal, Albert Camus, Primo Levi, and others, providing a good starting point for anyone wishing to further investigate these thinkers. Importantly, these great philosophers are not used to obfuscate and bewilder the reader nor are they placed on ridiculous pedestals to be admired but never questioned. These philosophers are employed, as they should be, to elucidate the subject matter under investigation, to draw on old insights concerning the human condition so as to form new insights. And while the text might require some effort and commitment it is always open to the genuinely interested layperson.

Tallis' exploration of hunger has as its point of departure the evolutionary requirement, the nutritional needs fulfilled by the act of eating. However, unlike Richard Dawkins and his contention that `we can[...] make a simple Darwinian interpretation of things like hunger', Tallis goes on to explore other more uniquely human hungers and the way even base hungers are made uniquely human. The subsequent chapters are then divided between the interconnected hedonistic hungers, social hungers and spiritual hungers, the ultimately and tragically insatiable hunger for experience of experience that encompasses the search for purpose, art, religion, science and philosophy. In the concluding chapter Tallis' looks at controlling our hungers; meditating on the importance of other's hungers and the possibility (and possible impossibility) of a politics of sustainable non-growth.

`Hunger' is mostly characterised by a noble hunger to understand the complexity of the phenomena of hunger and, with this, a concern and appreciation for humanity, its tragedies and beauty.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2008
I bought this book because I read an article about the author who is such an interesting man, and I thought the subject was fascinating. He describes the book as 'a meditation' in the foreword, but unfortunately you need a more than basic grounding in the study of philosophy to be able to understand it because of the liberal use of references meaningless to the average reader.

The writing is beautiful and considered, and I so wanted to continue reading but had to admit defeat after two chapters. It was the same struggle as many of us had with Stephen Hawkings.
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