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Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love [Kindle Edition]

Simon Blackburn
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Everyone deplores narcissism, especially in others. The vain are by turns annoying or absurd, offending us whether they are blissfully oblivious or proudly aware of their behavior. But are narcissism and vanity really as bad as they seem? Can we avoid them even if we try? In Mirror, Mirror, Simon Blackburn, the author of such best-selling philosophy books as Think, Being Good, and Lust, says that narcissism, vanity, pride, and self-esteem are more complex than they first appear and have innumerable good and bad forms. Drawing on philosophy, psychology, literature, history, and popular culture, Blackburn offers an enlightening and entertaining exploration of self-love, from the myth of Narcissus and the Christian story of the Fall to today’s self-esteem industry.

A sparkling mixture of learning, humor, and style, Mirror, Mirror examines what great thinkers have said about self-love—from Aristotle, Cicero, and Erasmus to Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, and Iris Murdoch. It considers today’s “me”-related obsessions, such as the “selfie,” plastic surgery, and cosmetic enhancements, and reflects on connected phenomena such as the fatal commodification of social life and the tragic overconfidence of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Ultimately, Mirror, Mirror shows why self-regard is a necessary and healthy part of life. But it also suggests that we have lost the ability to distinguish—let alone strike a balance—between good and bad forms of self-concern.

Product Description


"Mirror, Mirror is a short, relaxed book, for the educated lay reader. . . . Reading him, we feel as if we were sitting in a comfortable chair, after dinner, listening to our friend Blackburn tell us not so much about politics or social history as about what lies behind them: morals--that is, what we owe to others, as opposed to what we want for ourselves. . . . [H]is prose is clear. It is also unostentatious."--Joan Acocella, New Yorker

"Blackburn writes on vanity, pride and amour proper with deep insight."--Marina Gerner, Times Literary Supplement

"[A] lucid and graceful philosophical probing of self-consciousness. . . . Simon Blackburn's Mirror, Mirror is a very fine and brilliant book, full of the sort of measured analysis and keen insight you might expect from that excellent University of Cambridge philosopher. . . . Blackburn is not just a sure and supremely knowledgeable narrator in whom we can have utmost confidence, but one with a quirky ear, alert to the curious side note and irrefutable detail that can make his sometimes dusty discipline gleam with a new sheen and edge."--Shahidha Bari, Times Higher Education

"[O]ne of the best popularisers of his discipline."--The Economist

"[T]he energy of his prose is generally exhilarating, and often funny. . . . [A]n agile, learned tour of the emotions and attitudes that human beings have towards their own and other selves. Drawing on an eclectic array of texts from literature, psychology and philosophy, Blackburn examines the ways in which a healthy self-respect, and pride in one's real achievements, can tip into vanity, envy and hubris. In doing so he puts the heat not only on the richest 1 per cent, but on us all, and all our follies."--Hannah Dawson, Prospect

"Blackburn never waxes memoiristic; he uses the first person sparingly. Still, the book implies a quest, Socrates-like, for self-knowledge--by no means to be confused with what Narcissus was after."--Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

"Guiding us gracefully through the philosophers and writers of subjectivity . . . Blackburn's book is quietly insistent on the potency of rigorous thinking about subjectivity in the face of a deluded, hubristic and dangerous narcissism. . . . Blackburn makes his points with seriousness and severity, but also with a quietly lyrical sensitivity to the necessity of self-respect as a foundation for the respect of others. . . . An admirable calling for philosophers, psychologists and students of myth alike."--Helen Tyson, Literary Review

"Simon Blackburn explores the complex phenomena surrounding selves and self-regard, offering deep insights into notions like pride, ambition, vanity, authenticity, and much else."

"Showing the ways pride and shame work together is Blackburn at his best. . . . This is a book by a philosopher who knows the history of ideas as well as anyone working today, written in Blackburn's witty, accessible, self-deprecating style. I recommend it with enthusiasm. With my own tendency toward misanthropy, I closed the book envying him his evident respect for and even love of other human beings."--Clancy Martin, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Blackburn's grasp on the subject is impeccable and his lucid narrative is loaded with nuggets of wisdom. . . . The book provides enough resources for self-correction, a search for true self, based on a hard process of analysis, discovery and purification."--Cover Drive Blog

"Quoting Miss Piggy and Wittgenstein with equal ease, Blackburn maps the terrain of self-love in its many manifestations from self-esteem to vanity, narcissism, and beyond."--Choice

"Writing in his usual witty style, Blackburn weaves together insights from Greek mythology, popular culture, literature, and the history of philosophy to develop a remarkably seamless discussion."--Lorraine Besser-Jones, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Blackburn's tone is light-hearted and often entertaining, and I don't doubt the book's appeal to a generalist audience wishing to take pleasure in a well-crafted distillation of philosophical ideas of the good life."--Julie Walsh, Centre for Medical Humanities

"Blackburn's wide ranging, engaging, and deeply thoughtful volume is admirable for many reasons, but above all else, one hopes, it is a tool to help liberate the human imagination."--Troy Jollimore, Philosophers' Magazine

From the Back Cover

"With his hallmark clarity, lucidity, and accessibility, Blackburn gives us a remarkable set of insights into a highly significant yet too-little explored area of ethical concern. This is important and original philosophy, beautifully done."--A. C. Grayling, author of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible

"A wise, witty, and rewarding read."--Patricia S. Churchland, author of Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

"A lively philosophical commentary on a topic of immediate cultural concern, Mirror, Mirror presents a biting critique of narcissism and other vices of the overinflated self. Simon Blackburn brings the issues to life with his customary irreverence and energy: he's alert to their moral and cultural significance, has a keen eye for the ridiculous, and wears his learning lightly."--Rae Langton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1272 KB
  • Print Length: 219 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0691161429
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (2 Mar. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #313,487 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
'Mirror, Mirror' is an examination of narcissism and self-regard. Simon Blackburn looks at the ways in which we conceptualise and talk about self-esteem, and at what point such self-esteem tips over into personal and social pathology. Broadly, he comes to the conclusion that some measure of self-esteem is necessary if we are to esteem others: that we are perfectly capable, if we choose, of identifying justified and unjustified self-regard; and that history demonstrates that ours is far from being, as it is sometimes represented, a uniquely narcissistic culture or age.

Although Blackburn is a professional philosopher, he makes clear at the outset that the book is not intended to be an academic study of its subject: rather, a looser discussion around the issues. In fact, it was at its best for me when driven by strong emotion: the author's despair at the implications of the "because you're worth it" slogan - originally, and revealingly, "because I'm worth it" - and his anger in the face of the 'klepto-parasites' who infest the higher reaches of banking, industry and politics, their greed fuelled by apparently inexhaustible arrogance, their selfishness rotting necessary social values.

At other times, the argument becomes rather dry. A lengthy divagation through Milton's 'Paradise Lost' takes a long time to make some rather simple points. In fact, the book's central weakness is that nothing really new is advanced. The arguments, though for the most part clearly communicated, are unsurprising and curiously unilluminating. In a sense, an all-out polemic might have made for a better book.

'Mirror, Mirror' may serve usefully to bring things into focus for a reader who has never given much consideration to these issues. Others will want to look elsewhere for stronger meat.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A wasted idea. 7 May 2014
By Leo
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This study is based on the huge and growing inequalities within western societies, notably the U.S. and Britain, and the arrogance of the rich and powerful as the gap between rich and poor gets larger and larger. This is an issue of massive importance now, yet this work lacks focus and takes us nowhere: it's just a vague excursion through territory that merits better.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb philosophy 11 April 2014
By D E Browne - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An outstanding work of accessible philosophy.

Blackburn is one of the best philosophers in the Anglophone world.

A brilliant book.
2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much talk, too little content 12 Jun. 2014
By Benjamin M. Davis - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First, my disclaimer - I am skeptical of the value of book reviews of this sort, as they tend to say more about me than about the book. That out of the way, I found this volume to be largely unreadable. I was intrigued after hearing the author on NPR, and gave a serious effort at reading his book. For my taste, he is far too wordy, and much of what he says is fairly obvious. After enduring the first couple of chapters., and trying to skip around reading ahead, I had to admit that this one wasn't worth my time.

An unhappy combination of pompously verbose and shallow.
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