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The Choice Of Hercules: Pleasure, Duty And The Good Life In The 21st Century [Paperback]

Prof A.C. Grayling
2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Nov 2008

Duty or Pleasure? This was the legendary choice which faced Hercules and which pre-eminent philosopher AC Grayling uses as the starting point of this masterful book.

He shows us how much more people can understand about themselves and their world by reflecting on today's moral challenges. Above all, he explores the idea that certain demands and certain pleasures are necessary, not just because of their intrinsic merits but because of what they do for each other.

The Good Life or the good life? With exceptional clarity and unrivalled prose, Grayling addresses the everyday ethical choices which confront us all.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (13 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753824434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753824436
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 253,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A.C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of the Humanities, London. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has written and edited many books, both scholarly and for a general readership, and has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news. He is a former Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, Patron of the UK Armed Forces Humanist association, Patron of Dignity in Dying, a former Booker Prize Judge, a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society, a member of the human rights group IHEU represented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva; and much more.

Product Description


persuasve and strangely consoling (OBSERVER)

an important, thought-provoking, kind and life-enhancing book... general philosophy at its accessible best (TIMES)

an admirably sensible book, soemtimes stirringly written (Nicholas Lezard GUARDIAN)

An enriching and thought-provoking read, it will leave you wondering about what a good and happy life really is. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

Duty or Pleasure? The new bestseller from one of Britain's most pre-eminent, and arguably best known, philosophers

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Customer Reviews

2.2 out of 5 stars
2.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century 23 Jun 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The choice of Hercules {Pleasure, Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century}
Taking as its theme a myth of the Greek God Hercules who denies two goddesses who are the personality of Pleasure for Duty, Hercules chooses duty. A C Grayling weaves his way through the labyrinth of issues that confront us in this new century of over population and global pollution by looking at ethics.
This book should be read by all politicians and people in positions of power and influence. Ethics and denial has been seen of late as being lost to this group of people, even though they believe that their way is the correct one. Denial caused by the perpetrator's ego causes many to fight for their own corner while the population becomes ever more disenchanted with the establishment. Meanwhile those elected and should know better sow the seeds of disintegration of our democratic ideals.
We believe that our system of democracy is the only way as the electorate swings to the right manifesting via our voting system.
A C Grayling speaking on human rights points out that "China claims that the concept of human rights is an imposition on the rest of the world by successors of the European Enlightenment, implying that human rights are not universal and that different traditions have different standards. This is nonsense on stilts, but is shared by too many, including some Muslim theocrats who do not wish to accept what the International Bill of Human Rights says about women. So there is still a fight to be fought in generalising the possession, exercise, and defence of human rights."
That this book will only be read by those interested in philosophy which is disheartening in a society which is more interested in voting for a TV Talent show rather than a democratic election on issues facing us all.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cruel lack of argumentation and focus 3 Dec 2011
The idea is a nice one, taking Hercules fable to as what the Good life should look like. Grayling's style is OTT but I can live with that. What I can't accept however is a complete lack of logic and reasons when advancing arguments in a philosophy - or pretending to be - book. Forget about finding any sort of reference to the theory of ethics or any deductive argument in the Choice of Hercules. This book is an endless series of opinions about everything and nothing, that leads nowhere (Hercules' question is completely abandoned from page 50) and concludes with some foggy apology of the Internal Criminal Court (WFT!?) This was my first taste of Grayling's prose, well, and probably the last.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Like reading an extended Guardian column 25 Jun 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having just finished reading two excellent books on ancient ethics, Hadot's What is Ancient Philosophy? and Nussbaum's The Therapy of Desire, I was looking for books to extend my understanding of "the choice of Hercules", and this title popped up. Quickly scanning Grayling's extensive bibliography I thought it was a serious works on ethics, and having read Grayling's Wittgenstein I knew that Grayling could be both readable and provide meaty philosophical arguments. But the book itself was a great disappointment.

Grayling strays form the title subject into rambling discussions of sexual ethics, human rights, and the usual hotch-potch of ethical hobby-horses that fill the columns of the Guardian. It reads like hurried journalism, and has nothing substantial to say about "the choice". It's quite well written journalism, and his heart is in the right place, so I'll give him a star for that. But this isn't enough. The work is obviously a hurriedly cobbled together essay that pales into laughability in comparison with the works of Hadot and Nussbam mentioned above. It simply adds to the fog of books that hide us from great works. I could have been reading more Hadot instead of being diverted by this fluff! Please Professor Grayling, stop churning out pot-boilers, and spend a few years writing a decent, substantial work.

I'll be making more extensive use of "Look Inside!" from now on, and watching carefully for philosophers trying to churn out best-sellers, which seems to be a sad trend these days. How do you find the readable, substantial works between the Scylla of trendy outpourings and the Charybdis of unreadable, obfuscating tomes?
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars review of The choice of Hercules 10 Nov 2010
By Lee09
When reading a book titled - 'The choice of Hercules- pleasure, duty and the goodlife in the 21st century', one might expect the book to to be largely based on the tale of Hercules and the choices we face between choosing duty or pleasure, and this is how the book does begin. However Grayling drifts off into all sorts of other themes which really have no connection with the theme of the book or with eachother. This creates the sense that this book is really a collection of small essays brought together in one large volume. On the positive side this book is written a very clear and simple style and does contain a few interesting points which should be developed further.The intended audience is clearly the general public and I would not consider this book to be a serious attempt at philosophy however.

Grayling takes up an ultra-liberal stance on nearly every matter but in fairness to him he really does follow it through to it's logical conclusions and then defends it. His liberal stance on euthanasia, abortion, the family, sex, drugs, divorce and civil liberties are just some examples of what will be found in this book. However in only devoting a tiny section of the book to each theme it does seem that he is rushing to get through as many issues as possible. Perhaps it would have been better to choose fewer issues and then explore these in greater detail.

Overall this book lacks dirrection, has no real conclusion or point, and contains very few references, which perhaps explains why this book does seem to lack quality.
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