Author, journalist and philosopher AJ Grayling's new book The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life is a collection of short, self-contained essays or sketches, which began as contributions to the Guardian's "Last Word" column. Like Alain de Botton in The Consolations of Philosophy Grayling is concerned with the application of philosophy to everyday life. However, he is less concerned with what a particular great philosopher might say about particular problems than with human vices and virtues and matters pertaining to the human condition.
The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 deals with the "Virtues and Attributes" of Tolerance, Mercy, Civility, Courage, Hope, Loyalty and Love; part 2, "Foes and Fallacies" is concerned with some of the things considered to be enemies to human flourishing such as Racism, Speciesism, Hate and Depression; and the final part, "Amenities and Goods" focuses on such themes as Reason, Excellence, Art, History and Leisure. The structure of the book and the arrangement of the topics works well so although the pieces are self-contained--allowing one to dip in and out randomly--one gets a sense of continuity if you read it cover to cover.
Opening with Montaigne's salutation "Reader, lo a well-meaning Booke", The Meaning of Things is reminiscent of Montaigne's Essays in form, content and spirit. Grayling has a reverence for classic liberal humanist virtues and a deep conviction that philosophy has an indispensable role to play if we are to live what Socrates called "the considered life": that is, a life "enriched by thinking about things that matter--values, aims, society, the characteristic vicissitudes of the human condition, desiderata both personal and public, the enemies of human flourishing, and the meanings of life". A book such as this is unusual and refreshing because it aims to edify the reader and is written without a trace of cynicism or irony. Grayling is a champion of Enlightenment values, a defender of high culture if you will but who writes for a popular audience without moralising. Peppered with nuggets of philosophical wisdom and written with clarity and economy, the book succeeds in showing how philosophically informed thinking about the things that matter can help us become better people and better citizens of the world. --Larry Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I find the clarity of his thinking so refreshing. (Pam Ferris) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
A refreshing distillation of insights into the human condition, by one of the best-known and most popular philosophers in the UK. Abridged edition read by the author.
About the Author
A.C. Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. Until 2011 he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of numerous books, and is also a distinguished literary journalist and broadcaster. He has been a columnist for the Guardian and The Times, is a Contributing Editor of Prospect magazine, and Editor of Online Review London. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts. His website can be visited at www.acgrayling.com.