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Thinking of Answers: Questions in the Philosophy of Everyday Life [Paperback]

Professor A.C. Grayling
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Mar 2011

The essays in this book, drawn mainly from A. C. Grayling's columns in Prospect, the Dubliner and The Times, are in fact responses to questions set by editors and readers.

~ If beauty existed only in the eye of the beholder, would that make it an unimportant quality?

~ Are human rights political?

~ Can ethics be derived from evolution by natural selection?

~ If both sides in a conflict can passionately believe that theirs is the just cause, does this mean that the idea of justice is empty?

~ Does being happy make us good? And does being good make us happy?

~ Are human beings especially prone to self-deception?

As in his previous books of popular philosophy, including the best-selling The Reason of Things and The Meaning of Things, rather than presenting a set of categorical answers Grayling offers instead suggestions for how to think about every aspect of a question, and arrive at one's own conclusions. As a result Thinking of Answers is both an enjoyable and inspirational collection.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (7 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809532
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 285,080 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


'If there is any such person in Britain today as The Thinking Man, it is A.C. Grayling' (The Times)

'An enthusiastic thinker who embraces humour, common sense and lucidity' (Independent)

'While most philosophy is written in abstruse and ponderous prose, Grayling's is a model of clarity and elegance' (The Times)

'He is a philosopher engaged in what he rightly praises, adding value to life, in a way that is not too taxing' (Guardian)

Book Description

Thought-provoking short essays by Britain's leading public philosopher that show us how to discover our own answers to life's challenges

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endless forms most beautiful 10 April 2010
Much scholarly work can be dry and difficult (Kant, Heidegger). Many recent works of scholarship are much lighter without losing the quality of intent or seriousness of the work - Diarmaid MacCulloch's recent History of Christianity comes to mind, as beautiful to read as it is interesting despite my complete rejection of the faith. Professor Grayling's Thinking of Answers is not such a singly focused work. Reading it feels, for all intents and purposes, rather like listening to the poetically infused and erudite thoughts of a great scholar working through a set of interesting 'problems'. I found myself being entertained, seduced and enriched.

The quality of these 101 brief essays is difficult for me to capture in a review, so eloquently written are they. Furthermore, they are equally difficult to pick excerpts from to present examples. The aptness of a particular turn of phrase may fit perfectly within a given essay, but loses it's punctiliousness when removed from it's intended environment.

Grayling convincingly articulates his sense of delight in the acquisition of knowledge and the uses to which it can be put. In 'Thinking of Answers', he proposes, not answers as such, but gives the reader insight as to how he (Grayling) goes about the task of thinking about what sort of form a good answer might take. For those steeped in Karl Popper and his general outlook, which can be summarised using one of his book titles (Conjectures and Refutations), one becomes wary of arguments or conclusions that discount the possibility of more information coming to light that may require us to re-examine our hypotheses. Grayling never crosses this line.

The most startling article, for me, was about gender. It was a shock to learn that '...
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five minute philosophy 25 Nov 2010
By Hande Z
One might be tempted to recommend this book to the novice philosopher but on reflection, it seems to be a book to be recommended to all experts - in law, philosophy, or science. In this book, Grayling made his approach to philosophy even more accessible to the layman than any of his "Of Things" series of books such as "The Mystery of Things" and "The Meaning of Things". What is the point of any inquiry into philosophy, the meaning of life, or any other complex subject if only learned exponents can participate? Experts might take a cue from this book in de-mystifying their fields of knowledge. In this book Grayling introduced 111 questions that will stimulate deep and long discussions not only over the questions posed but also the answers that he provided. A few random samples of the questions may indicate whether one might be interested in this book: "Which is more important: knowing facts, or knowing method?" "Are altruism and self-interest irreconcilable opposites?" "If both sides in a conflict can passionately believe that theirs is a just cause, does this mean that the idea of justice is empty? If so, how can it have been such an inspiration for so many reform movements?" Each of the questions posed is accompanied by a subject heading, for instance, the last question comes under the title, "Justice as Inspiration". One might find it superfluous to have titles to such short chapters - each question is followed by an answer no longer than four pages; most are about two pages, however, I think that the titles usefully indicate the broader areas of their respective subjects that the reader might wish to study. Not every question concerns typical issues in philosophy. One such question was "Is `shock art' art?" Another, "'If one must speak, one must speak clearly': is that a genuine principle? Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Going- probably best to dip in and out 7 Sep 2011
We did this at my book group. It is a lot of short essays on questions. Some are hard going. hard work reading straight off but good to dip in and out of . Not as approachable as some of his others.
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