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What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Length: 292 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Product Description


"Intelligent introduction... rewards your endeavours." -- Martin Tierney, THE HERALD

"The book is beautifully written and highly engaging and it contains no footnotes." -- TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

"This book reminds us that often the greatest disagreements are between priorities rather than principles." -- INDEPENDENT

Book Description

A.C. Grayling answers the most important question - How do we live a good life?

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 800 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New Ed edition (21 July 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0056WODPK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #224,264 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
Anthony Grayling is a philosopher with a difference: he actually wants people to read what he writes! And, with books like this, we should all be reading him. The majority of the book is taken up with overviews of how the "good life" has been seen through the ages: from Plato and Aristotle, through the various religions, to more modern interpretations. Grayling beautifully debunks the claims of religion, not least by demonstrating that there is no connection between belief in a god, and behaving well to our fellow creatures. He also questions whether god, on the evidence of the Bible, is actually good, and, whether good or otherwise, why we should obey. Grayling's style is pacy and readable, free from jargon and easy to follow, though far from dumbed down. Grayling shows that a life free from religious superstition is far from bleak, lonely or immoral, but is, in fact, a life of reason, full of the joy of being a part of the natural world which science and the arts have opened up to us. He demonstrates that a morality based on a sincere regard for life is far more valid than one based on religious superstition and the fear of retribution from an "invisible pliceman". Anyone who has ever asked themselves questions such as "What is life for?" "Why am I here?" or "How do I live a good and meaningful life?" really needs to read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Grayling provides what must be the most enjoyable journey through the history of the search for the good life that is in print today. Always adopting a strong humanist slant (and he puts his cards on the table in the introduction) he charts the struggle between "free will" and submission to divine power across the centuries. In his closing chapters he endeavours to make an overwhelmingly strong case for the human life in a human world, humanly lived and in my opinion he succeeds.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a prescription of what constitutes a 'good life' then this book may disappoint. It would be better seen as an overview of the twists and turns which moral development in the West has gone through. It starts by considering the contributions of the ancient Greeks, passes through the Oriental influence from Christianity and Islam and ends by considering contemporary issues in medical ethics and human rights.

Other reviewers have already heaped praise onto the fourth chapter - The Ordinances of God. Whereas Richard Dawkins praises the morality portrayed in the New Testament, A.C. Grayling has a much more hard-hitting and uncompromising approach. He points out that there were more highly developed moral systems in existence at least 500 years prior. In addition, he describes Christianity, Islam and Judaism as anti-moral or, sometimes, immoral. This is indeed an excellent and thought-provoking chapter.

One other revelation from this book was the two paragraphs (on page 45) where he describes the Epicurean attitudes to deities and to death. This was very elegantly done and left me with a realisation of the extent to which Epicureanism was slurred as hedonistic. I suspect that many atheists would nod in agreement with the Epicurean stance.

If you approach this book expecting to be told the best way to live, then as I said above, you may be disappointed. On the other hand, if you treat it as a 250 page history of 2500 years of Western morality then it is an engaging, stimulating and thoughtful book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Broadly speaking, there are two "ways of understanding the nature and sources of value": the secular and the transcendental. Since the rise of science in the seventeenth century these attitudes "have come increasingly into competition, and the resulting accumulation of tension between them is one of the greatest problems faced by the modern world." So begins A. C. Grayling's inspiring exploration of what it means to be good. "My claim is that the great ethical debate that has always confronted mankind, and does so still, is between a fundamentally humanistic view and the religious moralities it opposes." There is no doubt which side Grayling himself takes and that voices like his need to be heard, given the power and privileges and deference still demanded by some religious groups. Many continue to believe in the supernatural origin of good and would nod approvingly at the church sign that says "good" without "God" is "o" or nothing. That this is false is made clear throughout this tremendous book.

The historical scope is daunting, the subject challenging philosophically and yet personally important to each one of us, the positions entrenched - it's a tribute to Grayling's professional expertise and commitment to clarity of thought and writing that he marshals the material so well. The tour begins in ancient Greece with Thales, "the first known Enlightenment thinker", whose rejection of "superstition or reliance on traditional beliefs" was "an essential feature of the Greek mentality". Socrates thought that scientific knowledge was "of no practical use to mankind" and that the more important question was that "of the good life and how to live it.
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