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As simple an introduction as possible, but no simpler
on 2 April 2004
If, like me, you're a general reader with an interest in broadening your understanding of the way we think about the world, this book is indispensable.
I found the subject matter covered in 'Being Good' to be more practical than in 'Think', Blackburn's excellent introduction to Philosophy. Everyday ethical issues such as tolerance, faith, elitism, abortion and euthanasia demand more attention than questions on, say, the existence of gods or the nature of the self.
Blackburn writes with astonishing balance, subtlety and poise. He draws together, in a coherent, distilled structure, a variety of treatments and viewpoints: he necessarily sketches a wide overview, yet he also manages to include rigorous detail and historical context by quoting directly from sources. At times, he adds modern context by venturing his own original views, but always in a way that gives the reader space to draw her own conclusions. Rarely does an accomplished academic have such an ability to teach and popularize his subject.
The power of the book lies in its brevity. Frequent review of the main arguments results in the gaining of a set of invaluable contemporary thinking tools. So the next time someone says to me: 'That's just your opinion', I'll have a fully developed line of argument against that pernicious conversation stopper, 'relativism'. And for busy people who don't have time to plough through all the literature, 'Being Good' could be the only ethical guidebook they ever need.