on 1 May 2009
A.C. Grayling is an unfailingly compelling writer. Reasonable, clear, concise, elegant are only a few of the words that can be justly used to describe his writing and thought. This book is no exception. A collection of short, pithy, and always enlightening reflections on, as the title puts it, ideas that matter, organised so as to help the reader pursue particular interests in depth, Ideas that Matter: A Personal Guide for the 21st Century, is an invaluable source book for understanding the jumble of claims and counter-claims that swirl around us everyday.
The ideas are arranged in alphabetical order, and each entry refers to further entries that lead the reader more deeply into associated ideas. At the end of the book an appendix groups the various entries under general headings such as religion, science, politics and society, etc. For those who wish to pursue ideas at even greater depth Grayling provides an 'indicative' bibliography, pointing the reader to further sources of information on the ideas concerned, which, in turn, no doubt, will lead to futher reading and depth of understanding.
Grayling is not impartial, if by impartial be meant a desire not to offend religious believers by calling religious beliefs into question. He is, however, courteous in his dissent, no matter how strongly expressed; but, more importantly, he gives reasons for believing as he does, and rightly chides religion for its continuing failure to provide reasons why we should take religions as seriously as they take themselves. Grayling repudiates, with some justice, the title 'atheist' - this being a term of abuse used by the religious to describe those who do not believe - preferring more positive ways of describing his point of view, such as 'humanist' and 'naturalist'.
on 28 December 2009
Prior to reading this book I was quite out of my depth in any discussion about current affairs - either squirming with boredom or inflamed by the media, generally baffled, uneasy, uninformed and incapable of sharing an opinion.
Ideas That Matter has changed that.
This book provides a solid framework for thinking about the diversity of political, economic, social and religious ideas. It is structured to be easy to dip into. Each section is written in a clear, logical style with plenty of facts and humour. The writer transforms the ghastly chore of Thinking into an engaging and interesting occupation. Grayling's writing is inspiring and should prove capable of launching any reasonably intelligent person into their own explorations and investigations.
In my opinion Professor Grayling is a fine teacher.
on 15 December 2009
The book considers a broad range of issues that are pertinent to modern life. A 'further reading' section, where reference is made to other works and viewpoints, is included. I think that the author's intention was to encourage the reader to consider all the evidence before deciding whether what one is told has any truth or validity. This is particularly relevant in his references to the State and Religion. I liked the book. It largely confirmed my own beliefs and has encouraged me to examine this area of knowledge more closely.
Asked to suggest a list for a guide to ideas of the twenty-first century, AC Grayling would always be on the shortlist, very near to the top. He brings a philosopher's clarity of thought, a range of reading which is encyclopaedic (cf "A Short Indicative Bibliography", pp 393-413) and a use and love of language which makes the reading so enjoyable. (I have always found philosopher's to be wonderful users of language and can still remember where, why and with whom I heard certain words for the first time in philosophy seminars.
Arranged in alphabetical order, this work of reference can be dipped into, read in sections, started on one idea to follow the suggested links or just read for pleasure.
Knowing AC Grayling helps. It is "A Personal Guide" and, as such, is flavoured with his own bias.
Take an intellectual journey from "Absolutism to Zeitgeist" in the company of one of the great philosophers and intellectuals; like a high quality SatNav, you will find your way through some complex ideas with clarity.
on 27 April 2009
This excerpt from the author's website would tend to imply there may be a slight political bias to his opinions - after all the Guardian, Observer and New Statesman are hardly revered for their political neutrality...
"He has written and edited many books on philosophy and other subjects; among his most recent are a biography of William Hazlitt and a collection of essays. For several years he wrote the "Last Word" column for the Guardian newspaper and is a regular reviewer for the Literary Review and the Financial Times. He also often writes for the Observer, Economist, Times Literary Supplement, Independent on Sunday and New Statesman, and is a frequent broadcaster on BBC Radios 4, 3 and the World Service. He is the Editor of Online Review London, Contributing Editor of Prospect magazine. In addition he sits on the editorial boards of several academic journals, and for nearly ten years was the Honorary Secretary of the principal British Philosophical Association, the Aristotelian Society. He is a past chairman of June Fourth, a human rights group concerned with China, and has been involved in UN human rights initiative."