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on 10 November 2010
Just like some of the other reviews, to me this felt like a collection of unrelated essays that didn't really fit well together. I do like the style of his writing though, very lucid. His main point seems to be, we are presented with a false choice between goodness and duty & then pleasure and fun, but in fact we can live a good life and still enjoy ourselves. Obviously it doesn't take a book to make that point. To fill up the empty pages we get endless topics which are pretty light on any detail though. He clearly takes a liberal stance in tackling various issues, I couldn't help feeling however that he puts up a fairly weak version of the opposing views he's taking on. To be fair I didn't hate this book, there's some good bits but I wish he'd picked on fewer issues and given more detail. .
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13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2009
The choice of Hercules {Pleasure, Duty and the Good Life in the 21st Century}
Taking as its theme a myth of the Greek God Hercules who denies two goddesses who are the personality of Pleasure for Duty, Hercules chooses duty. A C Grayling weaves his way through the labyrinth of issues that confront us in this new century of over population and global pollution by looking at ethics.
This book should be read by all politicians and people in positions of power and influence. Ethics and denial has been seen of late as being lost to this group of people, even though they believe that their way is the correct one. Denial caused by the perpetrator's ego causes many to fight for their own corner while the population becomes ever more disenchanted with the establishment. Meanwhile those elected and should know better sow the seeds of disintegration of our democratic ideals.
We believe that our system of democracy is the only way as the electorate swings to the right manifesting via our voting system.
A C Grayling speaking on human rights points out that "China claims that the concept of human rights is an imposition on the rest of the world by successors of the European Enlightenment, implying that human rights are not universal and that different traditions have different standards. This is nonsense on stilts, but is shared by too many, including some Muslim theocrats who do not wish to accept what the International Bill of Human Rights says about women. So there is still a fight to be fought in generalising the possession, exercise, and defence of human rights."
That this book will only be read by those interested in philosophy which is disheartening in a society which is more interested in voting for a TV Talent show rather than a democratic election on issues facing us all. After a war we don't make the defeated into slaves for a Roman Circus means that there has been slow progress over the centuries but the seeds of aggression lie dormant beneath the surface.
Paul Durcan in his poem Ireland 1972
"Next to the fresh grave of my beloved grandmother
The grave of my firstlove murdered by my brother."
When we realise that we all have similar desire of happiness and are tied together as brothers and sisters there is a little hope for the endeavour of a cultured life.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 3 December 2011
The idea is a nice one, taking Hercules fable to as what the Good life should look like. Grayling's style is OTT but I can live with that. What I can't accept however is a complete lack of logic and reasons when advancing arguments in a philosophy - or pretending to be - book. Forget about finding any sort of reference to the theory of ethics or any deductive argument in the Choice of Hercules. This book is an endless series of opinions about everything and nothing, that leads nowhere (Hercules' question is completely abandoned from page 50) and concludes with some foggy apology of the Internal Criminal Court (WFT!?) This was my first taste of Grayling's prose, well, and probably the last.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2010
Having just finished reading two excellent books on ancient ethics, Hadot's What is Ancient Philosophy? and Nussbaum's The Therapy of Desire, I was looking for books to extend my understanding of "the choice of Hercules", and this title popped up. Quickly scanning Grayling's extensive bibliography I thought it was a serious works on ethics, and having read Grayling's Wittgenstein I knew that Grayling could be both readable and provide meaty philosophical arguments. But the book itself was a great disappointment.

Grayling strays form the title subject into rambling discussions of sexual ethics, human rights, and the usual hotch-potch of ethical hobby-horses that fill the columns of the Guardian. It reads like hurried journalism, and has nothing substantial to say about "the choice". It's quite well written journalism, and his heart is in the right place, so I'll give him a star for that. But this isn't enough. The work is obviously a hurriedly cobbled together essay that pales into laughability in comparison with the works of Hadot and Nussbam mentioned above. It simply adds to the fog of books that hide us from great works. I could have been reading more Hadot instead of being diverted by this fluff! Please Professor Grayling, stop churning out pot-boilers, and spend a few years writing a decent, substantial work.

I'll be making more extensive use of "Look Inside!" from now on, and watching carefully for philosophers trying to churn out best-sellers, which seems to be a sad trend these days. How do you find the readable, substantial works between the Scylla of trendy outpourings and the Charybdis of unreadable, obfuscating tomes?
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2013
This book istoo hard to read.

I need to concentrate so much that it takes away the fun of reading.
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