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This review is from: Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence (Hardcover)
Like Raymond Tallis' last work, 'The Kingdom of Infinite Space', this serves well as either a brilliant continuation of or an apt introduction to his philosophical anthropology trilogy: 'The Hand', 'I Am', 'The Knowing Animal'--all grossly underappreciated masterpieces. 'Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence' makes explicit the implicit extraordinariness concealed by the ordinariness of human being; that is, takes the seemingly banal to reveal the wondrous that is hidden by the normal. The index finger and its use as a pointer are shown to be an example of what we (as humans) uniquely are; self aware, other aware (communal) and, in an atheistic sense, transcendent.
Tallis' style is captivating; at one point employing a reverent accent for his subject matter, at another point making amusing puns. More than any other philosopher I have read he infects the reader with his own passion and humour. And equally impressive is his marshalling of knowledge; without straying towards the inaccessible or pretentious he can cite an array of authors to reinforce his arguments. Having previously wondered if there was any parallel between Popper's World 3 (the world of human knowledge) and what Tallis' often calls the community of minds I was particularly intrigued by his noncommittal use of Popperian Cosmology.
While the whole of the book is noteworthy the last chapter and, more precisely, the last section of the last chapter, is astonishing. It is amongst the best example of Tallis' writing. It is profound without loosing relevance, clarity or specificity. Here he describes the origins of the divine in human awareness transcending the particular. This all encompassing transcending experience is shown to be temporally bordered by mortality and arising from, only to escape, biological origins. I would contend that it is a book impossible to close without feeling awestricken.