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The Rediscovery of Ethics,
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This review is from: What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live (Paperback)
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.