Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics Paperback – 17 Apr 2003
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Being Good is not your typical ethics book: its sleek physical dimensions mirror Simon Blackburn's intelligent but unencumbered treatment of the main threats and origins of ethics. Blackburn addresses the fear that "ethical claims are a kind of sham" before sketching a roadmap of the history of ethics, its practical consequences, and ultimate foundations. All this is an ambitious task for such a diminutive volume.
Simon Blackburn, a professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge, is one of the giants of contemporary moral theory and a trustworthy guide through its labyrinth. He prefers parsimony to complexity--helpful for readers with only a casual acquaintance with philosophy--and yet he manages to avoid trivialising his subject matter. Moreover, Being Good is wonderfully enlivened by illustrations by Paul Klee, William Blake, Eugene Delacroix, Francisco de Goya, and even Vietnam war photography and cartoons. Blackburn concludes on a promising note: "If we are careful, and mature, and imaginative, and fair, and nice, and lucky, the moral mirror in which we gaze at ourselves may not show us saints. But it need not show us monsters, either." --Eric de Place --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Review from previous edition Simon Blackburn's short book takes the big moral questions head on and does so brilliantly. . . a witty, vivid writer with an enviable popular touch . . . this is a wonderfully enlightening book. (Ben Rogers, Sunday Telegraph, March 25 2001)
full of good sense (Sunday Times 21/04/2002)
But for anyone wondering how big questions have bothered us over the years, this witty, rigorous book fills in the gaps. (PLAY, The Times, 02/03/2002)
always lively and never simplistic (Waterstone's Quarterly January 2002)
Good clearheaded stuff (Ted Honderich Times 21/03/01)
'enjoyable and extremely readable . . . Blackburn . . . is breezy, helpful, reassuring' (The Philosopher's Magazine)
'sparklingly clear' (Guardian)
'a first rate and accessible guide which tackles the huge, perpetual questions' (Nottingham Evaning Post)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
The book contains 12 unusual and apposite illustrations, and contains as Appendix the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights. Part I of this short book is called Seven Threats to Ethics, Part II is called Some Ethical Ideas, Part III is called Foundations.
I enjoyed this book. The book is written concisely, and the author makes his points clearly and vividly. His remarks on the meaning of life (p.80) I found life-enhancing.
The book covers a lot of ground in a short space, and I am tempted to make comparisons with Principia Ethica by G E Moore, Ethics by Nowell-Smith, and the section on Ethics in Language, Truth & Logic by A J Ayer. Simon Blackburn's book compares very well with these three classics. His book is far more readable and contains a number of astute observations. The overall tone of the book is sane and cautiously up-beat.
Strongly recommended !
The author is well known for seeking to popularise philosophy. But here he offers a watered-down description of ethics. And he inserts his own ideas in a way that makes the book too biased. Had he decided to produce a book that advanced his own viewpoint, that's fine - but it wouldn't be an 'introduction' to the subject.
So, overall, this is a mixed-up and muddled book. If all you're after is a bit of light reading while sat on the toilet, okay this book serves a purpose. Otherwise, leave it aside.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thoroughly concise and enjoyable piece by a respected author. After reading this and looking in the mirror, you may not see a saint, but you need not see a monster either.Published 6 months ago by Den
Book is good if you are into or studying philosophical thought. Some very interesting ideas, love it.Published 19 months ago by Khadijah Manasseh
I found this fascinating. Very well written, full of ideas, particularly relevant today. Clearly explains all kinds of concepts and ethical ideas which I hadn't really understood... Read morePublished on 20 July 2013 by Jenny Clark
Simon Blackburn is a genius in comprehensive writing on the psychological subject.
Third book I've read and ploughed trough it, no worries: very good to read.