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What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live Paperback – 3 Oct 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (3 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753817551
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753817551
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Intelligent introduction... rewards your endeavours." -- Martin Tierney, THE HERALD

"The book is beautifully written and highly engaging and it contains no footnotes." -- TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

"This book reminds us that often the greatest disagreements are between priorities rather than principles." -- INDEPENDENT

Book Description

A.C. Grayling answers the most important question - How do we live a good life?

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
Anthony Grayling is a philosopher with a difference: he actually wants people to read what he writes! And, with books like this, we should all be reading him. The majority of the book is taken up with overviews of how the "good life" has been seen through the ages: from Plato and Aristotle, through the various religions, to more modern interpretations. Grayling beautifully debunks the claims of religion, not least by demonstrating that there is no connection between belief in a god, and behaving well to our fellow creatures. He also questions whether god, on the evidence of the Bible, is actually good, and, whether good or otherwise, why we should obey. Grayling's style is pacy and readable, free from jargon and easy to follow, though far from dumbed down. Grayling shows that a life free from religious superstition is far from bleak, lonely or immoral, but is, in fact, a life of reason, full of the joy of being a part of the natural world which science and the arts have opened up to us. He demonstrates that a morality based on a sincere regard for life is far more valid than one based on religious superstition and the fear of retribution from an "invisible pliceman". Anyone who has ever asked themselves questions such as "What is life for?" "Why am I here?" or "How do I live a good and meaningful life?" really needs to read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Grayling provides what must be the most enjoyable journey through the history of the search for the good life that is in print today. Always adopting a strong humanist slant (and he puts his cards on the table in the introduction) he charts the struggle between "free will" and submission to divine power across the centuries. In his closing chapters he endeavours to make an overwhelmingly strong case for the human life in a human world, humanly lived and in my opinion he succeeds.
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Format: Paperback
Unlike some of Graylings other books, this is not a collection of short articles, but a journey from Ancient Greece through to the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
It compares and contrasts the Stoics with Christianity, and then on to Darwin and Mill. The book builds to the final conclusion that you don't need organised religion, the public domain should be wholly secular, leaving religion to the personal sphere.
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My first A. C. Grayling purchase was the excellent Ideas That Matter, whose subtitle - 'A Personal Guide for the 21st Century' - hints at a similar approach to the one taken in this book. In essence Grayling seems to be, book by book, aiming to distil the best (and most useful) of human thought over the millennia. An ambitious and worthy project! His latest book at the time I write this, The Good Book: A Secular Bible, continues to work in this same vein.

'What Is Good' takes a chronological approach, starting with the humanist aspects of classical civilisation, reappraising such misrepresented schools of thought as Cynicism, Epicureanism and Stoicism, before moving on to what he casts, in effect, as the 'dark ages' of Christian religious dominance in 'the West'. Whilst Christianity takes most of the flak here, by inference - and even occasional direct reference - he's referring to all religion, but particularly the 'religions of the book' whose influence has been so strong in the cultures of this (European) part of the world.

Overall this is a pleasingly simple and accessible exposition of Grayling's position, which he presents as being the humanist/rational/liberal face of what's best in modern secular culture, contrasting this with the irrational/illiberal/deity oriented position of religion.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Broadly speaking, there are two "ways of understanding the nature and sources of value": the secular and the transcendental. Since the rise of science in the seventeenth century these attitudes "have come increasingly into competition, and the resulting accumulation of tension between them is one of the greatest problems faced by the modern world." So begins A. C. Grayling's inspiring exploration of what it means to be good. "My claim is that the great ethical debate that has always confronted mankind, and does so still, is between a fundamentally humanistic view and the religious moralities it opposes." There is no doubt which side Grayling himself takes and that voices like his need to be heard, given the power and privileges and deference still demanded by some religious groups. Many continue to believe in the supernatural origin of good and would nod approvingly at the church sign that says "good" without "God" is "o" or nothing. That this is false is made clear throughout this tremendous book.

The historical scope is daunting, the subject challenging philosophically and yet personally important to each one of us, the positions entrenched - it's a tribute to Grayling's professional expertise and commitment to clarity of thought and writing that he marshals the material so well. The tour begins in ancient Greece with Thales, "the first known Enlightenment thinker", whose rejection of "superstition or reliance on traditional beliefs" was "an essential feature of the Greek mentality". Socrates thought that scientific knowledge was "of no practical use to mankind" and that the more important question was that "of the good life and how to live it.
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