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on 25 December 2005
OK. I have to declare an interest. Mary taught ethics at Newcastle when I was a student there. But then quite a few people review books written by people they know, so perhaps I can be permitted a certain enthusiasm.
Mary Midgley is probably the most sane philosopher writing today. Between the passion of Peter Singer and the academic prop-forwardry of Colin McGinn, Mary writes that while she and her sons became vegetarians, her husband, Geoff, remained steadfastly carnivorous, and that she remains of the view that preventing animals suffering is more important than not eating them. A wonderfully Aristotelian view on a modern issue.
The book is also very amusing with a beautiful mix of historical stories, bits of academic nonsense and hard core philosophy, as well as fascinating insights onto her comrades, Philippa Foot, Mary Warnock,Iris Murdoch and the mysterious semi-mystic near genius, Elizabeth Anscombe. In amongst the strange people, Mary is an island of compassionate sanity, always calling on her real experience - of babies, boys and animals (which she doesn't think are significantly different) - and finding peculiar the longings of those who imbue experience they haven't had with deep significance. Her comments on Iris Murdoch's longing for an incestuous relationship with her brother carry the quizzical eyebrow raised insight of anyone who has a sibling of a different sex, those of us with sisters (or brothers) find this kind of thing simply incomprehensible!
Mary has written a wonderful book here. Her writings are always lucid and peppered with sharp and challenging metaphors and examples, but here she has excelled herself.
I do not think I have ever read an autobiography which had a range of targets as complex and diverse as this, nor haved I read one which so seemingly effortlessly - and satifyingly - hits them. It is a book which covers personal and family history, serious and profound ethical questions, challenges all and any dogma, deals with the perils facing British academia (if it is still there in any recognisable form) and yet propels one along as easily as a boat on a stream.
This is a magnificent book, I have read nothing better thios yea. I am sure it will sell few copies. However, my daughter will be receiving one of these and I hope that she is able to see in Mary someone who so far exceeds and embodies the hopes of liberal feminism that she can find an example.
A very fine book.
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on 9 February 2016
Essential in every sense of the word.
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on 2 February 2013
Book as described. Will be very useful as backgound reading for the Philosophy class I am attending.
I would recommend it.
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