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VINE VOICEon 1 December 2003
I moved directly to reading this book having enjoyed reading Graylings previous book, The Meaning of Things, and I wasn't disappointed.
Given the brevity of the articles, sure they can't give you an in-depth discussion on the topic, but its just deep enough to get one thinking about the topics.
I'm sure any reader of this book will take away some favourite sections. For me, the entries on Religion & Evil were particularly thought-provoking (no connection intended).
I think this would be an excellent 'pocket-book' to dip into for anyone in their late teens trying to come to terms with the world.
Only disappointment - no Bibliography, so when Grayling frequently quotes other Authors / Philosophers, I don't know where to go to for further reading; so now I'm trying to find a work by Midas Dekkers (from the entry on Decay).
Grayling doesn't profess to be a Philosopher (contrary to what someone else wrote about him on the flyleaf) - but says that (a) he teaches Philosophy and (b) he studies Philosophy. He writes very well.
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on 12 January 2004
Lord Acton wrote that we should learn as much from our writing as we do from our reading. Grayling, in this set of essays, inspires us to think, to learn, and hopefully to write. In one of the later essays (actually on The Essay) he provides a brief history of this genre and lists some of the great exponents. This collection is sound evidence of Grayling's right to join his hero Hazlitt as an essayist of the first order.
Grayling is at his best when promoting the liberal cause and when writing on liberal virtues. He exposes a great deal of cant and hypocrisy in what is said and written about a wide range of issues. My own view is that he lets himself down when writing on religion and religious matters. He shows that intolerance and bigotry can mar the writing of a humanist as easily as that of a Christian or Muslim. The mark of the liberal is to judge each individual by the good or bad he or she does rather than by the label he or she wears.
In this selection, Grayling includes an account of how he came to philosophy. He was fortunate to discover Plato and then other great authors in his early teens. Grayling's books in turn could prove an ideal introduction for teenagers today into rational ways of discussing some of life's big questions. I was going to write that I hope some schools will adopt them as texts for personal and social development programmes, but perhaps that would be a sure way of having them rejected. Far better that young people discover these books themselves as an addition to football, playstations, and (as in Grayling's day) kissing in the back row of the cinema. Perhaps Amazon can slip them into recommendation lists for teenagers.
I enjoyed this second set of essays and look forward to the imminent release of collection three - The Mystery of Things.
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on 1 February 2004
As a thinking obsessed late-teen, I often found myself thinking about problems that no-one my age seemed concerned with. The biggest one was how to live a life that I could be proud of in the end, when I sit in a workingmans club and all us old folk talk about nostalgia over a pint of bitter. Thats a big task, I now realise, thanks to this book. I found it in my local bookstore, when I had a lot on my mind. The sleeve said "How does one make experience valuable, and keep growing and learning in the process - and through this learning acquire a degree of understanding of oneself and the world?"
This seemed to want to answer my question. It is a great book, split into many subheadings, describing many of the worlds components and why they exist. Now in university and having travelled half the world, I now know how profound the world is. Not everything is here. If only school could have taught this, I doubt kids would be as shallow to themselves as they are, and be prepared to go out into the world and discover themselves, as Socrates believed everyone should. Its a travesty how little people think about themselves and the fabric of life, and seem happy to live in their jobs and the tv. Society seems to encourage this. My main hope with this book, is that if only a few teenagers read this book after leaving school or college, they will understand that there is more to life than work and routines. A.C. Darling has written a book, and I hope continues to, that could inspire young people to reach further than they ever thought possible. I recommend this book for my peers. You will feel a lot more open-minded when you do.
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on 17 September 2014
This had some nice things to think about, but not much substance and it got a bit preachy. Grayling at one point says that not voting is an insult to all the people who have fought for the right to vote (Nelson Mandela and the like), which makes no sense at all. It is a rather narrow view to say that voting is the main vehicle of democracy - take North Korea where the leaders are worshipped as God and universal suffrage would hardly make a dint in their popularity (like asking christians to vote against Jesus). What really would make a difference (much better than universal suffrage) would be the universal right to watch uncensored, South Korean TV. Now, A.C. Grayling presumably has the right to watch South Korean TV, so my question is this: Is he insulting the democratic process and the thousands suffering in North Korean prison camps (much worse than Robin Island by the way) every time he decides not to exercise his right to watch South Korean TV? I thought not. I even know very intelligent people who do not own a TV at all.

Grayling presumes that the situation for me (a young white male in 2014 Britain) is the same as for black people in 1960's South Africa. It is not. Voting is not the be-all and end-all of Democracy, and Democracy is not always the best option. Even when it is, votes don't always count as much as access to TV, Facebook or guns (although I don't much like this option).

I do not vote on principal and never have, just as some choose not to watch TV or use Facebook I suppose. I was a little insulted by the chapter on voting, I'm only human, but I've tried to maintain objective. Clearly time and place are a factor and not voting here and now has nothing to do with the state of affairs in past times and/or distant lands, I was appalled to be accused of insulting great men and women whom I respect and admire.

Maybe Grayling takes certain things for granted about his audience. I have to admit that (except for the voting) I fit the white, liberal, left-wing, middle-class bill pretty neatly and thus most of the book was lovely and self indulgent. Take the chapter where he says that abortion is OK and the death-penalty is BAD: hard for my demographic to disagree. But both his arguments here had gaping logical flaws which annoyed me so much I almost thought about changing my mind on the issues (only kidding) just to disassociate myself from Grayling.
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on 31 August 2015
Excellent book.
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on 24 May 2009
The reviews I read for this book were all so positive, but I found it a huge disappointment - nothing more than what appeared to be a collection of previously published articles for a newspaper. Reading it was not at all satisfying, I actually found it repetitive and tedious. I won't be reading A C Grayling again.
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