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on 23 November 2002
Philosophy is an odd subject in that the popular conception of the subject is strongly at varience with the philosophy taught in Anglo American universities. You see this in those cultish advertisements for philsophy classes you find in London tube stations. Pandering to a need among much of the population for some philosophical guidence in life. For better or for worse, modern Anglo-American philosophy is not much to do with that at all. This has created a vacuum into which a huge number of new agist pseudo clap trap has happily inserted itself.
I think Grayling's books are best seen as a way of addressing this need. I think reviewers such as the single negative reviewer below miss the point if they are expecting hard philosophical arguments. Of course you can do no more than skate over a subject such as morality or virginity in the few pages Grayling devotes to each topic. But that is OK. There are many books available to those interested in a more in depth analysis. These thought are meant as no more than opening thoughts on an issue, from a smart and well read author, designed to get people to think avout these issues in a clear headed way. Grayling leans quite heavily on his understanding of history and Greek philosophy as an antidote to the modern analytical style of philosophy. I found his treatment of the many facets of love and romance particularly thought provoking.
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on 8 April 2010
One of the most insightful works I've ever read. Extraordinary in its simplicity and wisdom. A must-read for anyone with an interest in understanding the curiosities and complexities of modern life. Truly inspiring.
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VINE VOICEon 1 December 2003
I'm sure any reader of this book will take away some favourite sections. For me, the consecutively-placed entries on Betrayal, Loyalty & Blame were exemplary juxtapositions of those complementary topics.
I would also recommend the entry on Racism.
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 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.
Having read this book, I've moved directly to reading Graylings follow-up book, The Reason of Things.
Only disappointment - no Bibliography, so when Grayling frequently quotes other Authors / Philosophers, I don't know where to go to for further reading.
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on 2 January 2011
To those who ask the question "What use is philosopy?" perhaps one answer would be to give them a copy of this book. Its subtitle is "Applying Philosophy to Life" and that's precisely what it does - it's a series of observations or short essays on a wide range of subjects that affect all of our lives - love, sorrow, tolerance, morality, and many more - by a professional philosopher. The author does not offer formal or informal proofs for any of these observations (that would require a treatise on each of them)but simply reveals his considered thoughts on each subject and by doing so broadens the readers's outlook, prompting he or she towards an alternative view, initiating thought and perhaps debate. And isn't this the "use of philosopy"? - to initiate debate, to shake one out of tired cliches, to provide alternatives to habitual modes of thought and unconsidered assumptions (nowadays constantly mirrored back at us by the mass media making alternative ways of thinking almost impossible)? This is an excellent, erudite, thought provoking collection of essays. You will not agree with all the views expressed - you may even be outraged by some of them; good - that's a start. Now you may be prompted to consider how you might defend your own views or even to re-consider them. You might find that liberating. However, if you like to read only views that reinforce those you already hold then you have an easy alternative - simply read your favourite newspaper.
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on 12 April 2003
Having made various attempts at entering philosophy, ranging from B. Russel to a very happy encounter with De Botton, this book energized me for more. Sure, the style of the book only allows for a short touch on deep subjects - but it is obvious that the author has built a solid and directly applicable view of life and he is less shy of clear statements than other authors in the genre. I will now go on to explore more of his writing to find the depth that the form of this book did not allow for. One of my favourite books to stay.
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on 22 November 2003
This is an ideal introduction to many philosphical concepts and will give you a fresh perspective on everyday issues such as truth, religion, travel, loyalty, love, racism, etc etc. With 61 'meanings of things' in all, I found this book to be great piecemeal reading. Each concept taking about 5 pages to complete, which makes for the perfect bedside book.
One of the best aspects of this book is that it is written such that you can read it in any order you wish. Each concept is a unique section taking between 2 and 10 pages, which allows the reader to delve into whatever tickles their fancy at a particular time. I ticked off the table of contents as I read the sections and highlighted interesting sentences from each concept during my first read. I have since skimmed through my highlights several times, which makes for a quick refresher of the issues that were of particular interest to me.
I am the type of person who likes to know a little bit about a lot of things, and this book caters for exactly that sort of reader. If this fits your profile, then get this book now. If your interested in delving into the depths of philosophy, then this is probably best to give a skip. Grayling is doing a great favour to us all by packaging philosophy in an organised, piecemeal, and easy to understand manner that wont have you sleeping by the end of the first 10 pages.
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on 17 February 2014
Prof Grayling has taken most of life's ponderables and laid them bare for the layman. Simply written, wonderfully dissected and will assist the inquisitive and the questioning to reach the conclusions they have sought. He covers everything from Love to Morality where has he been all my life!
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on 3 February 2013
It's easy to dip into and read one of the small self-contained chapters in a lunch break at work, and overall this was a worthwhile read, offering food for thought - though let down by its narrow scope and its heavy biases. Time and again Grayling refers to the ancient Greek philosophers as his touchstone of wisdom - as if this is the only kind of philosophy he thinks is valid. He also comes across in his writing as rather pompous, and very much of the Establishment - having unquestioning faith in the received wisdom of the Western philosophical canon, and having no truck with any form of religiousness. Humanistic, atheistic and putting his faith in Reason, he comes across as something like a lawyer who, no matter how intelligent and well-read he is, has had a rather sheltered life, and has a rather narrow view of life and the meaning of things.
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on 17 October 2002
Grayling's high-quality cultural journalism has made him a by-word for the telling, concise, beautifully-written short essay, and this book collects a number of his best pieces. I used his full-blooded philosophy texts as a student - even when dealing in detail with the heavy stuff he is lucid and elegant, and knows how to make difficult subjects both accessible and clear. Here he does this for the general reader and it works marvellously well. He touches on a wide range of topics central to our moral lives; the allusiveness and suggestiveness of the essays is designed to give the reader material for thought - but at the same time it is clear that his own perspective is a humane, tolerant, liberal one - although it is equally clear that he has little time for religions and supersitions, and always urges the line of reason.. with Grayling you get the real thing: a real philosopher, a real writer, with a really thoughtful, perceptive and striking mind. I found myself going back again and again to many of the essays, each time finding so much enfolded into the brevity that was thought-provoking and illuminating. My partner's book group chose this recently on my suggestion, and it was such a fertile resource for the group's discussions that they kept using it for several months. One of the members described it as a "budget of treasures" in the sense of something richly packed with good things. That is exactly what it is.
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on 5 October 2001
This was my first time reading Grayling. He writes and reasons beautifully, comes up with some great surprises and uses anecdotes and quotes that are perfectly pitched for his ideas. Of course, I am completely in agreement with his viewpoint on practically everything. What I particularly like is his no-nonsense critique of religion which he rightly condemns. If you are already of this viewpoint then you will enjoy his wonderful eloquence and reasoning on the matter. If you are not, then this book should be required reading, so that you can begin to start coming to your senses.
Incidentally, this is not a difficult or rigorous philosophical book. It is more like some general prompts to think differently about things in a practical way. This is a book for any person who is open to considering life - just a little: a superb introduction to philosophy.
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