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`How should we live?',
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This review is from: Hunger (The Art of Living) (Paperback)
`Hunger' is a part of a larger series of books (`The Art of Living' series) that addresses that old Hellenistic question `How should we live?' And because of this it occupies a distinctive (as far as I know) place in Raymond Tallis' philosophical opus as a primarily ethical text, rather than philosophical anthropology or literary theory. That does not mean, however, that it is disconnected from Tallis' larger philosophical undertaking to, `make the obvious less obvious' or, indeed, philosophical anthropology, which is certainly not neglected in `Hunger'. This book fits neatly with Tallis' enduring fight against reductionism in all its forms, e.g. scientism, cliché, ideology, empty obscurantism, etc. an undertaking somewhat indebted to phenomenology. However, as well as being a great and accessible introduction to Tallis' philosophical pursuit in particular, `Hunger' is also a good introduction to philosophy in general.
In commencing on this philosophical inquiry Tallis' critically and cleverly draws on Jean-Paul Sartre, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Baruch Spinoza, Blaise Pascal, Albert Camus, Primo Levi, and others, providing a good starting point for anyone wishing to further investigate these thinkers. Importantly, these great philosophers are not used to obfuscate and bewilder the reader nor are they placed on ridiculous pedestals to be admired but never questioned. These philosophers are employed, as they should be, to elucidate the subject matter under investigation, to draw on old insights concerning the human condition so as to form new insights. And while the text might require some effort and commitment it is always open to the genuinely interested layperson.
Tallis' exploration of hunger has as its point of departure the evolutionary requirement, the nutritional needs fulfilled by the act of eating. However, unlike Richard Dawkins and his contention that `we can[...] make a simple Darwinian interpretation of things like hunger', Tallis goes on to explore other more uniquely human hungers and the way even base hungers are made uniquely human. The subsequent chapters are then divided between the interconnected hedonistic hungers, social hungers and spiritual hungers, the ultimately and tragically insatiable hunger for experience of experience that encompasses the search for purpose, art, religion, science and philosophy. In the concluding chapter Tallis' looks at controlling our hungers; meditating on the importance of other's hungers and the possibility (and possible impossibility) of a politics of sustainable non-growth.
`Hunger' is mostly characterised by a noble hunger to understand the complexity of the phenomena of hunger and, with this, a concern and appreciation for humanity, its tragedies and beauty.