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The Virtues of Our Vices: A Modest Defense of Gossip, Rudeness, and Other Bad Habits

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  • Posted January 17, 2012

    Loving your vices

    This book is as entertaining as it is informative. It covers topics that range from Gossip to rudeness to snobbery to black humor to tolerating (or not tolerating) stupid opinions. It is so rich with commonplace examples of our vices that a review that does justice to this book would require more patience than I have right now. Still, I want to emphasize there things:
    1) ¬The Virtue of Our Vices is as accessible as any philosophy book that I’ve ever read. The author takes his audience seriously. He challenges the reader, but he does so in a manner that is crystal clear and gently provocative.
    2) The author is a serious moral philosopher. The many, many ethnical issues he raises (Is it wrong to stereotype others? Is it possible not to stereotype? Is it wrong to gossip about others if the gossip conveys true information? Is it rude to convey uncomfortable information about others if the truth of that information promotes justice and equality? etc etc etc) are treated with an analytical rigor that even someone like Joseph Epstein (who has written on similar topics) would view with admiration.
    3) The book is written with a wry humor that occasionally left me laughing out loud. In fact, Westacott actually addresses laughter in a chapter about black humor that, among other things, treats laughter as a social convention. As I read the book on a recent flight, I twice apologized to my neighboring passengers for disturbing them with my laughter. They were tolerant; both wanted to know what I was reading.

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