Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age

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"Magnanimity is in short supply," writes A. C. Grayling is this wonderfully incisive book, "but it is the main ingredient in everything that makes the world a better place" And indeed Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age is itself a generous, insightful, wide-ranging, magnanimous inquiry into the philosophical and ethical questions that bear most strongly on the human condition.
Containing nearly fifty linked commentaries on topics ranging from love, lying, ...
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Overview


"Magnanimity is in short supply," writes A. C. Grayling is this wonderfully incisive book, "but it is the main ingredient in everything that makes the world a better place" And indeed Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age is itself a generous, insightful, wide-ranging, magnanimous inquiry into the philosophical and ethical questions that bear most strongly on the human condition.
Containing nearly fifty linked commentaries on topics ranging from love, lying, perseverance, revenge, racism, religion, history, loyalty, health, and leisure, Meditations for the Humanist does not offer definitive statements but rather prompts to reflection. These brief essays serve as springboards to the kind of thoughtful examination without which, as Socrates famously claimed, life is not worth living. As Graying notes in his introduction, "It is not necessary to arrive at polished theories on all these subjects, but it is necessary to give them at least a modicum of thought if one's life is to have some degree of shape and direction." The book is divided into three sections-Virtues and Attributes, Foes and Fallacies, and Amenities and Goods-and within these sections essays are grouped into related clusters. But each piece can be read alone and each is characterized by brevity, wit, and a liveliness of mind that recalls the best of Montaigne and Samuel Johnson. Grayling's own perspective on these subjects is broadened and deepened by liberal quotations from Sophocles and Shakespeare to Byron, Twain, Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others.
For those wishing to explore ethical issues outside the framework of organized religious belief, Meditations for the Humanist offers an inviting map to the country of philosophical reflection.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a book to be dipped into and savored over time...deeply humane and subtle in its thought as well as being imbued with a rare spirit of enlightenment." --Peter D. Smith, The Financial Times

"The pieces are neatly turned, well researched and dense with quotations and aphorisms from an impressive variety of writers and traditions." --Simon Blackburn, The Sunday Times

"Astute and informative." --Terry Eagleton, The Independent on Sunday

"Their style is polished; their sentiments correct; their learning impeccable. Straight alpha material!" --Edward Skidelsky, Sunday Telegraph

"Grayling writes with clarity, elegance and the occasional aphoristic twist, conscious of standing in that long essayistic tradition that runs from Montaigne and Bacon to Emerson and Thoreau. He has a nice line in apt quotations, specializing in proverbs ("As the Ashanti say, 'No one tests the depth of a river with both feet'"), and including some intriguing, out-of-the-way authors. The moral and political views expressed in this book are an almost pure distillation of modern liberalism. They thus contain much that most of us accept and admire--an appreciation of tolerance, a respect for human rights, a distrust of censorship and state control." --Noel Malcolm, Daily Telegraph

Publishers Weekly
Grayling teaches philosophy at the University of London, writes a weekly column for the Guardian, and frequently contributes to the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. Here he has written a primer designed to stimulate thinking on various aspects of "the problems and possibilities of being human," as he observes on the book jacket. Ranging in length from two to ten pages, the 60-plus essays are divided almost evenly into three categories: "Virtues and Attributes," "Foes and Fallacies," and "Amenities and Goods." They are balanced, intelligently written, at times caustic, and always (as intended) thought-provoking. Consider, for example, what Grayling has to say regarding love: "Despite appearances, the kinds of love that are most significant to us are not those that fill novels and cinema screens. They are instead those we have for family, friends, and comrades; for these are the loves that endure through the greater part of our lives, and give us our sense of self-worth, our stability, and the framework for our other relationships." This is a superb little book, partly because it reminds us of what we intuitively know but perhaps overlook and partly because it stimulates us to rethink beliefs we have perhaps held too long. Highly recommended. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Grayling teaches philosophy at the University of London, writes a weekly column for the Guardian, and frequently contributes to the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. Here he has written a primer designed to stimulate thinking on various aspects of "the problems and possibilities of being human," as he observes on the book jacket. Ranging in length from two to ten pages, the 60-plus essays are divided almost evenly into three categories: "Virtues and Attributes," "Foes and Fallacies," and "Amenities and Goods." They are balanced, intelligently written, at times caustic, and always (as intended) thought-provoking. Consider, for example, what Grayling has to say regarding love: "Despite appearances, the kinds of love that are most significant to us are not those that fill novels and cinema screens. They are instead those we have for family, friends, and comrades; for these are the loves that endure through the greater part of our lives, and give us our sense of self-worth, our stability, and the framework for our other relationships." This is a superb little book, partly because it reminds us of what we intuitively know but perhaps overlook and partly because it stimulates us to rethink beliefs we have perhaps held too long. Highly recommended. Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195151589
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/1/1902
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

A. C. Grayling teaches philosophy at the University of London. He writes a weekly column "The Last Word" for The Guardian and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, Financial Times, and Lingua Franca. The author of a biography of William Hazlitt and several introductions to philosophy, Mr. Grayling lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Part I Virtues and Attributes
Moralising 3
Tolerance 7
Mercy 10
Civility 12
Compromise 15
Fear 18
Courage 21
Defeat 24
Sorrow 26
Death 29
Hope 34
Perseverance 37
Prudence 40
Frankness 42
Lying 45
Perjury 48
Betrayal 51
Loyalty 54
Blame 56
Punishment 58
Delusion 60
Love 63
Happiness 71
Part II Foes and Fallacies
Nationalism 77
Racism 80
Speciesism 83
Hate 86
Revenge 89
Intemperance 92
Depression 96
Christianity 99
Sin 108
Repentance 112
Faith 116
Miracles 125
Prophecy 127
Virginity 130
Paganism 133
Blasphemy 136
Obscenity 138
Poverty 142
Capitalism 144
Part III Amenities and Goods
Reason 153
Education 157
Excellence 161
Ambition 163
Acting 165
Art 168
Health 170
Leisure 173
Peace 176
Reading 178
Memory 182
History 186
Leadership 189
Travel 192
Privacy 195
Family 198
Age 201
Gifts 203
Trifles 206
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2005

    Honest and thought provoking - Excellent read!

    The book is divided into 3 sections with 61 short essays orginally published in the Guardian newspaper. Topics include: moralising, death, love, happiness, racism, depression, Christianity, miracles, capitalism, art, reading, family and much, much more. They are very succint and full of deep wisdom. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking the underlying truths about humanity and society.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This is the first book I have read by A. C. Grayling and I was impressed. I have listened to a few of his debates and he writes just as eloquently as he speaks. This book does not give definitive answers to the important ethical and philosophical questions but rather supplies you with some food for thought so that you may come to your own conclusions. Don't be fooled by the size of this book for the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that this book imparts is sure to amaze.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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