Synthesizing recent thinking from science, philosophy, psychology and economics with the author's own reflections on freedom, identity and morality, The Battle for Compassion offers a fresh, sweeping perspective on the human condition and a deep contemplation of the basis for our priorities at this critical moment in our history.
The threats to our existence and the persistence of intense suffering are closely intertwined issues with similar underlying causes. Addressing them honestly requires us to reflect detachedly on who we are, probe the boundaries of ethical thinking, and ask some really big questions. What matters? What are the basic forces driving our species' trajectory, and where are they leading us? And what would it realistically take for us to preserve a future worth living in?
These questions recur as we go through life and experience bliss and pain, the passing of time, the kindness and cruelty of our fellow humans, the monotony of routine and the shock of unanticipated change. This book ponders these pivotal questions and attempts to offer some answers.
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Selected quotes from The Battle for Compassion
There is a great paradox in the duality of wanting to understand the big picture and simultaneously continue to enjoy playing the game. (Chapter 3, "A Step Back")
Others' consciousness is the best kept secret in the universe, masquerading in the form of physical gestures and sounds. (Chapter 5, "Subjective Experience: The Hidden Side of Reality")
Suffering is one of the things that the universe does, an effective solution happened upon by Mother Nature who, as rightly affirmed in one of Murphy's Laws, is a bitch. (Chapter 5, "Subjective Experience: The Hidden Side of Reality")
The use of animals as objects is so entrenched in human cultural practices around the world that to step aside and see things objectively requires almost a Copernican paradigm shift. (Chapter 9, "Avoiding the Abyss")
It seems that many scientists and philosophers feel guilty about confronting the truth and revealing it too loudly, perhaps unsure about how their readers will react or concerned about expressing ideas that are too at odds with conventional wisdom. (Chapter 6, "Determinism: The Universe's Marionette Show")
Philosophical enquiry is often constricted by an implicit need for arguments that are consistent with life being intrinsically worthwhilea conclusion that we obviously want to arrive at but, if we are to be honest, is not foregone. This is one of our greatest taboos. But ironically, it is also one that prevents us from drawing further conclusions that would force us to take more seriously the priority of working towards a kinder, gentler world. To gain a more complete perspective, we need to be prepared to touch the void. (Chapter 11, "Preserving Life")