Grayling, a well-known British philosopher, has attempted a task worthy of Voltaire and Pierre Bayle. He has given us a philosophical dictionary of important ideas. The entries vary in length from a little over a page to several pages and cover topics in philosophy, religion, science, and political and social affairs. Grayling's learning is remarkable: he covers, among many other topics, string theory, capitalism, and Orthodox Christianity. His own point of view, that of a secular humanist with liberal values, is present throughout, e.g., in the entry on evolution, he criticizes the proponents of intelligent design and in another entry, he speaks favorably of euthanasia. Even readers with different points of view, though, will benefit from Grayling's clear accounts of his topics. He is especially good at explaining clearly difficult ideas, e.g., the standard model of physics; the entries on philosophical topics are particularly well done. VERDICT All readers interested in the issues discussed—and who isn't?—will gain much from this book.—David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH
Simon May, Literary Review (UK)
“A work of great scope, erudition and spirit…. it is informed by humanity, hope (not the same, of course, as optimism), a passion for reason and justice, and encyclopedic learning: in short the spirit of the Enlightenment. Its very range (Cloning to Creationism, Quantum Mechanics to Religion, Logic to String Theory) reflects the conviction that only through knowledge, investigation and thought – using one’s own understanding and pursued without coercion – can human beings fulfill their individual potential.”
Iain Finlayson, The Times (UK)
“If there is any such person in Britain today as The Thinking Man, it is AC Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck. He provides generous help for the ethically challenged, the philosophically perplexed and the culturally confused. There are any number of ideas in the modern world; they are like trees in a forest... Clearly and succinctly, without jargon or condescension, Grayling takes on the intellectual world and names its parts. He does us great service with this useful handbook."
“Grayling winnows a universe of ideas, ideologies, and philosophies into ‘a personal dictionary’ for understanding the new century.... [His] dictionary will appeal to readers looking for a perspective of the 21st century’s big ideas as seen from the ivory tower.”
“Grayling’s learning is remarkable: he covers, among many other topics, string theory, capitalism, and Orthodox Christianity…. Even readers with different points of view…will benefit from Grayling’s clear accounts of his topics. He is especially good at explaining clearly difficult ideas, e.g., the standard model of physics; the entries on philosophical topics are particularly well done. All readers interested in the issues discussed – and who isn’t? – will gain much from this book.”
“As always, Grayling delights in a bit of polemic while expressing himself with the crispest of prose; his sharpest jabs are reserved for the irrational aspects of religion. But, like most of his books, this account is designed to be more thought-provoking than utterly authoritative. It succeeds.”