_An entertaining and provocative investigation of friendship in all its variety, from ancient times to the present day_ A central bond, a cherished value, a unique relationship, a profound human need, a type of love. What is the nature of friendship, and what is its significance in our lives? How has friendship changed since the ancient Greeks began to analyze it, and how has modern technology altered its very definition? In this fascinating exploration of friendship through the ages, one of (...) the most thought-provoking philosophers of our time tracks historical ideas of friendship, gathers a diversity of friendship stories from the annals of myth and literature, and provides unexpected insights into our friends, ourselves, and the role of friendships in an ethical life. A. C. Grayling roves the rich traditions of friendship in literature, culture, art, and philosophy, bringing into his discussion familiar pairs as well as unfamiliar—Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Huck Finn and Jim. Grayling lays out major philosophical interpretations of friendship, then offers his own take, drawing on personal experiences and an acute awareness of vast cultural shifts that have occurred. With penetrating insight he addresses internet-based friendship, contemporary mixed gender friendships, how friendships may supersede family relationships, one’s duty within friendship, the idea of friendship to humanity, and many other topics of universal interest. (shrink)
In his major new book A.C. Grayling examines the different ways to live a good life, as proposed from classical antiquity to the recent present. Grayling focuses on the two very different conceptions of what a good life should be: one is a broadly secular view rooted in attitudes about human nature and the human condition; the other is a broadly transcendental view which locates the source of moral value outside the human realm. In the modern world - the world (...) shaped by the rise of science in the seventeenth century - these two views have come increasingly into conflict, and the constantly accumulating tension between them is one of the greatest problems faced by the twenty-first century. Using his renowned clarity of thought and philosophical rigour, AC Grayling has produced an invaluable guide through mankind's ethical struggle to live decently. (shrink)
Ludwig Wittgenstein was an extraordinarily original philosopher, whose influence on 20th-century thinking goes well beyond philosophy itself. In this short, non-technical introduction to Wittgenstein's thought, Grayling describes both his early and his later philosophy, the differences and connections between them, and their effect on contemporary thought.
The ten essays gathered together in this book treat of truth, meaning, realism, natural kind terms, and related topics. Almost all began life as invited contributions to conferences. From the Preface we learn that Grayling, in contrast to those colleagues whose perfectionism leads them to publish too little, preferred to ‘venture ideas as if they were letters to friends’. The style could hardly be called epistolary, however; a high level of generality is maintained throughout, and there is much plotting of (...) the relationships between philosophical positions . An aesthetic of tentativeness also prevails: at one point, for example, Grayling withdraws his too hasty offer of a sketch of an argument, in favour of ‘a sketch of how an argument might look in outline’ . A sketch of a sketch, perhaps?Things are not so sketchy that one cannot discern some positive claims. One of these is embodied in what …. (shrink)
This comprehensive new collection is designed as a complete introduction to philosophy for students and general readers. Consisting of eleven extended essays, specially commissioned for this volume from leading philosophers, the book surveys all of the major areas of philosophy and offers an accessible but sophisticated guide to the main debates. An extended introduction provides general context and explains how the different subjects are related. The first part of the book deals with the foundations of philosophical inquiry: epistemology, philosophical logic, (...) methodology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind. The second part offers historical chapters, two on ancient philosophy and two on modern philosophy. Finally, two chapters deal with questions of value, ethics and aesthetics. Each chapter has a full bibliography. The contributors include Bernard Williams, Roger Scruton, Martin Davies, David Wiggins, Christopher Janaway, David Papineau, and Mark Sainsbury. Designed to be as useful to the third-year student as to the beginner, this exciting new text will give each reader a unique sense of involvement in philosophy as it is practiced today. (shrink)
In the first and shorter part of this essay I comment on Wittgenstein's general influence on the practice of philosophy since his time. In the second and much longer part I discuss aspects of his work which have had a more particular influence, chiefly on debates about meaning and mind. The aspects in question are Wittgenstein's views about rule-following and private language. This second part is more technical than the first.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was an extraordinarily original thinker, whose influence on twentieth-century thinking far outside the bounds of philosophy alone. In this engaging Introduction, A.C. Grayling makes Wittgenstein's thought accessible to the general reader by explaining the nature and impact of Wittgenstein's views. He describes both his early and later philosophy, the differences and connections between them, and gives a fresh assessment of Wittgenstein's continuing influence on contemporary thought.
Among the most important questions still facing human enquiry are those about the mind and its place in nature. What is mind, and what is it relation to body? How should we best understand our common sense concepts of such mental phenomena as belief, desire, intention, emotion, reason and memory? How does the grey matter of the brain give rise to our rich and vivid experiences of colour, sound, texture, taste and smell?
It a mistake to think that opponents of the death penalty are invariably sentimentalists, motivated by tenderness to those convicted of deliberate murder. They might, quite rightly, often be motivated by compassion for others branded as criminals, who in more rational, more just, or kinder dispensations would not be criminals at all – for example, soliciting prostitutes and drug addicts. They might also understand, although (a different thing) neither condone nor forgive, murder committed in the unmeditated grip of passion. Such (...) attitudes are prompted by sympathy for the difficulties that can divert a life into making a hell for itself and others – or just for the frailties of the human spirit, so numerous and sometimes so final that they seem to be its destiny. (shrink)
If we base our understanding of death on evidence rather than fear or desire, we are bound to accept it as a twofold natural process: the cessation of bodily functions, including consciousness, followed by the body's dispersion into its physical elements. Cessation of function and the beginning of physical transformation occur together at the moment of death; exactly what constitutes that moment is a matter of controversy, an important matter because many physiological functions can now be sustained artificially. But there (...) is some agreement that brain death, because it irrevocably ends mental activity, marks the Rubicon. (shrink)
It is time to put to rest the mistakes and assumptions that lie behind a phrase used by some religious people when talking of those who are plain-spoken about their disbelief in any religious claims: the phrase "fundamentalist atheist". What would a non-fundamentalist atheist be? Would he be someone who believed only somewhat that there are no supernatural entities in the universe - perhaps that there is only part of a god (a divine foot, say, or buttock)? Or that gods (...) exist only some of the time - say, Wednesdays and Saturdays? (That would not be so strange: for many unthinking quasi-theists, a god exists only on Sundays.) Or might it be that a non-fundamentalist atheist is one who does not mind that other people hold profoundly false and primitive beliefs about the universe, on the basis of which they have spent centuries mass-murdering other people who do not hold exactly the same false and primitive beliefs as themselves - and still do? (shrink)
Religion has been given comfortable house room in liberal democracies, which protect the right of people to believe as they wish, and accept the wide variety of faiths brought into them by immigrants from all over the world. This is right and proper, for freedom of speech and belief are essential values, and the very idea of democratic society is premised on the idea of responsibly exercised liberty.
Half-lost in the now predictable August clamour about sex differences in examination results, renewed today by publication of the GCSE results, are old familiar clues, swirling neglected like scraps of paper in the storm around our heads. In one page of the newspaper you read that girls are doing better than boys at A Level and GCSE, in another you read that young women get fewer Firsts at Oxford than young men, in a third you read how much better all (...) pupils perform when segregated into single-sex classes. Putting these observations together directs attention to a pivotal fact about education: that there are gender-specific differences in the way people get most benefit from it. (shrink)
_The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism_ presents an edited collection of essays that explore the nature of Humanism as an approach to life, and a philosophical analysis of the key humanist propositions from naturalism and science to morality and meaning. Represents the first book of its kind to look at Humanism not just in terms of its theoretical underpinnings, but also its consequences and its diverse manifestations Features contributions from international and emerging scholars, plus renowned figures such as Stephen Law, (...) Charles Freeman and Jeaneanne Fowler Presents Humanism as a positive alternative to theism Brings together the world’s leading Humanist academics in one reference work. (shrink)
A central bond, a cherished value, a unique relationship, a profound human need, a type of love. What is the nature of friendship, and what is its significance in our lives? How has friendship changed since the ancient Greeks began to analyze it, and how has modern technology altered its very definition? In this fascinating exploration of friendship through the ages, one of the most thought-provoking philosophers of our time tracks historical ideas of friendship, gathers a diversity of friendship stories (...) from the annals of myth and literature, and provides unexpected insights into our friends, ourselves, and the role of friendships in an ethical life. A. C. Grayling roves the rich traditions of friendship in literature, culture, art, and philosophy, bringing into his discussion familiar pairs as well as unfamiliar—Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Huck Finn and Jim. Grayling lays out major philosophical interpretations of friendship, then offers his own take, drawing on personal experiences and an acute awareness of vast cultural shifts that have occurred. With penetrating insight he addresses internet-based friendship, contemporary mixed gender friendships, how friendships may supersede family relationships, one’s duty within friendship, the idea of friendship to humanity, and many other topics of universal interest. (shrink)
AC Grayling is Britain’s leading popular philosopher. A professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, he has written over 20 books, ranging from academic monographs such as Truth, Meaning and Realism to more accessible works such as What is Good? and The Mystery of Things. His most recent books are Towards The Light and The Choice of Hercules.
"A distinctive voice somewhere between Mark Twain and Michel Montaigne" is how Psychology Today described A.C. Grayling. In Life, Sex, and Ideas: The Good Life Without God, readers have the pleasure of hearing this distinctive voice address some of the most serious topics in philosophy--and in our daily lives--including reflections on guns, anger, conflict, war; monsters, madness, decay; liberty, justice, utopia; suicide, loss, and remembrance. A civilized society, says Grayling, is one which never ceases having a discussion with itself about (...) what human life should best be. In this book, Grayling adds to this discussion a series of short informal essays about ethics, ideas, and culture. A recurring theme is religion, of which he writes "there is no greater social evil." He argues, for instance, that liberal education is better than religion for inculcating moral values. "Education in literature, history, and appreciation of the arts," he says, "opens the possibility for us to live more reflectively and knowledgeably, especially about the nature and variety of human experience. That in turn increases our capacity for understanding others better, so that we can treat them with respect and sympathy, however different their outlook on life." Thought provoking rather than definitive, these essays don't tell readers what to think, but only note what has been thought about how it is best to live. A person who does not think about life, the author reminds us, is like a stranger mapless in a foreign land. These brief and suggestive essays offer us the outlines of a map, with avenues of thought that are a pleasure to wander down. (shrink)
Last week the Government announced that it is to add a clause to its current education bill requiring that schools should promote marriage and "other stable relationships" as ideals, and should encourage pupils to delay engaging in sex until they are older. The proposal is a sop to those, chief among them the churches, who oppose repeal of the notorious Clause 28 which forbids "promotion of homosexuality" by public bodies.
This is the best general book on philosophy for university students: not just an introduction, but a guide which will serve them throughout their studies. It comprises specially commissioned explanatory surveys of the main areas of philosophy, written by thirteen leading philosophers.
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