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What Is Good?

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  13 reviews
With clarity of thought and philosophical rigour, A.C. Grayling provides a valuable guide through mankind's ethical struggle to live decently. Focusing on two very different conceptions, he examines the different ways to live a good life, as proposed from classical antiquity to the recent present.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Phoenix (first published 2003)
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There's a grand tradition of eudaemonology (the study of the best life for man) in Western philosophy, but this entry isn't among it. I am firmly on Grayling's side in the kerfuffle between secular humanism and religion, but to imply that, historically, the search for the good has been conducted almost exclusively along this divide is just too simplistic. This book is basically a polemic against letting superstition (in the guise of religious belief) determine our self-regarding and other-regard ...more
A fantastic book that I had forgotten I'd read until now - I plan to re-read it this summer, along with many others. If you're interested in the general philosophical questions of life, ethics and/or simply want an interesting read then this is the book to pick up, and sit down with. Excellently written - it makes some of philosophy's most challenging and complex propositions become clear(-er). It certainly helped me at the beginning of my studies, and continues to be a source of inspiration fro ...more
Excerpted from p.141:
"the good life for human individuals certainly requires the best of both traditions (the Enlightenment and Romanticism) but arguably it least requires the worst aspects of Romanticism if these come down to yielding authority to such things as race, the Hero, the Genius, the Leader, tradition, nature, untutored emotions, visions, supernatural beings and the like."
David Cheshire
This is a brilliant little book. It surveys a big selection of western philosophers by their views on ethics and contrasts ancient and modern humanism with the Christian centuries in the middle. His defence of humanism is vigorous, clear and brilliantly concise. His demolition job of religion is startling and more subtle than Darkins' sledge-hammer approach.

I now 'get' much better people like the ancient Stoics (the ultimate guides to the good life?)and Freud and have new a understanding of one
I should admit from the start that, as someone who would consider himself very much a humanist (and also a deist), I have a natural predilection for anything that highlights the absurdities of organised religion. Subsequently, I expect I was primed to appreciate this book by default. That aside, the book is a tremendously useful starting point for those wishing to delve into the evolution of ethical thought. I have little prior knowledge of this area and it suited my needs perfectly. Pertinent i ...more
I find it really hard to rate books. That is, it's really difficult for me to give a book, or anything, a series of stars. This is mostly because it's hard for me to fix firmly what a thing is for. Their uses and their meaning always vary for me according to context. Perhaps it's silly to say, but if you're in a dance club celebrating a birthday and the DJ drops 50 Cent's In Da Club, I always find it a total five-star experience, though I'm no great fan of the song's musicianship or lyrical cont ...more
Sudhamshu Narayan
One of the most influential books I have ever read, A C Grayling's "What is Good?" takes a deeper look in to the fields of human ethics, it's validity and the true meaning of good and it's true extensive nature. A must read for all those who love rational philosophy written with poetic conviction and provides us with a glimpse into the meaning of life.
Initially NO
Hmm. Okay. Nice quote to end on from Socrates, which I think should've begun the book, and perhaps started me thinking more than hmm... okay the whole way through.
Nov 13, 2009 Frightful_elk rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: philosophy, religion

Written by a dull and uninspired thinker. Whose thoughts are lazy and often plain stupid.

This book makes half an attempt to give an overview of the major philosophers who write about 'What is Good' But it is essentially a vanity project for the author to rant about his pet topics (the evils of religion, and medical ethics) His thinking is infuriatingly sloppy and I am surprised I finished this wretched book.

Probably the one redeeming feature is that it provides a guide to the thinkers you s
Lori Nicks
Jun 06, 2011 Lori Nicks is currently reading it
A lay-person's guide to how the great thinkers in history defined living the good life. The author declares his personal bias within the first few pages of the book -- he is a zealous atheist who dismisses all religious traditions out of hand. The major philosophical schools and their founders as well as their more famous adherents are examined. The different ways of living the good life are as various as the people who think about it. Good stuff to mull on.

"The creativity of living resides in the way individual freedom is used, in forming relationships, gaining and applying knowledge, and cultivating and enjoying pleasures". This book beautifully, forcefully, and concisely articulates what it has taken me 40 years to realise I believe. Readability was greatly enhanced by the casual referencing, with no distracting footnotes.
You can get a little lost in Greek history and philosophy in this book but it taught me a lot about the origins of Western society. Worth trying to stick with it as far as you can get.
Robin Malik
A lucid, down to earth view of our conception of "the good life" throughout the ages. Derides the need for religion as a backbone to being virtuous. Great.
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Anthony Clifford Grayling, FRSA, FRSL (born 3 April 1949) is a British philosopher and author. He is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London and a supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He has an MA and a DPhil from Oxford, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.
More about Anthony C. Grayling...
The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life The Good Book: A Humanist Bible Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide For The 21st Century

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“Those who think that modern times are wickeder than previous times are apt to identify the cause as the weakening of a sense of moral law, associated with the departure of religious traditions of morality as a social influence... Such views give comfort to apologists for religion, who fasten on the implication that to revive a culture of moral concern people must be encouraged back into churches. But this reprises the usual muddle that getting people to accept as true... such propositions as that at a certain historical point a virgin gave birth, that the laws of nature were arbitrarily suspended so that, for example, water turned into wine, that several corpses came to life (and so forth), will somehow give them a logical reason for living morally (according to the attached view of what is moral - e.g. not marrying if you can help it, not divorcing if you do, and so forth again). It is scarcely needful to repeat that the morality and the metaphysics here separately at stake do not justify or even need one another, and that the moral questions require to be grounded and justified on their own merits in application to what they concern, namely, the life of human beings in the social setting.” 5 likes
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