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The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,329 ratings  ·  112 reviews
A refreshing distillation of insights into the human condition, by one of the best-known and most popular philosophers in the UK.

Thinking about life, what it means and what it holds in store does not have to be a despondent experience, but rather can be enlightening and uplifting. A life truly worth living is one that is informed and considered so a degree of philosophical
Paperback, 208 pages
Published 2002 by Phoenix (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  1,329 ratings  ·  112 reviews

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Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love this book as it stimulates thought around very basic concepts. It is split into little 2-3 page sections, which makes it perfect for a 'pick up and put down' sort of reading style. ...more
Elnaz Tahsini
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
It took me awhile to read this book, partially being because I’m a slow reader but also because the book carries heavy content. I’ve previously read from the reviews that some individuals disagree with the points made but the author which I agree with as so have I as well, but for me I see this book as the opportunity to open your eyes into the other perspectives which surrounds philosophy. Grayling challenges readers to uptake a more open minded approach when reading this book and puts things i ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting read. The book is well compiled but I don't agree with him in a few chapters. ...more
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Infact It was the first book I ever bought with my own money at age 17. I needed to read something that would tell me a little bit about life and all the sorts of things people think, feel and act upon you know. so dabbling into this and that really gave my conscience a great deal of things to construe. It's not only a valid opinion or discussion that our great man Anthony here brings to the table in each essay; but also one of the most profound vocabularies that I have come a ...more
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't get the 1-star reviews. This book is not supposed to be a philosophical "tractus". It's a wonderful collection of wisdom that a great philosopher has compiled. You will learn something, no matter how smart you are. ...more
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
Alternate title: If you're too embarrassed to shop at the self-help section, try this. ...more
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book. It is a collection of short essays on a variety of topics ranging from education to religion to love. While I don't agree with everything Grayling said, all the essays are thought provoking and stimulating.

I have seen Grayling give a couple talks online and was intrigued by him--he's a soft spoken, mild mannered gentleman who nevertheless oh so politely punctures the arguments of stupid people. It's amusing to watch. It made me want to read some of his work, and sinc
Manar Ibrahim
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A book for reflection. Although, I didn't necessarily agree with everything Grayling says but there is always so much to consider in ever subject he issues. His range of knowledge from Shakespeare to Plato to Mark Twain and Cicero, is overwhelming and pushes you to read further and dig deeper into all the subjects touched in there. ...more
David Msomba
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Goodreads,why you don't have 20 stars rating,because this one deserve 20 stars........on many works of Philosophy that I have read this year,this one takes the number one spot,as the greatest one.

Thank Prof.Grayling,can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Btw, highly recommended if you are secular humanist,atheist or any moral descent human being,who is on search of moral teaching and guidance, wisdom,seek to understand moral secular values,blending Philosophical/Literature ideas with our dail
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A thought-provoking book, divided into short and digestible chapters which are essentially essays on a range of interesting topics. This is an easy book to dip in and out of, although I should say that Grayling has taken care to order these essays logically and so there is something to be gained from more continuous reading. You may not agree with everything the author has to say but you do not need to. This book is eloquently written and most importantly will make you think.
Sri Dwaraka
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The opinions given and the analysis to each and every topic is thought provoking. There are some arguments which someone will disagree with. Overall it's a thought provoking read. ...more
Wm Jas Tychonievich
Nov 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a light but stimulating read, consisting of 61 very short essays on a wide variety of philosophical and moral issues. It's not the sort of book that will convince you of anything -- at three or four pages per topic, there is little room for sustained argument -- but serves more as a lightly annotated list of interesting questions to think about. The author's views are invariably conventional and in some cases (generally wherever biology is involved) obtuse -- he assures us, for example, ...more
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is simply Humanism at its best, for those of you looking for a sense of guidance without religion this is defiantly for you but even if you are religious don’t be put off, it’s a great read for all. Don’t let the 61 essays in this little beauty put you off either, most of them are no more than two pages long, which makes this a great ‘before I go to bed read’ for anyone looking to get into the habit of reading more (a habit everyone should pick up). Grayling tackles various topics incl ...more
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of short essays on topics that are sure to have affected everyone at some point, or are likely to in the future. Each essay as interesting as the next, they all provide a resource for healthy debate, however some may tire of him connecting nearly every argument to religion. I never, I felt this made it even more enjoyable. Grayling does not speak of religion as Dawkings does, although also clearly an atheist he states his opinions on religion with clarity and understanding.

Most imp
J.B. B.
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to J.B. by: Barry
. this i pick up from time to tell (as well as others of course) actually i'm reading the hardback - this is great because you can just pick up and read a chapter at a time. the tone is a little heavy/academic, but the is a very calming book to read. nothing that strikes me as 'wow, original' but great prose and a nice compilation ...more
Steven-John Tait
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Years after reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, I found this. This, to me, is a more practical take on the material you'll find in The Prophet. This has replaced The Prophet as my go to book. It is functional, doesn't have the poetry and artistic flourishes, and gets straight to the point. Presents the topics in an easy to digest form. ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be thought-provoking, but not as densely so as some other collections of essays (eg, Montaigne). The positions taken seem to be fairly standard humanist positions, although I found Grayling's rationale and explanations of those positions to be insightful. ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I enjoy this sort of read but it is not everybody's cup of tea. Having said that I found Grayling's The Good Book hard going but perhaps it was the 'biblical' style which was the challenge. This short paperback is written in a more 'secular' style and very much easier to digest.

The contents is broken up into three parts: Virtues and Attributes; Foes and Fallacies; Amenities and Goods. Each part has a number of one word headings and are 1 — 2-plus pages in length: Grayling did wax lyrical o
Apr 13, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Quite disappointing to be honest. Philosophy is only hastily and superficially applied to life. I don't particularly seek to read essays whose points of view I agree with - far from it, I enjoy reading a well-developed idea that contrasts my own. That's the whole purpose of critical thinking. However... this feels like a collection of essays that was put together only to accompany the ones the author is acutely passionate about (it's easy to see which ones stand out both length wise and in analy ...more
Nahla Bassam
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author gives his own philosophical definitions to different virtues, traits and feelings trying to give them meanings.
Although I disagreed with him in most of these definitions, and I thought he was extremely biased against religion, I thought the book was thought provoking and a bit interesting, only as long as you don't take his words too seriously (or as givens, of course) however, it's not so enlightening if you already know how to "think" for yourself.
The quoting from ancient philosophe
Jane Do
Jun 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: garbage, don-t-read
What a b.s of a book! I can't get past the introduction. Apparently, all religion has to be considered into the "foes & fallacies" for the greater good of considered life, and it's funny how Mr. Grayling chose Christianity specifically for that. Well, I suppose the readers would lynch him if it were any other religion. I guess he is too afraid for that. So, Mr. Grayling is hardly a courageous or remarkable "philosopher" for crucifying Christianity.
This is such an airy-fairy, pretentious piece o
Cee Davis
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a marvellous and insightful collection of work! I loved how some essays just spoke to me so deeply while others simply gave me something to think about. As always with collections, there were some I skimmed over but there were many more I took something away from. I could read this book over and over again and continue to learn more depending on what was happening in my life at the time.

I would recommend this book to anyone. I felt like it had to be read a few essays at a time though, ther
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars. Grayling (with Dennett) are probably more the "velvet gloved" of the New Atheists. I ultimately prefer Alain de Botton and John Gray over Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Grayling.

But Grayling seems to be among the most amenable to seeing the value of religion within Civilization at times.

This book is ultimately a much less pedantic version of "The Good Book" which was a nice idea (a secular Bible) but insufferable in execution. This book is more a list of "virtues", a notion o
Daniel Solomon
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Overall a good collection of light opinion pieces on key issues/aspects of life. The title could suggest a more serious philosophical system of applying philosophy to life. This is definitely not what this book is, as the author readily acknowledges. The essays don't give definite answers/solutions to different issues, they're more like reflections for further thinking and awareness of some occasionally unnoticed nuances of an issue. They're generally well written and mercifully short, making it ...more
Jeffrey Bradt
Grayling seems to think that he has a lot of wisdom to impart with this book. His writing style is flowery and intelligent-sounding, but in terms of actual insight and solid judgment, The Meaning of Things lacks.
For the last twenty or thirty pages, I found myself reading to finish the book so that I could give myself credit for finishing another book, not because it kept my interest.
I disagree with certain points Grayling makes; I find many of them pointedly unwise and cynical.
I bought this book
Victoria Roe
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: b-roes-books
Gorgeous, and painfully timely to read. Demands focus and benefits from being read in little chunks when you feel ready for some beautifully worded life lessons. The only challenge I found was knowing when to stop - the intro says that not all the chapters are designed to run together but the segues & links between them make it feel like a very coherent whole. I know this is a book I’ll come back to time and time again.
Abhinav Talwar
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was given to me as a gift and I am grateful it was because I am not sure whether I would of actively selected this book to read. This book is split into 3 sections, each with a series of essays on various aspects of human emotion, nature and behaviour. My favourite chapters were the essays on Civility and Tolerance.
Georgia Gouros
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Tolerance: "Should the tolerant tolerate the intolerant? No, tolerance has to protect itself."
Happiness: "megalopsychos", respect and concern for others, to use one's gifts for others and for improving one's own experiences.
Depression: "Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius" - Pietro Aretino
Faith: "Faith is the negation of reason."
Enjoyable and edifying for amateurs like me.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting read on a variety of ‘things’ from a passionate optimist. I wouldn’t necessarily think grayling applied “philosophy” to many of the subjects in the book, however his humanism shines through nonetheless.
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is easier and less amusing than Montaigne's Essays but if you are never going to attempt that glorious tome this is a fair alternative. It made a great bag book for me with its short pieces written in a non-dense style but on serious topics. It felt a bit as though the sections (generally disapproving) on religion took up disproportionate space. ...more
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Anthony Clifford "A. C." Grayling is a British philosopher. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991. He is also a supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.

He is a director and contributor at Pr

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