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On Kindness

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Kindness is the foundation of the world’s great religions and most-enduring philosophies. Why, then, does being kind feel so dangerous? If we crave kindness with such intensity, why is it a pleasure we often deny ourselves? And why—despite our longing—are we often suspicious when we are on the receiving end of it?

In this brilliant book, the eminent psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and the historian Barbara Taylor examine the pleasures and perils of kindness. Modern people have been taught to perceive ourselves as fundamentally antagonistic to one another, our motives self-seeking. Drawing on intellectual history, literature, psychoanalysis, and contemporary social theory, this book explains how and why we have chosen loneliness over connection. On Kindness argues that a life lived in instinctive, sympathetic identification with others is the one we should allow ourselves to live.

Bursting with often shocking insight, this brief and essential book will return to its readers what Marcus Aurelius declared was mankind’s “greatest delight”: the intense satisfactions of generosity and compassion.

128 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Adam Phillips

100 books450 followers
Adam Phillips is a British psychotherapist and essayist.

Since 2003 he has been the general editor of the new Penguin Modern Classics translations of Sigmund Freud. He is also a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

Phillips was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1954, the child of second-generation Polish Jews. He grew up as part of an extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins and describes his parents as "very consciously Jewish but not believing". As a child, his first interest was the study of tropical birds and it was not until adolescence that he developed an interest in literature. He went on to study English at St John's College, Oxford, graduating with a third class degree. His defining influences are literary – he was inspired to become a psychoanalyst after reading Carl Jung's autobiography and he has always believed psychoanalysis to be closer to poetry than medicine.

Adapted from Wikipedia.

Phillips is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books. He has been described by The Times as "the Martin Amis of British psychoanalysis" for his "brilliantly amusing and often profoundly unsettling" work; and by John Banville as "one of the finest prose stylists in the language, an Emerson of our time."

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