The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life

The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life


By (author) A. C. Grayling

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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 insight into the inevitabilities of the human condition is inherently important and such an approach will help us to deal with real personal dilemmas. This book is an accessible, lively and thought-provoking series of linked commentaries, based on A. C. Grayling's 'The Last Word' column in the GUARDIAN. Its aim is not to persuade readers to accept one particular philosophical point of view or theory, but to help us consider the wonderful range of insights which can be drawn from an immeasurably rich history of philosophical thought. Concepts covered include courage, love, betrayal, ambition, cruelty, wisdom, passion, beauty and death. This will be a wonderfully stimulating read and act as an invaluable guide as to what is truly important in living life, whether facing success, failure, justice, wrong, love, loss or any of the other profound experience life throws out.

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Author information

Anthony Grayling teaches philosophy at Birkbeck College, London and is a Fellow of St Anne's, Oxford. He reviews regularly in the FINANCIAL TIMES. He has a regular column in PROSPECT and THE TIMES.

Review quote

I find the clarity of his thinking so refreshing. -- Pam Ferris

Editorial reviews

The Meaning of Things is a collection of short essays on what might be called practical, or applied philosophy. Readers of the Saturday Review section of the British Guardian newspaper will recognise them as articles originally issued as the 'Last Word' column. The collection opens with a pertinent epigram from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which may be considered an apologia for what follows and a warning to readers. It reads: 'The meaning of things lies not in things themselves, but in our attitudes to them'. Dr Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London invites us to examine those attitudes rationally. A book full of wisdom may miss its aim if the reader mistakes the purpose of the book and so expects something of it which it was never intended to provide. So, it is a wise author who not only sets down what wisdom he has at his command, but prefaces his thoughts with an indication of what he has intended to offer. A C Grayling appears to me to be such an author, and gives an early indication of his modus operandi by quoting Julius Hare in dissuading readers who come looking for ready-made opinions to adopt, encouraging them rather to search here for materials to build their own opinions from. Grayling does not, however, shy away from the bold statement of a truth that he sees as axiomatic. While this is often a device to limit the scope of an argument and retain focus on the topic at hand on other occasions it seems like a summary dismissal of those ideas, actions or people he sees as insupportable. In either instance it does not diminish the usefulness of the book in its stated aim as an incitement to further investigation. The Meaning of Things is written in a simple, clear style encouraging even those who may have thought of philosophy as a topic too cerebral for them. It is therefore the ideal introduction to a study of ethics, or simply of one's own life and motivations. The author emerges as intelligent, humane and confident and it is understandable that a pedagogic tone is sometimes evident. I can thoroughly recommend The Meaning of Things to anyone who thinks it important to examine their fundamental beliefs. To anyone who does not, I would recommend it even more strongly. (Kirkus UK)