What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live

What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live

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By (author) A. C. Grayling

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One of the most fundamental questions in our life is to find out what we value - what principles we want to live by and which codes we will use to guide our behaviour. Most of us want to live a good life. But what, in today's secular society, does 'good' actually mean? To classical Greeks, the acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of the senses, creativity and beauty were all aspects of life to strive for. Then came the volcanic declarations of St Paul and his fundamentalist ideas on sin and human nature. In WHAT IS GOOD?, A.C. Grayling examines these and other proposals on how to live a good life, from the 'heroic' ideals of the Greek poets to Kant's theories on freedom and the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

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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 Guardian.

Review quote

"A plain man's guide to ethics, from Homer's warriors to Nietzsche's superhero via Plato and Renaissance Man, clearly and elegantly written." SUNDAY TELEGRAPH "This book reminds us that often the greatest disagreements are between priorities rather than principles." INDEPENDENT "Intelligent introduction... rewards your endeavours." -- Martin Tierney THE HERALD "The book is beautifully written and highly engaging and it contains no footnotes." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT "This popular yet nonetheless highly accomplished philosopher examines the different ways in which to live a good life, as proposed from classical antiquity to the present day." IRISH EXAMINER

Editorial reviews

In What Is Good? Grayling explores the long history of humanity's search for answers to questions such as, 'What values should we live by in order to live the genuinely good life?' Starting with the ancient Greeks and finishing with the moral complexity of the 20th century, Grayling sees the search for truths about 'the good' as a tussle between an enlightened, rational humanism and the 'religions of the book' - Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Grayling's philosophical survey is vast in scope, encompassing classical philosophers such as Socrates, the birth of Christian morality, the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the final triumph of science in the past two centuries. Perhaps surprisingly for a book that covers so much ground, one of its strengths is the amount of detail Grayling manages to pack in: his chapter on the Greek philosophers, for example, includes a discussion of Homeric ideals as well as those of the great thinkers of the age. This is that rare and wonderful thing: a book on philosophy that is readable without being patronising. Indeed, it is one of Grayling's central contentions that philosophy should attempt to address the problems the world currently faces, instead of hiding behind dry, logical analysis of terms and concepts. This inevitably involves communicating philosophical ideas to people who do not study philosophy, and Grayling is the ideal writer to do this. Although Grayling's book is a historical survey, it is also packed with lively ideas and discussion. Such is his authorial skill, readers may find themselves seduced into believing that the only common-sense view of the world is the humanism that Grayling proposes. For this reason, What Is Good? would ideally be read in conjunction with something like John Gray's Straw Dogs, which attacks this humanist view of the world without resorting to religion. (Kirkus UK)