Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror : The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love

3.66 (73 ratings by Goodreads)
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Everyone deplores narcissism, especially in others. The vain are by turns annoying or absurd, offending us whether they are blissfully oblivious or proudly aware of their behavior. But are narcissism and vanity really as bad as they seem? Can we avoid them even if we try? In Mirror, Mirror, Simon Blackburn, the author of such best-selling philosophy books as Think, Being Good, and Lust, says that narcissism, vanity, pride, and self-esteem are more complex than they first appear and have innumerable good and bad forms. Drawing on philosophy, psychology, literature, history, and popular culture, Blackburn offers an enlightening and entertaining exploration of self-love, from the myth of Narcissus and the Christian story of the Fall to today's self-esteem industry. A sparkling mixture of learning, humor, and style, Mirror, Mirror examines what great thinkers have said about self-love--from Aristotle, Cicero, and Erasmus to Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, and Iris Murdoch.
It considers today's "me"-related obsessions, such as the "selfie," plastic surgery, and cosmetic enhancements, and reflects on connected phenomena such as the fatal commodification of social life and the tragic overconfidence of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Ultimately, Mirror, Mirror shows why self-regard is a necessary and healthy part of life. But it also suggests that we have lost the ability to distinguish--let alone strike a balance--between good and bad forms of self-concern.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 248 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 19.56mm | 369g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 1 halftone.
  • 0691161429
  • 9780691161426
  • 357,940

Back cover copy

"With his hallmark clarity, lucidity, and accessibility, Blackburn gives us a remarkable set of insights into a highly significant yet too-little explored area of ethical concern. This is important and original philosophy, beautifully done."--A. C. Grayling, author of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible

"A wise, witty, and rewarding read."--Patricia S. Churchland, author of Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

"A lively philosophical commentary on a topic of immediate cultural concern, Mirror, Mirror presents a biting critique of narcissism and other vices of the overinflated self. Simon Blackburn brings the issues to life with his customary irreverence and energy: he's alert to their moral and cultural significance, has a keen eye for the ridiculous, and wears his learning lightly."--Rae Langton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Table of contents

Preface ix Introduction 1 Chapter 1 The Self: Iris Murdoch and Uncle William 12 Chapter 2 Liriope's Son 35 Chapter 3 Worth It? 44 Chapter 4 Hubris and the Fragile Self 61 Chapter 5 Self-Esteem, Amour Propre, Pride 79 Chapter 6 Respect 109 Chapter 7 Temptation 132 Chapter 8 Integrity, Sincerity, Authenticity 163 Chapter 9 Envoi 187 Notes 191 Index 203
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Review Text

"A wise, witty, and rewarding read."--Patricia S. Churchland, author of Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain
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Review quote

"Mirror, Mirror is a short, relaxed book, for the educated lay reader... Reading him, we feel as if we were sitting in a comfortable chair, after dinner, listening to our friend Blackburn tell us not so much about politics or social history as about what lies behind them: morals--that is, what we owe to others, as opposed to what we want for ourselves... [H]is prose is clear. It is also unostentatious."--Joan Acocella, New Yorker "Blackburn writes on vanity, pride and amour proper with deep insight."--Marina Gerner, Times Literary Supplement "[A] lucid and graceful philosophical probing of self-consciousness... Simon Blackburn's Mirror, Mirror is a very fine and brilliant book, full of the sort of measured analysis and keen insight you might expect from that excellent University of Cambridge philosopher... Blackburn is not just a sure and supremely knowledgeable narrator in whom we can have utmost confidence, but one with a quirky ear, alert to the curious side note and irrefutable detail that can make his sometimes dusty discipline gleam with a new sheen and edge."--Shahidha Bari, Times Higher Education "[O]ne of the best popularisers of his discipline."--The Economist "[T]he energy of his prose is generally exhilarating, and often funny... [A]n agile, learned tour of the emotions and attitudes that human beings have towards their own and other selves. Drawing on an eclectic array of texts from literature, psychology and philosophy, Blackburn examines the ways in which a healthy self-respect, and pride in one's real achievements, can tip into vanity, envy and hubris. In doing so he puts the heat not only on the richest 1 per cent, but on us all, and all our follies."--Hannah Dawson, Prospect "Blackburn never waxes memoiristic; he uses the first person sparingly. Still, the book implies a quest, Socrates-like, for self-knowledge--by no means to be confused with what Narcissus was after."--Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed "Guiding us gracefully through the philosophers and writers of subjectivity ... Blackburn's book is quietly insistent on the potency of rigorous thinking about subjectivity in the face of a deluded, hubristic and dangerous narcissism... Blackburn makes his points with seriousness and severity, but also with a quietly lyrical sensitivity to the necessity of self-respect as a foundation for the respect of others... An admirable calling for philosophers, psychologists and students of myth alike."--Helen Tyson, Literary Review "Simon Blackburn explores the complex phenomena surrounding selves and self-regard, offering deep insights into notions like pride, ambition, vanity, authenticity, and much else."--newbooksinphilosophy.com "Showing the ways pride and shame work together is Blackburn at his best... This is a book by a philosopher who knows the history of ideas as well as anyone working today, written in Blackburn's witty, accessible, self-deprecating style. I recommend it with enthusiasm. With my own tendency toward misanthropy, I closed the book envying him his evident respect for and even love of other human beings."--Clancy Martin, Chronicle of Higher Education "Blackburn's grasp on the subject is impeccable and his lucid narrative is loaded with nuggets of wisdom... The book provides enough resources for self-correction, a search for true self, based on a hard process of analysis, discovery and purification."--Cover Drive Blog "Quoting Miss Piggy and Wittgenstein with equal ease, Blackburn maps the terrain of self-love in its many manifestations from self-esteem to vanity, narcissism, and beyond."--Choice "Writing in his usual witty style, Blackburn weaves together insights from Greek mythology, popular culture, literature, and the history of philosophy to develop a remarkably seamless discussion."--Lorraine Besser-Jones, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews "Blackburn's tone is light-hearted and often entertaining, and I don't doubt the book's appeal to a generalist audience wishing to take pleasure in a well-crafted distillation of philosophical ideas of the good life."--Julie Walsh, Centre for Medical Humanities "Blackburn's wide ranging, engaging, and deeply thoughtful volume is admirable for many reasons, but above all else, one hopes, it is a tool to help liberate the human imagination."--Troy Jollimore, Philosophers' Magazine "I found Blackburn's treatment of issues surrounding self-love and self-consciousness to be engaging, readable, and thought-provoking, and the book is therefore recommended."--Philip T. Yanos, PsycCRITIQUES "Blackburn's wide-ranging, engaging, and deeply thoughtful volume is admirable for many reasons, but above all else, one hopes, it is a tool to help liberate the human imagination."--Troy Jollimore, Philosophers' Magazine
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About Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn taught philosophy for many years at the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many notable books, including Think and Being Good.
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Rating details

73 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 23% (17)
4 34% (25)
3 32% (23)
2 7% (5)
1 4% (3)
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