Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Meaning of Things by A. C. Grayling

Lowdown: Applying philosophy to many practical aspects of life.
Review:
The first time I heard of A.C. Grayling was during 2010’s Global Atheist Convention. The way his name was mentioned made it appear as if he was one of the convention’s main events, yet I did not know a thing about him; obviously I was missing something, so I went and did my research. That research manifested itself in me buying The Meaning of Things, a book of Grayling’s; however, due to the invasion of the ebook into my life shortly thereafter it took me around a year to get to that book of mine. By now I know much more about Grayling, enough to figure out that here is a book by guy of topmost intellectual caliber.
The Meaning of Things turned out to be a collection of weekend articles from The Guardian where Grayling discussed various matters of philosophy as they apply to daily, practical, aspects of our lives. Those articles were sorted and grouped in order to order them in logical fashion and ensure the reading flows. With each article dedicated to one certain subject, like love or education (to name a couple of favorite ones), it is easy for the reader to digest the ideas expressed by Grayling despite their high potency and their density. Ideas per page, The Meaning of Things has to qualify as one of the highest concentrated books I ever read; as a result this is a book to be read slowly, preferably on multiple occasions, for optimal understanding to take place.
Each of the articles is relatively short, ensuring lots of variety. Most are around two pages long, although there are worthy exceptions to this rule. Inside each article Grayling quotes from others before him in order to develop his core argument concerning the matter. Using language that is not too obscure (although fairly challenging to this non native English reader), Grayling devices some very complicated ideas. His, however, is clearly a humanist’s agenda that will find a warm place by Richard Dawkins’ fire in the sense that it approaches religion and dogma with the gloves off but does so while rationally arguing instead of insulting or condescending.
You can therefore argue, and very rightly so, that Grayling would always find a seat by my fireplace, too. Reading The Meaning of Things was challenge, as potent as it is, but it always felt as if it was worth every second of my time. So full of interesting ideas and worthwhile insight it was, I could not avoid this warm feeling of pleasure that comes so rarely and only when reading a truly excellent book, for here is a book that truly expands my horizons and improves my outlook on life. Here is a book I can truly learn from.
This feat being achieved in such a low key manner renders The Meaning of Things priceless.
Overall: Clearly this was not the last I will be reading of A.C. Grayling. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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