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A studious and fluent appeal for the benefits of a sound mind.

How an ancient Chinese philosophy applies to the strictures of modern life.

Slingerland (Asian Studies and Chinese Thought/Univ. of British Columbia; What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture, 2008, etc.) introduces broad strategies for attaining and instilling the ancient Taoist art of wu-wei (“no trying”), a clear unselfconsciousness of the self. Developed by early Chinese philosophers such as Confucius, Laozi and Xunzi, wu-wei induces de, the simultaneous harmony of the mind, body and spirit, producing a calm outward posture that’s palpably reassuring and trusting to others. The author presents the many ways to achieve de, as detailed by early Chinese philosophers, and he discusses how this uncontrived state brings a new understanding and valuing to one’s life. Slingerland lucidly addresses the power of developing a “cultured spontaneity” and accessibly explains how the need to shut off our minds and bodies can be challenging in an age when smarter and faster is the status quo. Further, he explores the lives and work of five “thinkers” who taught their philosophies during the upheaval of the Warring States period in ancient China and what modern culture can learn from the practice of wu-wei. Richly fortified with Daoist parables and anecdotes, the narrative offers examples of the history and consistent effectiveness of wu-wei, including the author’s own attainment of it while penning this book within the coveted “writing zone.” Delivered via clever and convincing explanation, Slingerland advocates for the adoption of wu-wei into daily life, and in doing so, true contentment and serenity should follow. “In addition to helping us get beyond strong mind-body dualism,” he writes, “the Chinese concepts of wu-wei and de reveal important aspects of spontaneity and human cooperation that have slipped through the nets of modern science.”

A studious and fluent appeal for the benefits of a sound mind.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7704-3761-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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