Fascinating, if a source of as many questions as answers, and essential fuel for any discussion of the rights of animals.



Buddhist philosopher Ricard (Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, 2015, etc.) examines the fraught relationship between humans and animals, proposing a new ethic to govern it.

“Can the notion of rights really be restricted to the human species when there exist at least 7.7 million species of animals?” So, extending arguments advanced by Peter Singer and other students of animal rights, asks Ricard. His book is a careful disquisition on that large question, in which he answers, emphatically, in the negative while encouraging his human audience to consider it with at least some small degree of humility—for we are not alone, and we alone are not the only creatures endowed with intelligence. Indeed, in the early part of his argument he examines what he calls “sorry excuses” for our treatment of animals, some of which center on our supposed superiority, others of which propose that animals somehow respond to and process pain and suffering differently than us. (Blame it on Descartes.) Neither nutrition nor tradition demands that we eat animals, Ricard urges, and those sorry excuses amount to a poor effort “to efface our scruples and to allow us to continue to exploit and mistreat animals with an untroubled conscience.” Though eminently accessible, Ricard’s thesis interacts with the latest, often highly technical philosophical theories, and he can find few that even begin to defend that exploitation and maltreatment. He closes his argument by noting that many countries around the world have begun to extend legal personhood of some kind to animals, particularly our great apes kin, with Austria being the most advanced of them: that nation prohibits killing animals “without a valid reason,” which of course opens up its own can of worms. With legal personhood thus established, moral personhood necessarily follows.

Fascinating, if a source of as many questions as answers, and essential fuel for any discussion of the rights of animals.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61180-305-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Shambhala

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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