An accessible volume of thoughtful, concise contributions.

Guns, race, and human rights are among the varied ethical issues tackled in a wide-ranging collection.

New York Times online opinion editor Catapano and philosophy professor Critchley (The New School) have selected more than 40 essays from their previous collection, The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments (2015) and added more than 30 recent pieces from the Times’ “Stone” column, all focused specifically on ethics. A trimmer collection than The Stone Reader, this one, the editors believe, will have more appeal for classroom use. The essays are grouped into a dozen categories: existence, human nature, morality, religion, government, citizenship, guns, race, gender, family, eating, and the future. Topics range from the broad (the meaning of life) to the specific (should we eat animals?). No previous knowledge of philosophy is required to follow the writers’ arguments, and many essays are likely to spur interest in the philosophers discussed. In “How Should We Respond to Evil?” for example, Episcopal priest Steven Paulikas brings in French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who believed that responses to evil must be focused on alleviating victims’ suffering rather than on revenge; Paulikas contrasts that view with that of Bill O’Reilly, who announced on The Late Show that the proper response to evil is “destroy it.” Besides Ricoeur, other philosophers discussed include Aristotle, Plato, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, William James, and Bertrand Russell. Moral relativism recurs as a theme: Adam Etinson, writing about the problem of ethnocentricity, cites Montaigne, who noticed humans’ tendency to privilege their own cultural beliefs and practices over those of other cultures, an issue also considered by philosopher and historian Justin E. H. Smith in “Philosophy’s Western Bias.” Philosophy professor Carol Rovane offers a proposal for resolving moral differences by examining “different moral circumstances” for which individuals “need quite different moral truths.” Overall, the volume asks readers to examine their own contexts and biases for making ethical decisions and judging the behavior of others.

An accessible volume of thoughtful, concise contributions.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63149-298-3

Page Count: 460

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017



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


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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