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 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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 20, 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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