An excellent academic work that will enlighten readers looking for personal meaning in masterpieces of the existential...

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Existentialism and Romantic Love

An examination of romantic love and relationships through the lens of existential philosophy.

For those who have and have not studied the philosophers examined here—Stirner, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and De Beauvoir—Cleary’s analysis plays two roles equally well. It both introduces the central ideas and investigates them for something more specific, namely, what these existentialists thought about romantic love. What romantic advice, for instance, would Nietzsche offer to a contemporary relationship? Cleary smartly breaks down the fundamentals of existentialism into categories that then seem applicable to romantic relationships: creating unions between individuals, looking for meaning, choices, freedom, and authenticity, etc. As she progresses from one philosopher to the next, Cleary covers everything from passion to marriage as an institution to relationships as masochism, finding specific references and drawing from other topics such as the philosophers’ personal romances and their musings on other relationships found in literature. Combining these more relatable elements with traditional analysis and her clear prose results in a serious, well-researched piece of scholarship that also provides enjoyable inroads to a new understanding of these dense philosophies. Although some of her conclusions might feel like a stretch, it’s still exhilarating to see her arrive at certain proclamations: e.g., “the most fulfilling and satisfying existence can be achieved only through leaping into romantic loving because it is enriching and enables individuals to engage more intensely in the world.” Throughout, Cleary writes with the same joyful appreciation for existentialism as the late Dr. Robert Solomon—an expert whom Cleary often cites. For both Solomon and Cleary, the existentialists were far from the gloomy, nihilist figures often presented in pop culture. Instead, they were serious, tremendous thinkers constructing new and progressive ways for others to better grapple with the human condition. As such, Cleary’s illuminating work offers a wealth of new considerations readers can strive to apply to their own lives.

An excellent academic work that will enlighten readers looking for personal meaning in masterpieces of the existential movement. 

Pub Date: March 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-137-45579-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2015

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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