A great non-fiction read, with real insights for modern life, forcing us to challenge our belief systems and shine a light on some of the topics we might want to avoid, but need to address.
As with the other I have read books by this author, his logical structure and flow is second to none, without being over complicated. He uses everyday language to posit his points of view. I'd characterise it as: modern and useful philosophy for the (probably educated) masses.
As a society, we need to think about the viability and place of marriage and sex in our society.
The typical, dry and understated wit of de Botton, makes it easier to review and challenge some steadfast and institutionalised practices and views including marriage, monogamy, fetishes, and the thrill of the chase.
He challenges pure biological views of the way coupling has evolved. As always, he supports his arguments and observations drawing from a wide variety of sources including art, history, and religion through to scientific research and scholarly works, online chat rooms and pornhub.
He takes a compassionate and humorous view of the challenges that spouses face. Perhaps my favourite passage is:
"Fidelity deserves to be considered an achievement and constantly praised, ideally with some medals and the sound of a public gong, rather than discounted as an unremarkable norm, whose undermining by and affair should provoke spousal rage.
A loyal marriage ought at all times to retain within it an awareness of the immense forbearance and generosity that the two parties are mutually showing, in managing not to sleep around, and for that matter, in refraining from killing each other."
David Thorpe reads this with the tone and humour you would expect and hope from the author and the content.
It re-enforces for me the statement that "marriage is not for the faint-hearted". It provides some useful tools and insights as to how we as couples, and as a society, can move forward, being more compassionate, understanding and perhaps a little less judgemental of ourselves and those around us.
A useful read for any couple hoping to make it through life together.
This book provides a useful insight into how we should view the world and our place in it.
There is beauty in the language and the well-reasoned, logical arguments, which address the core topic. They provide some clear guidance on how as a society we need to think about, address and consider changing our thoughts about what things are right or wrong (good or bad) for the planet and its inhabitants.
It is refreshing to hear someone cast aside the politically correct soap box, prepared and able to assert that there are some things in any society may just be plain wrong, and that no culture should be immune from scrutiny, just because that is "culturally insensitive".
I was pleasantly surprised as a new reader of Sam Harris, to hear that he is not just a modern philosopher, but a scientist, with a significant body of published research in relevant areas. Further, it is always pleasing to see an author bring together the thoughts, research and efforts of others, rather than just relying on his own opinions. For sound argument it is also important to see specific opposing arguments raised and addressed, rather than just being ignored.
With clear, rational and evidence-based argument, Sam Harris legitimately posits that looking (only) to religion for moral guidance is a blinkered and flawed way of determining how we should live.
As both author and reader, Sam executes his dry wit as only the author of a work truly can. Some of the concepts and logical arguments are somewhat long and complex, and his use of pausing, emphasis and humour ensure the intended meaning is conveyed.
Everyone will find different parts of the book salient to their frame of reference. Most significant for me is the verbalising society's hidden and sometimes open assumption that science has no place in assisting with defining and learning about morals. While this may be clear to some, for many it is a hidden assumption; a meme, that insidiously pervades many hidden aspects of society's thinking and social constructs.
While the author makes reference to "conscious beings" and our role in how we interact with the whole planet, I would have liked to see more emphasis or exploration of our role in the world other than how it affects the happiness of humans. The author does, however, make reference to others who have done more work in this regard, such as Jared Diamond.
The chapter on Psychopathy is clinically and objectively articulated. I believe it is intended as a rounded and scientific exploration of exceptions and their relevance to moral standards. While valuable, some examples (such as murder and rape) are not G rated and can be difficult to listen to.
If you are happy with well reasoned, rational argument and are open to the idea that religion may not be the font of (all) truth on morals, then it is a inspiring and provoking read. If you are not prepared to accept the possibility of this, then maybe this book is not for you, but maybe you could at least understand a little more of why not all share your view.
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