Much of the history of philosophy is the history of ethics. From Plato to Sartre, the great philosophers have returned to the central ethical questions of how we are to live good lives; how is it appropriate and virtuous for us to behave, both to ourselves and to others? In addressing these questions, Andre Comte-Sponville returns to the mainstream of much of the Western philosophical tradition with an utterly original exploration of the timeless human virtues. A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues takes as its starting point eighteen human virtues to help us understand 'what we should do, who we should be, and how we should live'. Comte-Sponville offers the reader both a thoughtful and accessible introduction to the history of Western ethics and an exploration of the ways in which the views and claims of the great philosophers can apply - and fail to apply - to our lives today.
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(197mm x 129mm x 23mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
Andre Comte-Sponville's treatise on 'what we should do, who we should be, and how we should live' was a bestseller in France and has been widely translated. Comte-Sponville is one of the 'new wave' of young French philosophers and this introduction to the problems of ethics is firmly grounded in the public and private dilemmas of contemporary society. He has picked 18 virtues, from politeness to love, and stresses that they are not located in some ideal realm but come from what human beings do and have done in the past. In this way, virtues are 'excellences', ways of understanding and acting that we all need to aspire to. If we know about them we will be able to act practically and deal with ethical problems, personal and political, that we may encounter in our lives. Comte-Sponville's argument draws on the entire history of Western philosophy, from the Greeks to modern French thinkers such as Foucault. Each of the virtues has its own chapter and is approached with learning, wit and elegance but also a deep seriousness. Comte-Sponville sees the human world as risky and chaotic and the virtues as the human constancies that make it bearable. He is concerned with equality, enlightened love and pleasure, human will and choice and the mastery of our more egotistical selves, which allows us to alleviate the sufferings of others and aspire to justice. Because Comte-Sponville uses practical examples of ethical dilemmas from the recent past, particularly the Nazi era, the reader can make parallels with current events and see how an ethical decision could be made and, more importantly, how an ethical action could be taken. As well as being a philosophical primer, this is a book about living well and living morally. As such it is worth more than a hundred self-help manuals and will be a trustworthy guide to life's problems for years to come. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Andre Comte-Sponville
In a country that reveres philosophers, Comte-Sponville is latest in a line of French star philosophers that runs from Sartre, through Derrida, Finkielkraut and Bernard-Henri Levy. Unlike the last three, his accessibility and refusal to fly in the face of common sense has made him famous across Europe.