Recently I have been re-reading two of philosopher A.C. Grayling’s books, ‘The Reason of Things’ and ‘The Form of Things’. The books are mainly comprised of short essays based on his weekly articles in ‘The Guardian’ between 1999 and 2002.
Grayling is a philosopher and academic of some standing having held many senior positions at both Oxford University an the University of London. He has even been a judge for the Booker Prize and a representative to the UN Human Rights Council.
Writing in a populist environment allows him to step out of the academic questions of his academic career of knowledge, metaphysics and logic, and into the other realm that interests him greatly, ethics or, as he puts it, “How should one live?”
One of the joys for me in reading Grayling is that we come from fairly similar positions. Atheist, humanist, secular and left leaning. Grayling is perhaps a little more vehement in his opposition to religion than I am, but he’s had more time and freedom to work up a real rage.
The joy comes in seeing ideas from slightly different angles and to see them so well played out. He covers a multitude of topics but is never far from ethics while he covers art, education, religion, war, love, modern dance and beauty.
Grayling is so obviously highly intelligent, well educated, well read and practiced at thinking and talking. Even when I disagree it is hard not to be drawn along in his thought and logic.
Make no mistake, this is no “pop” philosophy, Grayling looks at fundamental questions in deep ways often quoting from and referring you to the philosophers of the past. At the same time it is easy to read, understand and follow.
These are book that will get you thinking, they also have me sketching out my own essays on some of the topics touched. I find that they are best to be read in small chunks, two or three chapters at a time, and I also find myself going back and reading a chapter a day or two later. They deserve some deep thought and introspection before a re-read.
There are four books in the series, it seems I will have to hunt out the other two.