Read Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide For The 21st Century by A.C. Grayling Online


This text celebrates the power of ideas: thought can, and does, change the world. And, in turn, ideas evolve. This is Grayling's personal and heartfelt guide to the ideas, past and present, that shape our world. It covers religion, philosophy, scientific theory and political movements....

Title : Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide For The 21st Century
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ISBN : 9780297856764
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 436 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Ideas That Matter: A Personal Guide For The 21st Century Reviews

  • Zanna
    2019-01-27 02:31

    I have issues with Grayling's views on religionIn general this is quite a useful book, providing an opportunity to organise odds and ends of knowledge, with introductions to subjects for further reading, even if the book suggestions are at times limited and unimaginative. Grayling is informative, but he is tiresomely pedagogical and does not attempt to resist temptation to irresponsibly condemn things he doesn't approve of, such as Islam, recommend things he does like, such as classics, and state opinions as fact.My favourite article is the one on philosophy, which he characterises as the birthplace of other fields of knowledge, such as science, which gradually developed its own methodology and was eventually able to break off as a mature, independent field of meaning-making activity.As a feminist I found his style and a number of his views questionable, particularly on feminism, on which he actually manages to be patronising, and ends by exhorting European women take up cultural imperialist white-saviouring. On vegetarianism (I speak as an aspiring vegan who hasn't eaten meat for fifteen years, for all the reasons you can think of) he is as shockingly lurid as distasteful animal rights group campaigns. Spoilt the mood there, Grayling.

  • Derrick
    2019-02-08 20:17

    The author of this volume, who is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of London, describes the book as a “dictionary of ideas” that are detailed in two to ten page entries ranging from Absolutism to Zeitgist.To break down this book into simple terms, the 21st Century is being shaped by three dominant concepts that developed and emerged during the 20th: fundamentalism, globalism and bioethics, while the 20th century was determined by philosophical currents that had developed in the century before it, particularly Marxism, Feminism and Existentialism. From each of these concepts also flows a multitude of subconcepts, and in the interest of brevity, I’d like to focus on the more current concepts.Fundamentalism, as a first example, is defined as a form of religion in which adherence to religious text is absolute and not subject to compromise or alternative interpretation. The term fundamentalist may also be used to describe someone who assumes an absolutist political ideology, but religion is a more common association. Fundamentalists have been around since the days when witches were burned at the stake in the 16th century, and they presented strong opposition to the Enlightenment in the 18th, and have attempted to block advances in the sciences as far back as Galileo. As the current century unfolds, it is debatable whether fundamentalism is thriving, on its last legs, or somewhere in between. A reader of this volume can refer to additional entries to further their understanding of fundamentalism by looking up Christianity, Enlightenment, Islam, Religion and Tolerance. Globalism -- the idea that the world is becoming smaller and more interconnected, is another concept that was well underway before the new millennium began, and is complemented by entries such as Biodiversity, Multiculturalism, Westernization, Economics, and the Internet. Bioethics is a fascinating entry that offers ethical questions raised by the rapid advance of the biological sciences and medicine. This includes such hot-button topics as cloning and euthanasia, also speculating the question of what rights exist for future people, on various levels. Therapeutic cloning is described as a means for patients of the future to no longer need a place on a waiting list for organ transplants. If medical advances prevail, patients may instead be able to grow fully-functioning organs, even hearts and brains, out of healthy cells already in their bodies. Medical ethics also addresses how the well-beings of individuals fit into a world where looking after the welfare of animals and the environment are also prompting a great deal of ethical concern. An entry on animal rights addresses part of this issue. This volume also explores the origins of the universe, of planet Earth and of life on it. The Big Bang Theory offers the idea of an expanding universe that came into existence 13 billion years ago within fractions of a second, while the concept known as the Anthropic Principle states that we as human beings occupy a fortunate and preferred time and place within the universe, and that the constants of nature are somehow fine-tuned for the production of life, so that we may serve our designated purpose (that is, designated according to this principle) of observing the Earth and the universe. Biopoiesis is the process by which living matter had first emerged from non-living matter in the early history of the Earth, believed to have happened as a result of a chemical interaction over three billion years ago when the planet was just a billion years old. I remain optimistic about advances in medicine that will be possible if bioethical philosophy were to intervene in the area of health care so that medicine is practiced in ways that help rather than hinder the well-being of humankind as a whole. Health has become a global issue as well, especially as the world has become more interconnected, and the world’s health care systems are regularly analyzed and compared. As someone who has deep-seated apprehension about organized religion, I found the entries in this volume exploring the origins of the universe offer a strong counter to dangerous fundamentalist ideologies that claim the absolute inerrancy of scripture, while clinging to an unshakable belief in an all-powerful supernatural being that remains scientifically unsupportable due to a lack of actual evidence.This volume has enabled me to position my mind so that I can approach writing with a full awareness of the world around me and the dominant concepts and thought processes currently on the forefront of today’s minds. Reading this volume has helped me to see these and other subjects in a different, more expansive light.

  • Tulpesh Patel
    2019-02-20 03:42

    Written with a style, eloquence and thought that makes even the most complex ideas accessible, this is another masterful collection of writings from one of my very favourite writers. This isn't simply an encyclopaedia, but AC Grayling's personal introduction to some of the richness of human thought and invention from Absolutism to Zeitgeist and most of everything in between. The essay on Vegetarianism sticks out like a sore thumb because unlike most of Grayling's other writings, which whilst not always neutral (see any of the sections regarding religion) are always well argued, there is an entire paragraph dedicated to how disgusting meat is to eat that appeals too much to emotion for my liking - but that's just one paragraph among hundreds of fantastic ones.For anyone interested in the world around them, this is a must read (as is anything else AC Grayling has written, I can't stress that enough!).

  • AnaVlădescu
    2019-02-21 01:25

    If you take this work at face value (as, take my word for it, you should), don't read into it the expectations or desires that you might have with regards to it. This is almost an enumeration of "ideas" (and by that, for example, the author means: cloning, fundamentalism, neoconservatism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, postmodernism, utopia, war, zeitgeist, just to name a few) that have influenced the world in the space of the 2oth Century and are still applicable to the 21st, by their emergence or continued development through a general shift or direction. Do not expect it to go into depth - it doesn't, it's not an analysis of the ideas, but a presentation. However, very useful for someone interested in anything culture and science related, in conflicts and conflicting ideas.

  • Mark
    2019-02-08 19:41

    The sections I've read are very pithy. I was particularly taken with his thesis that science and religion are incompatible, competing world views. I agree, but he does not address two important concomitants of his argument: that religion is a natural human extension of a human need to intellectually project into the future, to know and understand the world in order to predict the future to some degree and even more importantly that spirituality is a very different ball of wax than religion. Many are religious with much sense of spirituality and many are spiritual without being religious, including many scientists. Now I'm neither spiritual nor religious but it seems to be a huge lacuna in this book.I was tickled by his take on vegetarianism - that all the meat we eat is, perforce, rotten and full of bacterial waste - ending up as a 'tasty morsel' none-the-less. I would guess that he is a vegetarian, or else that he has a very wry sense of humor. I'm curious.I would have thought he would do a wonderful job of explicating on the gaia hypothesis, briefly - it would have been fun to read. He left that one out too. Maybe just as well to not give it credence.

  • Sandra Pham
    2019-02-11 21:41

    Read about half this book. Interesting perspective on concepts and ideas, however it is more like a dictionary, too much information to retain on each topic.

  • Emory Craig
    2019-02-16 21:31

    Used in some of my interdisciplinary seminars in the past.

  • Antonio Gallo
    2019-01-30 21:28

    Visto l'andazzo che ha preso la politica italiana in questo preciso momento storico, ho voluto studiare qualcosa sul significato che questa parola ha avuto nel tempo. Niente di speciale, a dire il vero. Non ho frequentato uno dei tanti seminari che si tengono in giro, partecipato a convegni di fondazioni, iscritto a scuole di partito, partecipato ad assemblee. Mi sono soltanto riletto la voce "Politica" così come la tratta Anthony C. Grayling, docente inglese di filosofia a Londra e Oxford, autore di un recente libro sulle idee che contano nel XXI secolo. Un'utile guida contenente oltre un centinaio di argomenti trattati in maniera quanto mai sintetica, con una esauriente bibliografia per ogni idea.L'autore scrive che le idee sono gli "ingranaggi" che fanno marciare quel "juggernaut" (un grosso camion) che è la storia. Capirle, significa poter salire su di esso, piuttosto che esserne stritolati, sotto le sue ruote. Un libro che celebra la forza delle idee che possono cambiare il mondo. Idee che cambiano, evolvono, decadono e si trasformano. Dalla filosofia alla religione, dal femminismo al relativismo, dall'assolutismo alla xenofobia. Due-tre pagine per ogni argomento, un aiuto chiaro e sintetico per chi ha già le sue idee, per chi non ne ha e ne ha bisogno, per chi le vuole discutere.L'autore non si fa scrupolo, ovviamente, di chiarire nel corso del libro quali sono le sue idee. Lo dichiara apertamente, in diverse occasioni, mettendo le carte in tavola. Come quando si dichiara filosoficamente ateo convinto. Sul capitolo della "Politica" devo dire che è stato onesto e sintetico anche se commette una grave omissione: nel suo saggio, e per tutto il libro, non menziona una sola volta Machiavelli. Il grande fiorentino non trova nemmeno un posticino nell'elenco dei nomi. Grave omissione a mio modesto parere. Lui sì che di politica se ne intendeva. Gli basterebbe liquidare il tutto con un sorriso, come in questo post al link quando, tempo fa, ne ho parlato. Ma questo è un altro discorso. Torniamo alla "politica".Molti ritengono che la "politica" sia "l'arte del possibile". Anche io lo penso. Qui invece l'autore inglese dice che è "l'arte del quasi-impossibile" in quanto è il processo per mezzo del quale i gruppi, le comunità, le nazioni, i cittadini di uno stato cercano di decidere cosa fare, come le cose dovrebbero essere fatte, come i beni comuni dovrebbero essere distribuiti, in che maniera le relazioni tra autorità e potere dovrebbero essere bilanciate, chi dovrebbe avere il potere, come questo dovrebbe essere gestito, per quanto tempo e fino a che punto. A causa del fatto che ci sono idee diverse, oltre interessi e opinioni in ogni gruppo, la politica è l'arte del compromesso, in maniera da controllare chi deve prendere decisioni e dare seguito ad esse, assicurando continuità ed autorità. Tutto questo vale sia per una democrazia che per una dittatura. Gli obiettivi sono gli stessi. Sono i mezzi che differiscono. Importanti sono i problemi su come l'autorità viene acquisita dai vari protagonisti e quindi mantenuta. Questo sembra essere il punto focale di tutto.Non mi addentro nella successiva disamina delle idee che egli fa del pensiero di esimi politici e letterati. Dopo Platone, Confucio, Aristotele, egli parla succintamente di Locke, Hobbes e Rousseau. Non potevano mancare John Stuart Mill e Carlo Marx. Man mano che ci si avvicina alla fine dell'articolo, ci si accorge che la parola di partenza, anzi l'idea da cui l'autore era partito per definire cosa fosse la "politica", si è diluita in altre idee, alle quali egli rimanda il malcapitato lettore: comunismo, democrazia, fascismo, liberalismo, libertà, marxismo, socialismo, totalitarismo ... Davvero un ginepraio che imprigiona soffocando il povero lettore che aveva dimenticato di essere cittadino e soggetto "politico". A questo punto mi sono ricordato di essere italiano. Mi sono ritrovato nel pantano in cui si trova la nostra politica italiana. Sono corso a rileggermi il post sul sorriso di Machiavelli che ho citato prima. Mi sono accorto di essere, come uomo, cittadino, elettore di questo Bel Paese, sotto un attacco continuo, sotto il fuoco di tutte quelle idee che ho appena menzionato. Ad una certa età le "cose della vita", né tanto meno quelle della "politica", non possono essere più prese seriamente altrimenti ci si rimette anzitempo la pelle. Ho ripreso in mano "Il Principe", lasciando l'inglese Greyling. Per difendermi e sopravvivere in questa palude che è diventata l'Italia. Per sorridere prima di me stesso, poi degli altri e del mondo. Ho scelto per questo Niccolò e vi assicuro di essere in buona compagnia. Mio Padre, buonanima, soleva dire: "La politica è di genere femminile". Sia detto senza offesa per il gentil sesso. Qui, tra tanti casini, non si sa chi la fa peggio.Dal mio blog:

  • David Mcphee
    2019-01-20 23:16

    As I start this book, two thoughts occur. The first is addressed in the introduction, how does an idea make the list. The second thought is, although the sections of the book are alphabetically sorted, there is no table of contents that would allow you to prioritize which ideas you would like to pursue and discard others. With respect to the first the author makes it clear that this work can best be described as “a personal dictionary of ideas, which knowing about would enhance an informed receptivity to the events, movements and possibilities of the recent past and it offspring, our time”. One can quibble about if this or that idea should be included or excluded but from my perspective it is a fulsome and provocative list. Starting with ‘absolutism’ and ending with ‘zeitgeist’ this is a fascinating dictionary. Some randomly selected, thoughts from the dictionary are; Law “John Austin (1790-1859) in the Province of Jurisprudence Determined defines law as a command given by a sovereign and enforced by a sanction; a critical feature of his view is a rejection if the concept of natural law which is not the same the law of nature p287”; Philosophy “derived from the Greek word meaning love of wisdom p372”; Slavery “In the west every week people unknowingly touch something wholly or partly made by forced labour in China’s huge gulag of prison camps where millions are incarcerated under ‘administrative detention’ which means without trial P479” and Politics “It is the process whereby people decide what to do among themselves, apportionment of goods and power. In addition to Plato and Confucius there are two other thinkers are specifically mentioned as being influential Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Hobbes because in Leviathan he argued the people join together to protect themselves from the brutish impact of nature. Locke extends this ‘joining together’ as a form of social contract. Which far from recognizing social organization as merely a response to the anarchy of the natural world argues the concept is an extension of human or natural rights p381”As one might find reading any dictionary, it can be boring; but this one is more historical, philosophical and provocative as it deals with ideas of substance and social importance. I have yet to ‘complete the dictionary’ but pull it out probably once a day and look at it and am always pleased that I did.

  • Alex Athanassakos
    2019-02-03 02:27

    Grayling is a philosopher with a great sense of humour and a great writing style. This book contains discussions on a list of topics that Grayling considers as important. Its style is somewhere between that of an encyclopedia and that of a collection of short essays. The average length for each entry is about two and a half pages and totally devoid of undefined buzzwords.Given the breath of the topics discussed, from history to philosophy and from biology to physics, it is natural that not all entries are as clear as they could be or as complete as they could be. A few have unnecessarily multiple entries, like "religion", "Catholic Christianity", "Orthodox Christianity", "Protestantism", since from an ideas point of view nothing new is being added, while for some the treatment is so pedestrian that it is not clear why he bothered including them in the first place. For example, on "tolerance" he spends about two pages discussing the trivially obvious and concludes by saying "We pride ourselves on being tolerant, but this is usually when we do not really care one way or the other about what others are doing. When we mind, and object, and dislike, but recognize the other's right to do what he does...then the hard work of tolerance begins." Well, although that may be trivially true, one would expect a bit more than platitudes from a philosopher. At a minimum a discussion on the limits of tolerance. In other words at what point is tolerance not tolerance anymore but becomes voluntary submission to the opinions of someone else? And at what point social tolerance is tantamount to a different form of totalitarianism where the majority has to voluntarily subjugate itself to the wishes of the few? Or what is the domain where tolerance should reign?Nevertheless, for most entries I found myself rethinking some of their promises after reading Grayling and as such I would recommend reading this book, but in a slow and contemplative fashion.

  • TheIron Paw
    2019-02-09 03:14

    A worthwhile book to have on your bookshelf (or in the bathroom). It's arranged like an encyclopaedia (alphabetical) with each topic briefly outlined in a couple of pages. Each topic finishes with a "see also..." which allowed me to simply begin with a topic at random and then follow through on related items. As the author says, its an opinionated survey: he presents the basic outline of each "idea" objectively, but consistently shows his own opinions about it. This makes for a very interesting read for amateur philosophers. This will likely stay on my "currently reading" shelf for some time, as its a book to pick up, read randomly through, and then head to some other book or source for more detailed discussion of some topic that catches my eye. Besides, taking the "random, see also" approach, I have no idea where I am in the book, or how much of it I've covered. With my memory, this book may well last me the rest of my life.

  • George
    2019-02-21 01:29

    Sort of an intellectual bathroom reader type book. The content is a series of essays on topics ranging from A-Z, starting with Absolutism and ending with Zeitgeist. Each of the essays is Graylings view on the topic. The general idea is that these topics are suppose to be important to 21st Century. This is Graylings subjective opinion, but I found myself struggling to see how topics like Vegetarianism was worthy of making it on the list. (My obvious bias as an Omnivore, not withstanding.) Some of the insights, especially those related to religion, have been covered by other Grayling authored books/papers and reinforces the author's non-theist stance.On reasonable way to read this book is to treat it as part of a dialog, where the author is expressing his opinion and you, the reader can use that to understand your own opinion in the topic.

  • Andrew
    2019-02-14 01:36

    Great reference book for 'ideas,' for example: Marxism, relativism, egoism, altruism, epistemology. In most cases, Grayling presents the idea neutrally and then in the last 1/3 of the entry, criticizes or praises it based on his personal position. Since I share many of his propensities this was not a problem but I imagine others who clash with him will find it annoying. Because of this I am rating it 4 stars as although criticism can be helpful to understand the idea, it doesn't appear to me to be neutral throughout but selected criticism. At the same time, in the introduction Grayling warns the reader that both the selection of the entries and their interpretation are based on his subjectivity; so fair enough. Overall a good handbook if you find Wikipedia unreliable and need quick information. Each entry also has 2-3 bibliography sources listed at the end.

  • Fil
    2019-02-09 23:14

    When discussing ideas my primary concern is to have a position that I arrived at with reasoning or critical thought. I do not like to read "a book that aims both to arm readers with knowledge and engage them in philosophical debate" in which the author does not use said reasoning when voicing his own opinion. Mr. Grayling does so on some topics but not most, which grates on the nerves of the dilettante philosopher I profess to be. A letdown after enjoying his "The Reason Of Things" and "The Heart Of Things".

  • Stefan Liberadzki
    2019-02-13 21:20

    A whistle-stop tour of some of the big ideas of our time. It's by no means comprehensive, and Grayling doesn't shy away from injecting his personal views into much of the discussion (especially when it comes to religion!) But he does an excellent job of expounding tricky concepts with clarity, precision and wit. His writing style is perhaps the best aspect of this book: it literally had me gasping with the sheer brilliance of some of his phrases.

  • Jorge
    2019-02-17 02:28

    un buen compendio de conceptos actuales y "modernos", enriquece y aclara muchas veces enalteciendo el valor moral/ético cuando hay una postura débil/fuerte; su postura contra la religión por su impacto negativo moral-social-filosofico-cientifico es muy claro, además de todo lo malo que evoca (principalmente las guerras y asesinatos en nombre de dios-entidad)

  • Ryan
    2019-01-31 19:25

    I borrowed this one from the library for a paper on existentialism. Underlined a few areas before realizing the book wasn’t mine. Thankfully the library was forgiving and didn’t charge me, but I would have been willing to keep it if they had. Great resource.

  • Nico
    2019-02-04 19:15

    For the entries I've read it's very clear, articulate, relevant and up to date. I don't know how Grayling decided what is important, but it seems to work. He's one of the most famous contemporary philosophers.

  • Kate
    2019-01-26 20:14

    An interesting overview of some of the ideas that, according to Grayling, will and do "matter". While certain entries are reasoned and thought-provoking, others are too personal, chaotically structured, or suffer from stylistic awkwardness.

  • Pascal Durrenberger
    2019-01-23 23:35

    A lot of topics were covered. A good approach to some modern ideas but need to back up with much more in-depth reading.

  • Kendel Christensen
    2019-01-30 20:13

    Gave a lot of solid definitions for things that we all hear, but generally are inept at explaining. Very worth skimming.

  • D.h.
    2019-01-23 20:42

    this is the right book to get yourself to think more on the planet you live and its people.

  • NJ Wong
    2019-02-17 01:39

    Short and well written articles about critical and important concepts that any modern intellectual should know.

  • David
    2019-02-01 19:28

    Grayling manages to explain complex subjects with good clarity, but can't help imposing his views on the reader and at times can be quite biased.

  • Daryl Hunt
    2019-01-31 03:41

    Anthony Grayling make Philosophy understandable to those of us who never studied it and this book discusses the important ideas and concepts for the 21st century a must read.

  • Ti Bryan
    2019-02-20 01:29

    Now how did this guy get it all into his brain? ;)

  • Jack Fleming
    2019-02-17 19:42

    Slightly patronising tone, particularly on issues of faith and scpeticism but very learned and wise.

  • Andreas Helset
    2019-02-09 20:29

    Clear, enlightening and crisp. Well articulated.

  • Steven Williams
    2019-02-15 00:15

    Very surprising find. Before I found this book I don't belief I had even heard of the author. It's a sort of miini encyclopedia. Very good book, I enjoyed it emensely.