One of the most fundamental questions in our life is to find out what we value - what principles we want to live by and which codes we will use to guide our behaviour. Most of us want to live a good life. But what, in today's secular society, does 'good' actually mean? To classical Greeks, the acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of the senses, creativity and beauty were all aspects of life to strive for. Then came the volcanic declarations of St Paul and his fundamentalist ideas on sin and human nature. In WHAT IS GOOD?, A.C. Grayling examines these and other proposals on how to live a good life, from the 'heroic' ideals of the Greek poets to Kant's theories on freedom and the UN Declaration on Human Rights.
How do we live a good life? Grayling is a professional philosopher, and his latest book - subtitled 'The Search for The Best Way To Live' - is an attempt to focus upon the big question with which philosophy has been perennially preoccupied. Addressing a 'general reader' without condescension, Grayling depicts an ongoing conflict between 'secular' and 'transcendental' attempts to define the good life. Between, that is, a tradition based upon enlightened humanism and those opposing traditions which tend to manifest themselves in organised religions. Grayling is hardly a neutral observer of the debate. He is, rather, a passionate humanist, alert to the contemporary dangers of a variety of fundamentalisms. He tends, at points, to oversimplify the opposition. But this is an admirably clear and engaging book, as well as a learned one.