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On Kindness

ISBN: 9780312429744 | 0312429746
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Picador
Pub. Date: 6/22/2010

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Kindness is the foundation of the world's great religions and most-enduring philosophies. Why, then, does being kind feel so dangerous? If we crave kindness with such intensity, why is it often the last pleasure we permit ourselves? And why--despite our longing--are we often suspicious when we are on the receiving end of it? Drawing on intellectual history, literature, psychoanalysis, and contemporary social theory, this brief and essential book will return to its readers what Marcus Aurelius declared was mankind's "greatest delight": the intense satisfactions of generosity and compassion.Adam Phillipsis a psychoanalyst and the author of twelve books, all widely acclaimed, includingOn Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored;Going Sane; andSide Effects. Barbara Taylorhas published several highly regarded books on the history of feminism, including the award-winningEve and the New Jerusalem. Both authors live in London.Kindness is the foundation of the world's great religions and most-enduring philosophies. Why, then, does being kind feel so dangerous? If we crave kindness with such intensity, why is it a pleasure we often deny ourselves? And why--despite our longing--are we often suspicious when we are on the receiving end of it? In this book, the eminent psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and the historian Barbara Taylor examine the pleasures and perils of kindness. Modern people have been taught to perceive ourselves as fundamentally antagonistic to one another, our motives self-seeking. Drawing on intellectual history, literature, psychoanalysis, and contemporary social theory, this book explains how and why we have chosen loneliness over connection.On Kindnessargues that a life lived in instinctive, sympathetic identification with others is the one we should allow ourselves to live. This brief and essential book will return to its readers what Marcus Aurelius declared was mankind's "greatest delight": the intense satisfactions of generosity and compassion. "In a lively survey that ranges from Rome's Stoics and Epicureans to Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes, Hume and especially Rousseau, the authors deftly sketch the tension between the proponents of a mutually dependent society and those who champion the idea of blunt self-interest. They deliver us to the modern world where they conclude, with no small amount of regret, that 'we are all Hobbesians, convinced that self-interest is our ruling principle.'"--Harvey Freedenberg,Shelf Awareness "If we have all become more self-interested and self-serving, Phillips and Taylor suggest a little more altruism as an antidote to angst and alienation . . . Theirs is a true tract for difficult times."--Iain Finlayson,The Times(London) "Part of the purpose of this short book is to reinstate [kindness] as something necessary both to our personal happiness and our communal well-being. This seems to me a totally admirable aim . . . A concentrated essay on a limited but deeply important subject is to be highly valued."--Mary Warnock,The Observer(London) "[An] elegant meditation on kindness . . . In a competitive, stressed-out, paranoid, cynical, celebrity-obsessed, credit-crunched society, this might seem a barmy philosophy. As Phillips and Taylor show--clearly, coherently and completely unsentimentally--it's a completely sensible one."--David Robinson,The Scotsman "In this brief work, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and historian Barbara Taylor

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