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Great Virtues by André Comte-Sponville

Great Virtues (1996)

by André Comte-Sponville

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This is a not so small treatise on the civil virtues that the author, Andre Comte-Sponville, considers to be of primary importance, such as kindness, politeness, justice. A work of this type cannot, in my opinion, be entirely objective because the author controls which virtues to highlight. Comte-Sponville, though, provides a nuanced explanation of these virtues' importance, relying on various philosophical writings and reasoning to build his case. Comte-Sponville does an excellent job of advocating the importance of virtue in society. Overall, the book was thought-provoking and engaging. ( )
  pmackey | Feb 1, 2016 |
Although simple in outline, this was a book of some difficulty. The author is a philospher at the Sorbonne, and the book was a great bestseller in France. He goes through a list of 18 virtues, including items such as politeness, prudence, temperance, courage, generosity, and ending at love. Annoyingly repetitive in spots, repeating the same argument in different words, but very insightful in many areas. The Nichomachean ethics, and Spinoza are the main guides, but although an atheist, he has much to say about the christian religion. It was interesting that the author argues for a balance of justice with mercy, and is not in agreement with Kant and the categorical imperative, perceiving even truth to be subservient to charity and mercy. I was taken with his argument for three kinds of love, eros, philia, and agape, from possession of the lacking, to joy in its presence, to indifference to the object of the love. Difficult but worthwhile. ( )
  neurodrew | Nov 12, 2008 |
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Maar dan komt Comte-Sponville aan het woord. Overtuigend laat hij zien dat de uitspraak dat de mens een uiteindelijk louter materieel wezen is, allerminst inhoudt dat er afstand wordt gedaan van waarden en spiritualiteit. Die vrijheid die ook hij erkent, heeft voor hem echter geen absolute dimensies; ze berust niet op een vast buitenmenselijk fundament. Met Spinoza erkent hij geen waarden buiten de (menselijke) werkelijkheid. Niet omdat iets goed is begeren wij het, zie deze zeventiende-eeuwse denker, maar juist omdat wij het begeren vinden wij het goed. Dit theoretisch anti-humanisme loopt bij Comte-Sponville -net als bij zijn grote voorbeeld- uit op een praktisch humanisme. Tegenover het geloof in het absolute dat de mens overstijgt van Luc Ferry, verdedigt hij de trouw aan de aarde en de werkelijkheid die we bij Nietzsche, één van zijn andere inspiratoren, vinden.
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To Vivien, Fabien, and Louis
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If virtue can be taught, as I believe it can be, it is not through books so much as by example.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805045562, Paperback)

In this graceful, incisive book, writer-philosopher André Comte-Sponville reexamines the classical virtues to help us understand "what we should do, who we should be, and how we should live." In the process, he gives us an entirely new perspective on the value, relevance, and charm of the Western ethical tradition. Drawing on thinkers from Aristotle to Simone Weil, by way of Aquinas, Kant, Rilke, Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Rawls, among others, Comte-Sponville elaborates on the qualities that constitute the essence and excellence of humankind. Starting with politeness-almost a virtue-and ending with love-which transcends all morality-A Small Treatise takes us on a tour of the eighteen essential virtues: fidelity, prudence, temperance, courage, justice, generosity, compassion, mercy, gratitude, humility, simplicity, tolerance, purity, gentleness, good faith, and even, surprisingly, humor.

Sophisticated, lucid, and full of wit, this modestly titled yet immensely important work provides an indispensable guide to finding what is right and good in everyday life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:44 -0400)

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