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Great Virtues by André Comte-Sponville

Great Virtues (1996)

by André Comte-Sponville

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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 |
from the back cover: "Much of the history of philosophy is the history of ethics. From Plato to Sartre, the great philosophers have returned to the central ethical questions of how we are to live good lives; how is it appropriate and virtuous for us to behave, both to ourselves and to others?
"In addressing these questions, André Comte-Sponville returns to the mainstream of much of the Western philosophical traditon with an utterly original exploration of the timeless human virtues.
"A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues takes as its starting point eighteen human virtues [politeness, fidelity, prudence, temperance, courage, justice, generosity, compassion, mercy, gratitude, humility, simplicity, tolerance, purity, gentleness, good faith, humour, love] to help us understand 'what we should do, who we should be, and how we should live'. Comte-Sponville offers the reader both a thoughtful and accessible introduction to the history of Western ethics and an exploration of the ways in which the views and claims of the great philosophers can apply--and fail to apply--to our lives today."
  WARM | Sep 14, 2007 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:14 -0400)

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