Marcus de Courtenay

Marcus de Courtenay is a keen reader on diverse topics. He loves being critical safe in the knowledge that he has no published material to be criticised on. He is also a vegan and urges you to hug not eat the next animal you see.

Goleman_force for goodIn A Force for Good, Daniel Goleman, journalist and internationally bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, brings his art to bear on the growing body of popular literature surrounding altruism.

In a series of interviews with the Dalai Lama, Goldman has compiled a part-self-help and part-biographical work which seeks to broaden the audience of the spiritual leader of Buddhism and in particular his message about the need for active compassion and tolerance. The narrative of the book flows from a focus on inner development to that of external interventions, counselling the reader to develop a compassionate character and then exercise this character on the many sorrows in this world.

The writing maintains the Dalai Lama’s teachings as its central foundation expounded through direct quotes and paraphrasing, but takes various detours to supporting examples from diverse fields such as science, sociology and the travails of budding social enterprises. There is an emphasis placed on the Dalai Lama’s immense respect for science and, as such, the capacity to marry scientific insight with fostering a more compassionate world.

The book is an ambitious project, promising that it will reveal the Dalai Lama’s vision for the world. However, of course this is not a book written by the Dalai Lama and in many ways you question how much of the voice of the Dalai Lama you are reading and how much is a liberal paraphrase. Despite this, the writing is elevated by the many simple but fundamental truths contained in the synthesis of the spiritual leader’s thoughts. Further, Goleman’s clear reverence for his subject gives a sense of tremendous weight to every quote.

You can’t help but be delighted by some of the examples in the book detailing the powerful efforts of altruists around the world, even if at times the book reads as an inventory of the ails facing the world like could be found in any newspaper. Ultimately, A Force for Good has the best of intentions and teaches the best of the practices, so one can hardly be too critical. This is certainly a positive introduction to modern charitable work and the overriding need for an infusion of compassion into all human interactions.

Marcus de Courtenay

Marcus de Courtenay is a keen reader on diverse topics. He loves being critical safe in the knowledge that he has no published material to be criticised on. He is also a vegan and urges you to hug not eat the next animal you see.

grayling_challengeA. C. Grayling, continuing to develop the persona of the public intellectual, has produced a mature set of essays for any person with an interest in the world around them as perceived through the prism of applied philosophy and a discerning mind.

Grayling is known as a highly accomplished British philosopher, boasting a PHD from Oxford University and a publishing history consisting of over 30 books. His latest book, titled “The Challenge of Things: Thinking Through Troubled Times” is Grayling’s continuing mission to contribute to, and stimulate, intellectual debate on a myriad of issues.

The book is sectioned into “Destructions and Deconstructions” and “Constructions and Creations”, which can be roughly translated into an evil-good divide (in the optimistic form of leaving the best to last). These sections are then further broken down into essays covering a broad and fascinating scope. The essays are derived from Grayling’s recently published works as well as new material composed specifically for the book.

Although none of the essays are sufficiently long to thoroughly account for a given topic, Grayling masterfully sows the seeds of his own opinions while directing inquiring minds in the right direction. Grayling is at his best when argumentative and his writing shines in the spirited defence of ideas such as secularism of the state, gun laws, freedom of speech and the inestimable value of friendship. His comprehensive grasp of historical, sociological, scientific and, of course, philosophical concepts provides a tremendous depth to his insights and conclusions. However, perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the book is the iridescent humanism which infuses each essay: a sense of hope and, ultimately, trust in the nature of humanity, provided we have recourse to our rational faculties.

The less compelling essays in the book tend to see Grayling meandering on historical topics, which appear to be of personal interest with fairly weak and ancillary links to contemporary life. Grayling is also guilty of the occasional descent into intellectual condescension when dealing with authors or schools of thought of which he is not particularly enamoured. Despite this, most of the essays are not longer than three or four pages so it is very easy to read ‘just one more’ and chances are it will be worth it.

This book is highly recommended for any person seeking to sharpen their thinking on modern ethical and philosophical questions while being propelled along by an accomplished and discerning writer.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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