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On Kindness (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 26. Mai 2009

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Praise for On Kindness

“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

Praise for Adam Phillips

“[Phillips is] one of the finest prose stylists at work in the language, an Emerson of our time.” —John Banville

“The curious thing about reading Phillips is that he makes you feel smart and above the daily grind at the same time as he reassures you that you are not alone in your primal anxieties about whether you are lovable or nuts or, perhaps, merely boring.” —Daphne Merkin, The New York Times Magazine

“Phillips is . . . a bit like an Oliver Sacks of psychoanalysis, both affable and unalarmed.” —Gail Caldwell, The Boston Sunday Globe

Praise for Barbara Taylor

“[Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination] will be essential reading for many years to come . . . Superb . . . Well-written.” —Caroline Franklin, The Times Literary Supplement


The pleasures of kindness have been well known since the dawn of Western thought. Kindness, declared Marcus Aurelius, was mankind's 'greatest delight' - and centuries-worth of thinkers and writers have echoed him. But today many people seem to find these pleasures literally incredible. Instead of embracing the benefits of kindness, as a species we seem to be becoming deeply and fundamentally antagonistic to each other, with motives that are generally self-seeking.This book explains how and why this has come about, and argues that the affectionate life - a life lived in instinctive sympathetic identification with the vulnerabilities and attractions of others - is the one we should all be inclined to live. 'We mutually belong to one another,' as the philosopher Alan Ryan writes, and the good life is one 'that reflects this truth'. What the Victorians called 'open-heartedness' and the Christians 'caritas' remains essential to our emotional and mental health, for reasons both obvious and hidden, argue the authors of this elegant and indispensable exploration of the concept of kindness. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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Amazon.com: 13 Rezensionen
48 von 48 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
An important book in anti-reductionist psychology and philosophy 13. Juli 2009
Von Kornilov - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Not a coffee table book. Not a "be nice" sermon from the land of the bodhisattvas.

This book is a rigorous argument, based on the history of European ideas and psychoanalytical doctrine, that we fail to recognize and value intelligently one of life's greatest pleasures: generosity. It goes deep into the the scientific and political sources of our contemporary confusion and unhappiness.

The authors explain brilliantly how misunderstanding the paradoxical relation between kindness and hatred contributes to our chronic ambivalence toward other people and hence our inability to choose our actions well.

Beautifully written and succinct: the sort of book you finish in an afternoon and will definitely read again.
36 von 37 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Back to Kindness 9. Juli 2009
Von Rae A. Francoeur - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
It's not easy being human. We're complex creatures, possessed of intellect, driven by instinct, bedeviled by emotions. We're necessarily interdependent in a competitive culture that extols self-sufficiency. Extending kindness makes us genuinely happy; being seen extending kindness makes us look self-serving or, worse, weak. We are suspicious of kind acts and the people who commit them. If you were to seek Freud's counsel on all this, he'd say we hate that we love so we idolize what we desire to help rationalize our needs. What a mess.

If only Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor, authors of a small, elegant book, "On Kindness," could do more than delineate the trouble and track its origins. If only they could point the way to a kinder life for all of us. If only somebody universally respected -- Oprah? -- made this book required reading now, before, say, the next episode of "Survivor." If only capitalism and Goldman Sachs and third-party health insurance administrators and the classroom bully could take a lesson from Marcus Aurelius, Rousseau or even Dickens, as set out so clearly in "On Kindness." If only...

But Phillips and Taylor, while clearly proponents of a kind society, do not lobby for change as much as they detail the decline of kind behavior in societies made up of people who find one of the sincerest forms pleasure scorned. They write, "An image of the self has been created that is utterly lacking in natural generosity." This image, they say, shows us "deeply and fundamentally antagonistic to each other." This image we have of ourselves shows our motives to be "utterly self-seeking" and our sympathies suspicious "forms of self-protection."

"On Kindness" describes who we are with regard to our generosity of spirit, it explores the gravity of our psychological conflicts and it tracks how we arrived at this uncomfortable, conflicted juncture. The British authors, a psychoanalyst (Phillips) and a historian with expertise in feminism (Taylor), maintain that the kind life is natural. It's a life lived "in instinctive sympathetic identification with the vulnerabilities and attractions of others." This behavior lacks cultural support -- even a common language, it is fraught with negative sanctions and yet it makes us feel good. Kindness has become "our forbidden pleasure."

There's a lot to this small book and yet it is highly readable and infinitely fascinating: "Capitalism is no system for the kindhearted." "Parenting in particular is seen by most people today as an island of kindness in a sea of cruelty." "A competitive society, one that divides people into winners and losers, breeds unkindness." "The most long-standing suspicion about kindness is that it is just narcissism in disguise." "Our sweetest existence is relative and collective, and our true self is not entirely within us." (Rousseau) "To what shifts is poor Society reduced in epochs when Cash Payment has become the sole nexus of man to man!" (Thomas Carlyle)

Our identification with other people's pleasures and sufferings is among our most immediate experiences, write the authors. It's akin to reflex or instinct. To identify with suffering is, of course, frightening. We feel vulnerable and yet we crave safety. As children we nurture and love our parents so they will care for us. As we grow and mature, we realize such efforts are not productive at the same time we train our vision on a broader world to which we naturally seek attachments. No man is an island, wrote John Donne. Our attachments to others fulfill our humanity. The authors leave us here, to ponder our secrets and question a society that closets the best parts of us.
6 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Kind book on Kindness 21. Oktober 2011
Von Dmitry Vostokov - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
This is a little book that I bought in local bookshop adjacent to Costa and quickly read from cover to cover while commuting. I was interested in this title because my relative studies kindness (and benevolence) as a topic in Russian literature so I thought by reading that book I could better discuss it. Approx. one third of the book narrates the evolution of the meaning of kindness from Classical Greece and Rome to earlier Christianity, Augustine, then to Hobbes (Leviathan), Enlightenment, and finally, Rousseau (Émile). The second third is a lengthy treatise on the interpretation of kindness from psychoanalytical perspective (Freud, Winnicott). The final third is about the role of kindness in the modern Western society. Interesting read (although a bit repetitive sometimes) that prompted me to buy Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668 and to reconsider the role kindness in a modern corporation workplace.

Dmitry Vostokov
Literate Scientist blog
20 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Not what I expected 25. Juni 2010
Von Gwen - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
I should have learned more about the book before I bought it. I was intrigued by the title and thought that it would focus on why it seems so difficult, in today's society, for people to be open, warm and kind to one another, and so much more socially acceptable to "rag on" (or be "teasingly" aggressive towards) others. Instead, it was mostly on Freud and (hence) sex. I found it difficult to read - dense and unclear, rather than direct and straightforward. (And I do have a Ph.D., so it's not that I have no experience reading challenging texts.)

That's not to say that it doesn't address the topic of kindness at all, or that I didn't get a single interesting idea out of it. But, for me, it wasn't worth it.

If you find Freud and philosophical history interesting, then you may very well enjoy this book. But if those things don't really appeal, then you probably want to skip it - it is not, in my opinion, a clearly written, insightful analysis of the role of kindness in today's social climate.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Provocative 20. Juli 2013
Von kittlybender - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
As Adam Phillips says, "Kindness is not an expert skill." Reading this, more than once, makes one wonder why it can take so long for many people to discover they have the talent. Andre Breton described beauty as "the impossible that lasts." Mr. Phillips discussion makes you more thoughtful as to why everyday kindness is so often the exception rather than "the possible" that is an enduring, ordinary and unremarkable impulse.
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