Well, I Guess That’s Settled Then…

Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life They Change It
Daniel Klein
Text Publishing
$29.99

every_time_i_find_the_meaning_of_life_they_change_itWhat is the meaning of life? It is a question that has haunted drunk teenagers and philosophers since the invention of beer and philosophy respectively. Is there even such a thing as an extrinsic meaning of life? And if the meaning of life is in actuality created, not discovered, then how does one go about carving the good life out of the hard rock of daily routine, with all of its disappointments and trivialities?

Broadly speaking, these are the questions that Daniel Klein orbits around, examining, questioning and mulling over. I say ‘orbits’ intentionally. With subtle humour, wit and skill, Klein circles topics, whilst at the same time holding himself at a distance–not aloof–but perhaps cautious, even suspicious of the clever ideas he examines. This is a curious, interesting approach. It reflects a perspective where Klein, now approaching his ninetieth decade, seems to have decided that the important things in life may have less to do with clever twists of philosophic wit after all, and maybe more to do with afternoons in a lazy sunlit garden with the family dog and one’s own thoughts.

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Be the Best That You Can Be, Best to Your Ability

CREATING CAPABILITIES: THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT APPROACH
Martha C. Nussbaum (Belknap Harvard, 2011) ISBN: 9780674050549

I think I may have fallen in love with Martha C. Nussbaum.  Law professor, ethicist, feminist, philosopher, confident teacher and elegant writer, she is a source of inspiration, even if I don’t subscribe wholeheartedly to her political biases.  Creating Capabilities is but one of her numerous contributions to discourse on human rights and starts with a simple proposition: living beings are more important than money.  GDP, which measures the economic wellbeing of a country in purely monetary form, is an at best unhelpful measure of any given nation’s actual prosperity.  In its place, Nussbaum and other proponents, such as the originator of the school, Amartya Sen, nominate the “capabilities approach” to measuring human (and animal) development, suggesting several different benchmarks that should first be aimed for and then improved upon by the world’s nations.  Creating Capabilities forms something of a manifesto for this approach.

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Horror Movie, Right There on my TV

THE NEWS:  A USER’S MANUAL

Alain de Botton (Pantheon, 2014) ISBN: 978-0307379122 The News

The News:  A User’s Manual is pop philosopher and celebrated egghead Alain de Botton’s latest contribution to dinner party conversation*.  It is a meditative, considered musing on why western societies in particular are so obsessed with “the news” and keeping up with it.  As a news junkie myself, passing through an airport bookshop, I was curious to see what de Botton might have concluded about it all.  I have not previously read any of his books, though I did once catch an episode of the documentary series The Architecture of Happiness, so that counts, right?

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