Grayling, A.C. 1949–
Grayling, A.C. 1949–
(Anthony Clifford Grayling)
PERSONAL: Born April 3, 1949, in Luanshya, Zambia; son of Henry Clifford and Ursula Adelaide (Burns) Grayling; married Gabrielle Yvonne Smyth, January, 1970; partner of Katie Hickman; children: (with Smyth) Anthony Jolyon Clifford, Georgina Evelyn Ursula; (with Hickman) Madeleine Catherine Jennifer. Education: University of London, B.A.; Univer-sity of Sussex, B.A., M.A.; Magdalen College, Oxford, D.Phil., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, theater, reading, walking, travel.
CAREER: Philosopher, radio broadcaster, and educator. St. Anne's College, Oxford, lecturer, 1984–91, senior research fellow, 1997–97, supernumerary fellow, 1997–; Birkbeck College, University of London, London, England, lecturer, 1991–98, reader in philosophy, 1998–2005, professor of philosophy, 2005–. University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, visiting professor, 1997; visiting lecturer, University of Chiba, University of Nagoya, University of Hokkaido, and Lublin University. Online Review, editor; Philosophical Annual of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, contributing editor. Member of editorial board of Prospect, Reason and Practice, and Russell Newsletter. Guardian, London, England, columnist, 1999–2002; Times, London, columnist, 2003–. Booker Prize judge, 2003. Fellow, World Economic Forum and Royal Society of Arts. Radio broadcaster, BBC Radios 4 and 3 and World Service. June Fourth, past chairman. Involved in U.N. Human Rights Initiative. Member, World Economic Forum C-100 Group on relations between the West and the Islamic world.
MEMBER: Aristotelian Society (honorary secretary, 1992–98), Athanaeum Club, Beefsteak Club, Groucho Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Jan Huss fellowship, 1994, 1996; Leverhulme Trust fellowship, 1999.
An Introduction to Philosophical Logic, Barnes & Noble Books (Totowa, NJ), 1982, 3rd edition, Blackwell Publishers (Malden, MA), 1997.
The Refutation of Scepticism, Open Court Publishing Company (LaSalle, IL), 1985.
Berkeley, the Central Arguments, Open Court Publishing Company (LaSalle, IL), 1986.
(Editor) Philosophy: A Guide through the Subject, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Susan Whitfield) China: A Literary Companion, Trafalgar Square Publishing (North Pomfret, VT), 1995.
Russell, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996, published as Russell: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Philosophy: Further through the Subject, Oxford University Press (Oxford, NY), 1998.
The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2001.
The Reason of Things: Living with Philosophy, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2002.
Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
What Is Good? The Search for the Best Way to Live, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2003.
Life, Sex, and Ideas: The Good Life without God, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Mystery of Things, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2004.
The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the Twenty-first Century, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2005.
Descartes: The Life of Rene Descartes and Its Place in His Times, Free Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Literary Review, Observer, Economics, Times Literary Supplement, Independent on Sunday, New Statesman, and Financial Times.
Author of column "Last Word," London Guardian.
SIDELIGHTS: Philosopher and educator A.C. Grayling is a professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, London. He has served on numerous boards and is a past chairman of June Fourth, a human rights group that focuses on China. Other human rights work includes involvement in the U.N. Human Rights Initiative. He also serves in the World Economic Forum's C-100 group on relations between the West and the Islamic world. "The focus of Anthony Grayling's interests in technical academic philosophy is the overlap between theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and philosophical logic," reported a biographer on Grayling's home page. "In summary, they concern the relation between thinking and theorizing about the world, and the knowledge and meaning constraints which govern them."
In a lengthy professional career, Grayling has written both scholarly works and books designed to bring philosophical thought and practice to a general audience. In Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age Grayling provides a "primer designed to stimulate thinking" on the various possibilities, problems, and meanings of being human, remarked Library Journal reviewer Terry Skeats. The more than sixty essays cover topics in three broad categories: Virtues and Attributes, Foes and Fallacies, and Amenities and Goods. The works are "balanced, intelligently written, at times caustic, and always (as intended) thought-provoking," added Skeats. Grayling ponders a variety of uniquely human emotions and attributes, including love, community, family, religion, racism, revenge, loyalty, leisure, health, poverty, blasphemy, history, nationalism, and other "abstract terms we experience in a very real way every day," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Skeats called the collection a "superb little book."
Life, Sex, and Ideas: The Good Life without God contains a collection of short essays on a variety of philosophical subjects stemming from an overarching consideration of religion. These topics include war, capital punishment, politics, fasting, and more. Grayling holds a dim view of religion, noting that it is the primary source of dangerous fanaticism. He contends that religion should be confined to private life and should be strictly excluded from education, public affairs, and other social and political areas. Grayling also comments on terrorism and finds the greater threat to be the diminishment of civil liberties and the inability to practice civilized tolerance. Library Journal reviewer David Gordon observed that Grayling is "a fine essayist in action," and that while his viewpoints seem to be stated rather than proved, "readers will benefit from an encounter with his erudite and elegant prose."
In The Mystery of Things Grayling offers "a smattering of brief, mildly engaging essays for the lay reader on art, literature, and culture," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. Derived largely from his weekly column in the London Times, the essays range widely across subjects related to art, philosophy, and intellectualism. Grayling encourages his readers to develop new ways of considering the world around them and its many physical and nonphysical manifestations. Topics covered include quantum theory, literature, consciousness, genetics, the origin of the universe, and other equally deep, open-ended topics. He ponders the meaning of German chancellor Adolf Hitler as an art collector, the tendency for students to veer away from classical studies, how leftist, left-leaning sentiments correlate with so-called high culture, and the role of genetics in refuting long-held misconceptions about race. "In brisk, pithy, jargon-free prose, Grayling opens issues for ordinary readers, leaving them with something to think about" without providing any definitive answers or premanufactured conclusions, remarked Leslie Armour in Library Journal.
The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the Twenty-first Century, Grayling once again approaches philosophy from the viewpoint of the generalist reader, framing significant philosophical issues in terms that can be grasped and used by an intelligent non-specialist. "Eschewing specialist diction, the author provides, in admirably uncomplicated prose, a series of bite-sized reflections on a range of personal and public concerns, together with sketches of some dozen assorted thinkers," commented Chris Arthur, writing in Contemporary Review. In a wide-ranging collection of short essays, Grayling returns to the familiar format of brief, pithy musings on problems and topics in modern philosophy, culture, and society. The essays "are not so much applications of philosophy as a collection of thoughtful fragments on diverse topics," Arthur observed. Even though they may not delve deeply into the minutiae of philosophical analysis of a topic, they still provide learned reflections that an educated lay reader can use to form new opinions and new concepts about the world. Arthur concluded that "professional philosophers will probably be as dismissive of this book as the educated person-in-the-street is likely to be of the intricate minutiae with which such philosophers are preoccupied."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Review, July, 2005, Chris Arthur, review of The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the Twenty-first Century, p. 49.
Journal of Australian Studies, March, 2003, David Crawford, review of The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life, p. 143.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2005, review of The Mystery of Things, p. 523.
Library Journal, May 15, 2002, Terry Skeats, review of Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age, p. 101; June 1, 2003, David Gordon, review of Life, Sex, and Ideas: The Good Life without God, p. 126; June 15, 2005, Leslie Armour, review of The Mystery of Things, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002, "From the One to the Many," review of Meditations for the Humanist, p. 70.
A.C. Grayling Home Page, http://www.acgrayling.com (October 18, 2005).