On Human Nature

Princeton University Press
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A brief, radical defense of human uniqueness from acclaimed philosopher Roger Scruton

In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists, utilitarian moralists, and philosophical materialists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, Scruton argues that human beings cannot be understood simply as biological objects. We are not only human animals; we are also persons, in essential relation with other persons, and bound to them by obligations and rights. Our world is a shared world, exhibiting freedom, value, and accountability, and to understand it we must address other people face to face and I to I.

Scruton develops and defends his account of human nature by ranging widely across intellectual history, from Plato and Averroës to Darwin and Wittgenstein. The book begins with Kant's suggestion that we are distinguished by our ability to say "I"—by our sense of ourselves as the centers of self-conscious reflection. This fact is manifested in our emotions, interests, and relations. It is the foundation of the moral sense, as well as of the aesthetic and religious conceptions through which we shape the human world and endow it with meaning. And it lies outside the scope of modern materialist philosophy, even though it is a natural and not a supernatural fact. Ultimately, Scruton offers a new way of understanding how self-consciousness affects the question of how we should live.

The result is a rich view of human nature that challenges some of today's most fashionable ideas about our species.

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About the author

Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher. His many books include The Soul of the World and The Aesthetics of Architecture (both Princeton), as well as A Short History of Modern Philosophy; Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left; and The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung." He lives in Wiltshire, England.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Feb 14, 2017
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Pages
160
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ISBN
9781400884667
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Criticism
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Movements / Humanism
Philosophy / Political
Philosophy / Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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All of us are faced countless times with the challenge of persuading others, whether we're trying to win a trivial argument with a friend or convince our coworkers about an important decision. Instead of relying on untrained instinct—and often floundering or failing as a result—we’d win more arguments if we learned the timeless art of verbal persuasion, rhetoric. How to Win an Argument gathers the rhetorical wisdom of Cicero, ancient Rome’s greatest orator, from across his works and combines it with passages from his legal and political speeches to show his powerful techniques in action. The result is an enlightening and entertaining practical introduction to the secrets of persuasive speaking and writing—including strategies that are just as effective in today’s offices, schools, courts, and political debates as they were in the Roman forum.

How to Win an Argument addresses proof based on rational argumentation, character, and emotion; the parts of a speech; the plain, middle, and grand styles; how to persuade no matter what audience or circumstances you face; and more. Cicero’s words are presented in lively translations, with illuminating introductions; the book also features a brief biography of Cicero, a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and an appendix of the original Latin texts.

Astonishingly relevant, this unique anthology of Cicero’s rhetorical and oratorical wisdom will be enjoyed by anyone who ever needs to win arguments and influence people—in other words, all of us.

The environment has long been the undisputed territory of the political Left, which casts international capitalism, consumerism, and the over-exploitation of natural resources as the principle threats to the planet, and sees top-down interventions as the most effective solution. In How to Think Seriously About the Planet, Roger Scruton rejects this view and offers a fresh approach to tackling the most important political problem of our time. The environmental movement, he contends, is philosophically confused and has unrealistic agendas. Its sights are directed at the largescale events and the confrontation between international politics and multinational business. But Scruton argues that no large-scale environmental project, however well-intentioned, will succeed if it is not rooted in small-scale practical reasoning. Seeing things on a large scale promotes top-down solutions, managed by unaccountable bureaucracies that fail to assess local conditions and are rife with unintended consequences. Scruton argues for the greater efficacy of local initiatives over global schemes, civil association over political activism, and small-scale institutions of friendship over regulatory hyper-vigilance. And he suggests that conservatism is far better suited to solving environmental problems than either liberalism or socialism. Rather than entrusting the environment to unwieldy NGOs and international committees, we must assume personal responsibility and foster local control. People must be empowered to take charge of their environment, to care for it as they would a home, and to involve themselves through the kind of local associations that have been the traditional goal of conservative politics. Our common future is by no means assured, but as Roger Scruton clearly demonstrates in this important book, there is a path that can ensure the future safety of our planet and our species.
The environment has long been the undisputed territory of the political Left, which casts international capitalism, consumerism, and the over-exploitation of natural resources as the principle threats to the planet, and sees top-down interventions as the most effective solution. In How to Think Seriously About the Planet, Roger Scruton rejects this view and offers a fresh approach to tackling the most important political problem of our time. The environmental movement, he contends, is philosophically confused and has unrealistic agendas. Its sights are directed at the largescale events and the confrontation between international politics and multinational business. But Scruton argues that no large-scale environmental project, however well-intentioned, will succeed if it is not rooted in small-scale practical reasoning. Seeing things on a large scale promotes top-down solutions, managed by unaccountable bureaucracies that fail to assess local conditions and are rife with unintended consequences. Scruton argues for the greater efficacy of local initiatives over global schemes, civil association over political activism, and small-scale institutions of friendship over regulatory hyper-vigilance. And he suggests that conservatism is far better suited to solving environmental problems than either liberalism or socialism. Rather than entrusting the environment to unwieldy NGOs and international committees, we must assume personal responsibility and foster local control. People must be empowered to take charge of their environment, to care for it as they would a home, and to involve themselves through the kind of local associations that have been the traditional goal of conservative politics. Our common future is by no means assured, but as Roger Scruton clearly demonstrates in this important book, there is a path that can ensure the future safety of our planet and our species.
In The Soul of the World, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends the experience of the sacred against today's fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive—and to understand what we are—is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things. Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life—and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are?

Drawing on art, architecture, music, and literature, Scruton suggests that the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need, and of our quest for the being who might answer it, and that this search for the sacred endows the world with a soul. Evolution cannot explain our conception of the sacred; neuroscience is irrelevant to our interpersonal relationships, which provide a model for our posture toward God; and scientific understanding has nothing to say about the experience of beauty, which provides a God’s-eye perspective on reality.

Ultimately, a world without the sacred would be a completely different world—one in which we humans are not truly at home. Yet despite the shrinking place for the sacred in today’s world, Scruton says, the paths to transcendence remain open.

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