Ideas that Matter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am

Ideas that Matter
by A.C. Grayling
Phoenix, HK$130

Fans of prolific philosopher A.C. Grayling may wonder where he finds time to think and write: the Birkbeck College professor is also a contributing editor of Prospect magazine and editor of Online Review London. In Ideas that Matter, his 27th title, he provides a guide to religious, philosophical, scientific and political thoughts that have shaped our world. Although essentially an A-Z of ideas from Absolutism to Zeitgest, the book includes what few other guides do: the author's feelings (sometimes manifesting as snippiness) about certain subjects. In the entry for 'afterlife', he wonders how many 'resurrected individuals saw a light at the end of the tunnel' because they were lying on a hospital bed under lamps, then writes, 'Having suffered delirium in a high fever ... I can testify to the very odd effects on consciousness produced by disease and trauma.' Adding zest to what could have been bland explanations is Grayling's personality, which comes through in tracts such as this on Vegetarianism. Addressing carnivores, he writes: 'Perhaps you like filling your mouth with rotting flesh full of injected hormones and vaccines, pullulating with microbes and covered in microbe diarrhoea.'