Review Of "Human Predicaments And What To Do About Them" By J. Kekes

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Instead of seeing conflicts as obstacles to be surmounted, Kekes argues for seeing them as a means of making life better by testing alternatives. He says little, however, about how to test them. And his animus against liberalism and overarching moral theory (e.g., Kantianism, utilitarianism) and his championing of traditional ways of life is a complicating factor. That said, Kekes provides several thoughtful discussions of the complexity of such human problems and concerns as boredom, evil, innocence, and reflection. Kekes concludes that there is a way back from reasoned reflection to a kind of innocence, but it is “an enduring and calm acceptance of the conflicts with which [one must] cope ... and the unavoidability of human predicaments"—an acceptance that is "compatible with a simple, spontaneous, genuine, natural way of living ... that is free of pretense and self-deception.” Kekes does not supply enough argument to sustain his more general claims. He wrote extensively about evil in two previous books, and his long chapter on evil in the present book repeats that earlier work. Those who do not own his The Human Condition (CH, May'11, 48-5009) or The Roots of Evil (CH, Feb'06, 43-3323) may wish to consider this book. Summing Up: Optional. General readers.


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