Writer, philosopher, Patron and Vice President of Humanists UK, born 1949
I believe in the good life – and by “good” I don’t mean prissy and puritanical. I think having fun, sex, travel and all those things are a rich part of the human experience. Our lives are less than a thousand months long and to make the best of it we need to have fun, form strong friendships and make the best of the gifts we have.
– A C Grayling in an interview in The Independent on Sunday, 8 April 2007
Anthony Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities and a Supernumary Fellow of St Anne’s College. A philosopher who believes that philosophy should emerge from its ivory tower and play useful role in society, Grayling is happy to engage publicly with the problems of contemporary society. He is involved in UN human rights initiatives, is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum, helped lawyers acting for Diane Pretty, and has written and spoken for freedom of speech and secularism and against faith schools and sharia law. In December 2001 he wrote in The Guardian: “’faith -based’ schools…are inherently and intrinsically divisive… Expecting immigrant communities to begin as good guests and end as good friends…requires greater mutual knowledge and contact of the kind that comes principally from mixed secular schooling…” He has written for The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect.He has been a Booker Prize judge, and also participates regularly in radio and television discussions; as a result he is probably one of Britain’s best known intellectuals.
In November 2003 he gave Humanists UK Voltaire lecture “Enlightenment & Counter-Enlightenment: Then and Now” (click here for an account of the lecture). He is also an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Association.
A C Grayling’s opposition to sharia law and faith schools is often expressed, for example in this “Comment is Free” piece in The Guardian). He also opposes censorship and in July 2002 he was one of the distinguished humanists who put their names to the publication and distribution of James Kirkup’s poem “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” in a public challenge to the blasphemy law in the name of free speech.
He is is also a patron of Dignity in Dying, and has written:
I believe that decisions about the timing and manner of death belong to the individual as a human right. This is especially relevant in cases of terminal illness, painful or undignified unrelievable illness, exhausting old age, and other circumstances where an individual might wish to make the autonomous decision to end his or her life. I further believe that it is wrong to withhold medical methods of terminating life painlessly and swiftly when an individual requests them on the basis of a rational and clear-minded sustained wish to end his or her life.
He has written and edited many other books on philosophy and other subjects; those of particular interest to humanists include:
- Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness (Oberon, 2007), a collection of essays challenging religions: their demands for faith-based schooling and for respect, their frequent claim that atheism is itself a faith position or fundamentalist, and the idea that religion is necessary for an ethical philosophy. He argues instead for a set of values based on reason, reflection and sympathy, taking his cue from the great ethical tradition of western philosophy.
- Moral Values (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998)
- The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life [Introduction] (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001) (published in the U.S. as Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age)
- The Reason of Things (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002)
- What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003)
- The Mystery of Things (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003)
- The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the 21st Century ( Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005, Phoenix, 2006)
- Life, Sex and Ideas: The Good Life Without God ( Oxford University Press, 2005)
- The Form of Things ( Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006)
- The Good Book: A Secular Bible (2011)
Buy A C Grayling’s books at Amazon.co.uk through this link and a small commission will go to Humanists UK.
Amongst A C Grayling’s many articles, humanists may find these particularly interesting:
- “Believers are away with the fairies”, Daily Telegraph, 26/3/07
- The milk of humanist kindness, Comment is Free …, Guardian, 21/11/06
- “Reason lost” , Comment is Free …, Guardian, August, 2006
- “Can an atheist be a fundamentalist?”, Comment is Free …, Guardian, May 2006
- ”Religious radicals want to limit our freedoms, so to curb free speech is to give them exactly what they want” New Statesman essay, July 2005
- ”Two words of warning: Northern Ireland” on faith schools in the TES, July 2005
- “Keep God out of public affairs”, Observer, Sunday August 12 2001
- “Don’t leave morals to the madmen“, Guardian , Wednesday March 22, 2000
- “Despite superficial appearances of a resurgence in religious belief, we are actually witnessing the death throes of faith” ( Prospect on-line, November 2006), an article contradicting the idea that “we are witnessing an upsurge in religious observance and influence… the outcome is not in doubt. As private observance, religion will of course survive among minorities; as a factor in public and international affairs it is having what might be its last—characteristically bloody—fling.”
- On the obligation to be honest and the need for trust
- On religion and humanism
- A C Grayling: In search of the Holy Grayling , an interview in The Independent, February 2006
- His humanist “Thought for the Day” on toleration