Synopses & Reviews
You won’t see the world in the same light after reading this urgent and inspiring call to action.
In this thought-provoking book, Dutch philosopher Floris van den Berg proposes a new perspective, called universal subjectivism, which can be adopted by anyone regardless of religious or philosophical orientation. It takes into consideration the universal capacity for suffering and, through raising awareness, seeks to diminish that suffering and increase happiness. With consistent and compelling moral reasoning, van den Berg shows that the world can be organized to ensure more pleasure, beauty, justice, happiness, health, freedom, animal welfare, and sustainability.
The author emphasizes that today the near-term future is our greatest challenge: our affluent western lifestyle will soon exceed the limits of the earth’s sustainable capacity and must soon change drastically to ward off a worldwide environmental collapse.
Knowing this, we should all reevaluate the daily routines we take for granted: taking the car to work, boarding a plane to a business or vacation destination, eating meat, or using plastic bags in stores. There are ethical and ecological objections to each of these examples. In fact, if we applied a strict ethical analysis to our lifestyle, almost nothing we do would pass muster. A lot of avoidable suffering attaches to our way of life. After reading this book, the world won’t look the same.
Concluding with an eco-humanist manifesto, this book not only offers much food for thought but, more importantly, an urgent and inspiring call to action.
"In this primarily political guidebook, Van Den Berg introduces what he calls the philosophy of universal subjectivism. It becomes evident, though, that this is not a unitary system emergent from fleshed-out premises as much as it is a long-practiced mental exercise. Reminiscent of spontaneous childhood introspection, Van Den Berg's philosophy presented as the sum of John Rawls's and Peter Singer's charges individuals to reimagine society from the position of one at the political and ethical control board. The express purpose of this thought experiment is to 'diminish suffering and promote happiness.' While ensuing chapters emphasize Van Den Berg's prioritization of suffering, the topic of happiness is directly addressed only to be essentially dismissed. This is not surprising given an early statement in which the author exonerates his philosophy from going into exhaustive detail on the fundamentals, asserting that all basic questions of philosophy play second fiddle to ecological crisis. This stance manifests itself repeatedly as statements that result from philosophical rumination are presented without qualification. Neither the philosophical basis for governmental involvement nor the reason for privileging suffering are satisfactorily substantiated. The author takes a dim view of humankind while calling for dramatic behavioral changes meant to accomplish a goal never integrated into a comprehensive philosophy. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Floris van den Berg is a lecturer on environmental philosophy at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. He is also the executive director of the Center for Inquiry Low Countries and vice president of the freethought association De Vrije Gedachte. He is the author of four books in Dutch.