Everyone deplores narcissism, especially in others. The vain are by turns annoying or absurd, offending us whether they are blissfully oblivious or proudly aware of their behavior. But are narcissism and vanity really as bad as they seem? Can we avoid them even if we try? In Mirror, Mirror, Simon Blackburn, the author of such best-selling philosophy books as Think, Being Good, and Lust, says that narcissism, vanity, pride, and self-esteem are more complex than they first appear and have innumerable good and bad forms. Drawing on philosophy, psychology, literature, history, and popular culture, Blackburn offers an enlightening and entertaining exploration of self-love, from the myth of Narcissus and the Christian story of the Fall to today's self-esteem industry.
A sparkling mixture of learning, humor, and style, Mirror, Mirror examines what great thinkers have said about self-love--from Aristotle, Cicero, and Erasmus to Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, and Iris Murdoch. It considers today's "me"-related obsessions, such as the "selfie," plastic surgery, and cosmetic enhancements, and reflects on connected phenomena such as the fatal commodification of social life and the tragic overconfidence of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Ultimately, Mirror, Mirror shows why self-regard is a necessary and healthy part of life. But it also suggests that we have lost the ability to distinguish--let alone strike a balance--between good and bad forms of self-concern.
Simon Blackburn taught philosophy for many years at the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books, including Think, Being Good, Lust, Truth, and The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.
"[A] lucid and graceful philosophical probing of self-consciousness. . . . Simon Blackburn's Mirror, Mirror is a very fine and brilliant book, full of the sort of measured analysis and keen insight you might expect from that excellent University of Cambridge philosopher. . . . Blackburn is not just a sure and supremely knowledgeable narrator in whom we can have utmost confidence, but one with a quirky ear, alert to the curious side note and irrefutable detail that can make his sometimes dusty discipline gleam with a new sheen and edge."--Shahidha Bari, Times Higher Education
"[O]ne of the best popularisers of his discipline."--The Economist
"With his hallmark clarity, lucidity, and accessibility, Blackburn gives us a remarkable set of insights into a highly significant yet too-little explored area of ethical concern. This is important and original philosophy, beautifully done."--A. C. Grayling, author of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible
"A wise, witty, and rewarding read."--Patricia S. Churchland, author of Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain
"A lively philosophical commentary on a topic of immediate cultural concern, Mirror, Mirror presents a biting critique of narcissism and other vices of the overinflated self. Simon Blackburn brings the issues to life with his customary irreverence and energy: he's alert to their moral and cultural significance, has a keen eye for the ridiculous, and wears his learning lightly."--Rae Langton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 The Self: Iris Murdoch and Uncle William 12
Chapter 2 Liriope's Son 35
Chapter 3 Worth It? 44
Chapter 4 Hubris and the Fragile Self 61
Chapter 5 Self-Esteem, Amour Propre, Pride 79
Chapter 6 Respect 109
Chapter 7 Temptation 132
Chapter 8 Integrity, Sincerity, Authenticity 163
Chapter 9 Envoi 187