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On Settling
Robert E. Goodin

Paperback | 2016 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691171364
Hardcover | 2012 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691148458
128 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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In a culture that worships ceaseless striving, "settling" seems like giving up. But is it? On Settling defends the positive value of settling, explaining why this disdained practice is not only more realistic but more useful than an excessive ideal of striving. In fact, the book makes the case that we'd all be lost without settling--and that even to strive, one must first settle.

We may admire strivers and love the ideal of striving, but who of us could get through a day without settling? Real people, confronted with a complex problem, simply make do, settling for some resolution that, while almost certainly not the best that one could find by devoting limitless time and attention to the problem, is nonetheless good enough. Robert Goodin explores the dynamics of this process. These involve taking as fixed, for now, things that we reserve the right to reopen later (nothing is fixed for good, although events might always overtake us). We settle on some things in order to concentrate better on others. At the same time we realize we may need to come back later and reconsider those decisions. From settling on and settling for, to settling down and settling in, On Settling explains why settling is useful for planning, creating trust, and strengthening the social fabric--and why settling is different from compromise and resignation.

So, the next time you're faced with a thorny problem, just settle. It's no failure.

Robert E. Goodin is professor of government at the University of Essex and distinguished professor of philosophy and social and political theory at Australian National University.


"Mr. Goodin's On Settling is a brief and gentle meditation on a subject that is larger and more controversial than it may at first seem."--Daniel Akst, Wall Street Journal

"Goodin's gentle little book is brimming with intelligence, sense, and humanity, and he makes a lot of progress toward understanding a concept that has received far too little attention."--Cass Sunstein, New Republic

"[I]t may be of more use than most self-help works on the topic combined. . . . Goodin's argument is liberating."--Oliver Burkeman, Guardian

"Goodin's On Settling may be an economical 74 pages plus footnotes and index but, intellectually speaking, is no mere hors d'oeuvre."--Chris Wallace, Canberra Times

"This little book is an exercise in settling, not only a discussion of it, for Goodin has a lot more wisdom to share than he can capture in seventy-four pages. But the result of his effort is a manifestly important and worthy contribution to philosophical reflection, and no less so because it settled for being simply that rather than aspiring to say the first or last word on the subject."--David Schmidtz, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"I found this book highly rewarding. Due to its use of history and ordinary language, it is accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. . . . Goodin gives readers a well-grounded starting point for a conversation on settling--one that I hope is continued."--Harrison P. Frye, Political Studies Review and Political Theory


"This is a profound book by one of our very best social philosophers. It is a must-read in the age of unrealistic expectations and unyielding demands by extremists. It speaks both to our personal lives and to our public lives, as citizens and voters. Above all, one wishes our public leaders would heed it."--Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments vii
One • Modes of Settling 5
Where This Is Heading 5
Settling Down 7
Settling In 17
Settling Up 20
Settling For 25
Settling One's Affairs 27
Settling On: The Master Notion 27
Two • The Value of Settling 30
Settling as an Aid to Planning and Agency 31
Settling, Commitment, Trust, and Confidence 37
Settling the Social Fabric 44
Three • What Settling Is Not 51
Settling Is Not Just Compromising 52
Settling Is Not Just Conservatism 57
Settling Is Not Just Resignation 60
Four • Settling in Aid of Striving 63
Settling in Order to Strive 64
What Strivings Require Settling, and Why 66
When to Switch between One and the Other, and Why 68
Conclusions 74
Notes 75
References 93
Index 107

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