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A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues

The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life

André Comte-Sponville


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In this graceful, incisive book, writer-philosopher André Comte-Sponville reexamines the classical virtues to help us understand "what we should do, who we should be, and how we should live." In the process, he gives us an entirely new perspective on the value, relevance, and charm of the Western ethical tradition. Drawing on thinkers from Aristotle to Simone Weil, by way of Aquinas, Kant, Rilke, Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Rawls, among others, Comte-Sponville elaborates on the qualities that constitute the essence and excellence of humankind. Starting with politeness-almost a virtue-and ending with love-which transcends all morality-A Small Treatise takes us on a tour of the eighteen essential virtues: fidelity, prudence, temperance, courage, justice, generosity, compassion, mercy, gratitude, humility, simplicity, tolerance, purity, gentleness, good faith, and even, surprisingly, humor.

Sophisticated, lucid, and full of wit, this modestly titled yet immensely important work provides an indispensable guide to finding what is right and good in everyday life.

Praise For A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life

“One could hardly ask for a better book . . . than this masterpiece of nuanced wisdom . . . You'll find enough here to fill every day of your life.” —Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Direct and clear . . . This is no ordinary work of philosophy.” —Anthony Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review

“A magnificent achievement, a volume full of understanding and imagination from which no reader can fail to profit.” —Charles Larmore, The New Republic

Picador, 9780805045567, 368pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2002

About the Author

André Comte-Sponville is a professor at the Sorbonne and the author of five highly acclaimed books on classical philosophy. A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues was a bestseller in France and has been translated into nineteen languages.