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In Search of Civilization
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About the Author

Associate Professor John Armstrong is Philosopher-in-Residence at Melbourne Business School and Senior Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University. Born in Glasgow and educated at Oxford and London, he has lived in Australia since 2001. He is the author of several internationally acclaimed books, including The Secret Power of Beauty, Conditions of Love and Love, Life, Goethe.

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Civilization is not the elitist project of haughty imperialists and starched academics, but a thoroughly humane effort "to make us wise, kind and tasteful," according to this luminous philosophical meditation. To Armstrong (The Secret Power of Beauty), philosopher in residence at Melbourne Business School, civilization is many things: the culture and mores that give a people their identity; a material prosperity that underwrites the "spiritual prosperity" of creativity put to noble ends; a heroic mission of taming barbarism; "a carrier of epic meaning" that gives transcendent purpose to our all too brief lives. He traces these themes in the writings of thinkers that include Aristotle, Adam Smith, and Virginia Woolf and through charming exegeses of civilizational set pieces like Florentine museums and the Japanese tea ceremony. But Armstrong's treatment is as much visceral and emotional as intellectual; to him, civilization conjures memories of lamp-lit libraries, fine meals with good conversation, city streets lined with comfortable houses, an encounter with a Parisian prostitute that ended with him stumbling shame-faced into a church choir practice. Armstrong's manifesto makes a relaxed but compelling case that dignity, refinement, and standards stand at the center of the good life. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

A passionate and often very personal defence of civilization's qualities * Financial Times *
His style is fluent, his personality engaging, his wit sharp, his mind cultivated and his sensibilities keen * The Times *
John Armstrong is a Good Thing . . . determined to return moral philosophy to the intercourse of ordinary people * The Times Higher Education Supplement *

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