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Ethics is personal and culture has a purpose

Across three volumes After You, Jackson is an attempt to encourage the average smart person to do what they like doing. Think.

Three philosophers provide the central narrative structure and, thought by thought, their powerful ideas reveal and illustrate a new approach to ethics. The great triumvirate of Deontology, Utilitarianism, and Virtue Ethics are given over to thinking from a much more personal perspective, with a variety of images, as well as specific examples from culture.

In volume one, ideas such as prejudice, conversation, experience, play and commitment are discussed and illuminated as Hans-Georg Gadamer is matched and paired with Sherlock Holmes, Wilfred Bion, René Magritte, a 1938 Jazz event, and AC/DC. The coupling of Gadamer’s ideas with twins from culture helps explain, give shape and provide substance. The premise being that art, in all its forms, can grip and engage in different ways to black text on a white page. Colour, sound and movement create space to linger and think just as much as the choicest flowing text.

In the second volume, Emmanuel Levinas, supported by Silvia Benso, stares into the face of the other and discovers responsibility, tenderness and the limits of knowledge. In the process death, murder, silence, torment and zombies are tackled alongside Kafka, American abstract art, anthropology, Hemingway and Tolstoy. Critical to the development of ethical thinking in this volume is the serious task of abstract art, the problem of difference and the very real need to get over one’s self.

Volume three examines barriers and opportunities for self-development through the lens of Jean-Paul Sartre. Hard questions are asked concerning identity, freedom, responsibility and growth, such as “Who am I?” Art, music, literature and film are all delved into to help understand the questions, but also to point out the direction of travel. From American History X to The Third Man, The Name of the Rose to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Georgia O’Keeffe to John Lee Hooker, the self is viewed though film, prose, art and music.

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