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A Slap in the Face

Why Insults Hurt--And Why They Shouldn't

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Insults are part of the fabric of daily life. But why do we insult each other? Why do insults cause us such pain? Can we do anything to prevent or lessen this pain? Most importantly, how can we overcome our inclination to insult others? In A Slap in the Face, William Irvine undertakes a wide-ranging investigation of insults, their history, the role they play in social relationships, and the science behind them. He examines not just memorable zingers, such as Elizabeth Bowen's description of Aldous Huxley as "The stupid person's idea of a clever person," but subtle insults as well, such as when someone insults us by reporting the insulting things others have said about us: "I never read bad reviews about myself," wrote entertainer Oscar Levant, "because my best friends invariably tell me about them." Irvine also considers the role insults play in our society: they can be used to cement relations, as when a woman playfully teases her husband, or to enforce a social hierarchy, as when a boss publicly berates an employee. He goes on to investigate the many ways society has tried to deal with insults-by adopting codes of politeness, for example, and outlawing hate speech-but concludes that the best way to deal with insults is to immunize ourselves against them: We need to transform ourselves in the manner recommended by Stoic philosophers. We should, more precisely, become insult pacifists, trying hard not to insult others and laughing off their attempts to insult us. A rousing follow-up to A Guide to the Good Life, A Slap in the Face will interest anyone who's ever delivered an insult or felt the sting of one--in other words, everyone.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 14, 2013 – We may not like to admit it, but the impulse to wound with words has long been a part of human history, Irvine (A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy) contends in this m lange of philosophy, psychology, and cultural study. Insults may range from barbs meant as flirtatious bait to the famously eloquent gibes of Shakespeare, but Irvine pragmatically argues that regardless of intention or context, we must understand insults in order to deal with them: Sticks and stones can break your bones, he concedes, but you should develop a strategy to minimize the pain you experience when people call you names. To that end, Irvine, a philosophy professor at Wayne State University, investigates the history of abuse, as well as the rhetoric of insult delivery and the science behind feeling affronted. He posits that the power of insults derives from our profoundly social nature, and that we wouldn t feel hurt if we weren t simultaneously invested in others and worried about how they see us. Irvine ultimately opines that a return to the pacifism and equanimity of the ancient Stoics is our best bet for dealing with insult, and while such a stance may be off-putting to some readers, Irvine adds a welcome dose of insight to injury.
A Slap in the Face
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Ancient
  • Published: Feb 01, 2013
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Seller: Oxford University Press
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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