Written by Henry James Garrett


Review by Gunnel Minett

Souvenir  Press, 2020, 197pp., £12.99 hardcover, illustrated  ISBN 978-178816 548 8

Henry James Garrett is a writer and illustrator for newspapers and websites and this shines through in this book. It is filled with often very funny and thought-provoking illustrations and the style is very light-hearted. But once you start reading the book you realise that it is dealing with deep and important issues of morality, empathy and kindness. 

The book is Garrett’s second attempt to write a book on meta-ethics. The first was an academic book. It emerged from his academic studies of the topic, which, for various reasons, he decided to abandon. He did not, however, drop the subject entirely. Instead he wrote this light-hearted version. But despite the change in audience, he is still addressing the same important issues, which are indeed highly relevant in today’s divided societies. 

In particular Britain and USA have been through periods of severe division. Brexit and Donald Trump have been two very divisive forces, splitting opinions and even family members. So, there’s certainly an urgent need for the healing of our ability to display morality, empathy and kindness towards each other.

In the book, the author looks at the differences (if any) between the concepts of morality, empathy and kindness. His conclusion is that in order to improve kindness you need to examine your ability to show empathy. Once you understand how this can be done and how you can improve in this area you will also start to become a more moral person. A person who is able to listen and understand others will improve their ability to show empathy. And once a person can identify with others, with whom they may disagree and and being ignorant of their situation, they will likely find it harder to dismiss the others’ views and actions, and consequently start to show more empathy and kindness. 

Lack of empathy is mostly linked with lack of understanding of another person’s situation. So, according to the author, we need to learn how to listen, how to make mistakes and learn from them and how to change our opinions. In short, this is the message of this book. With its very straight forward and accessible style, the book deals with these important and sometimes complicated issues, in a way that most people easily can relate to. An added bonus is that because the style is so gentle and light-hearted and the illustrations so funny and thought-provoking, the book can be an excellent gift to someone you think would benefit from a boost to their kindness. By giving the book to someone you would like to improve your relationship with,  you might be able to open up a dialogue or, at least, hint at this in the kindest possible way. And in the current situation, with its need for the healing of broken relationships, there are probably many people who could benefit from reflecting on ways to become kinder to others.

Souvenir  Press, 2020, 197pp., £12.99 hardcover, illustrated  ISBN 978-178816 548 8