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“The Ends of Life” by Keith Thomas

The first chapter explores the concept of personal fulfillment. It is a discussion of how a person should live beyond the material since nothing material can equal the afterlife. The book explains that all people must be satisfied in whatever they have in this life while considering the salvation of their souls, no matter what their status in life, may it be the well-off or the poor. Thomas emphasizes the importance of man’s adherence to conventions, to conform to what is morally accepted, whether in religion or in personal behavior.

Nonconformity means the personal singularity and individuality with the pursuit of being different. This individual mind set of being independent of others and the conventional norms cause a “naughty spirit” in which evil begins. The next chapter Thomas emphasizes that all societies which depend upon force for survival are the strongest and courageous. Societies’ dependence on force enables them to have enough supply of sources for subsistence. For instance, honor for the nobles mean the proof of their lives and status, and for a military man, valor is important as it is more glorious to die in battle.

But civilian power is yet more powerful because of the strength of character and conquering one’s desire is greater than conquering others. In the third chapter, Thomas emphasizes the importance of work and its rewards. A person needs to work to support his or her economic needs to support his or her physical desires. Although at times hard, a person’s job treated with interest and dedication can be a career or a vocation, only with some disturbances as leisure. He noted Thomas Jefferson’s idea of idleness as miserable and Marx’s notion that labor or work enables a person to reflection and realization of his or her self.

Thomas delves on the concepts of reputation, integrity and shame in the next chapter. He also discusses sexual morality and explains that what courage meant to men is austerity to women, this gives them honor. But this “purity” is vanished with the societies’ openness to individuality and personal life. In the 18th century, the family and the significant others had emerged to give us the most satisfactions. Thomas discusses the real essence of human restlessness, the fear of the unconscious in the last chapter.

He explained that a person’s concept of the afterlife motivates him to live a worthy life on earth so people will remember, even after one person’s death. Fame is important to others as they hope to maintain it even in the afterlife, as he emphasizes that every man dreams that their names be remembered forever. He concludes that humans have endless desires because of their search for fulfillment. Most people simply look for temporary happiness from their jobs and family and friends and by appreciating them gives them satisfaction but make them realize the end of life.

Thomas’ book generally argued that there are six factors which give motivation to live a life on purpose. These factors to include “military prowess, work and vocation, wealth and possessions, honor and reputation, friendship and sociability, and fame and the afterlife” were discussed using personal true experiences from great men in history starting from the Reformation to the days of the Enlightenment by exploring the ways in which people sought to lead fulfilling lives, emphasizing the central values of the key periods in his text.

, and elaborating on the constant problems of human existence. Thomas has given the modern readers a clear evidence of the recurrent problems of human beings because of dissatisfaction and the concept of individuality. He gas provided reliable sources to his arguments, known people in their field. Although it is true that religion has a great impact on humans’ view of life and the afterlife, man’s instinct or desires overpower what is moral, especially this day of modernization.

Humans always dream of leaving a reputable legacy after they die so they work, no matter how hard and refuse to be idle. His explanation of heroic deeds, a professional career or a rewarding work, and being wealthy or rich is interesting but they are not the ultimate source of eternal happiness or the true way to fulfillment. Those material things will only give temporary happiness, fame and honor since those do not exist in the afterlife.

Yet, the ultimate satisfaction and happiness can be gained even in the life here on earth by knowing true spirituality. It is the spirit that must guide the flesh, even the desires of man. Without the spirit the flesh dies so material satisfaction follows spiritual satisfaction. A man must seek spiritual fulfillment first to be contented materially and eventually be happy, in life and even in the end of life on earth. The most reliable source, historically and morally is the Bible.

It says “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? ” No man can be satisfied with material wealth and fame. So God recommends to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” because God is the Provider of everything. References Thomas, Keith. The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfillment in Early Modern England. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009 pp. 1-331.

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