"If the seven sins are 'deadly' in any sense, perhaps, it is because of their apparent innocuousness, their insidious subversiveness, their undeniable ordinariness," writes philosopher Robert C. Solomon in the introduction to this sophisticated examination of the vices that were singled out by Pope Gregory the Great and have been for years since as the basis for thousands of sermons. "They may have their origins in minor lapses, untempered impulses, unchecked childhood habits. . . . It is sin that gives us each 'the face that we deserve' — the grimace of envy, the scowl of anger, the leer of lust, the puffy arrogance of pride, the droopiness of sloth, the hungry eyes and slight drool of greed and gluttony."

The essays by William Ian Miller, a professor of law; Jerome Neu, a professor of philosophy; Thomas Pynchon, a novelist; James Ogilvy, a consultant; Elizabeth V. Spelman, a professor of philosophy; William H. Gass, a novelist and philosopher; and Don Herzog, a professor of law add up to a fetching sampler of moral discourse on human desire. Here you will find stimulating philosophical assessments of moderation, sour grapes, toxic wealth, and loss of control.