The recent spate of books and articles reflecting on the question of evil might make one forget that the question of just what constitutes goodness is no less urgent or perplexing. Everyone wants to think of himself or herself as good. But how do people become good? And what does a good life look like? The fruit of a year-long, extended conversation, "In Search of Goodness" pushes its readers to think outside the usual assumptions and pieties. The eight essays in this volume challenge the dichotomies that usually govern how goodness has been discussed in the past: altruism vs. egoism; reason vs. emotion; or moral choice vs. moral character. Instead, the contributors seek to expand the terms of the discussion by coming at goodness from a variety of perspectives: psychological, philosophic, literary, religious, and political. In each case, they emphasize the lived realities and particulars of moral phenomena, taking up examples and illustrations from life, literature, and film.
From Achilles and Billy Budd to Oskar Schindler and "The Giving Tree", the reader will find a wealth of thought-provoking insights to help better understand this most basic, but complex, element of human life and happiness.
Ruth W. Grant is professor of political science at Duke University. She is the editor of Naming Evil, Judging Evil, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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