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Why Can't We Be Good?
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About the Author

Jacob Needleman is a professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University and the former director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California.

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Needleman (philosophy, San Francisco State Univ.) here poses an age-old question: Why do adherents of religious traditions aspire to moral ideals they cannot keep? He then repeatedly begs more questions that he does not directly answer. For instance: Who defines what is "good," or what constitutes morality? Is simply stating a version of the golden rule enough to establish morality? Why would a good God create a flawed world in which evil seems to have the upper hand and suffering predominates? Needleman looks to Plato, Socrates, Hillel, and a variety of religious traditions for an answer. His is a spiritual search for comfort in the hope that humans can be moral-or at least, that one human can be moral. Beginning college courses in ethics may find his book useful; recommended for large academic libraries.-James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton P.L., GA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Most people have a intrinsic desire to do good rather than evil, yet all humans fail in perplexing ways to do good. Needleman's titular question has haunted philosophers and religious thinkers since Socrates. Needleman, professor of philosophy at San Francisco State and popular author of Lost Christianity, offers his eloquent and entertaining thoughts about why humans are such flops at goodness. He draws on a wide range of philosophers, religious thinkers and psychologists-from Socrates to Buddha to Rabbi Hillel-and discovers that our inability to be good is simple: humans are creatures of choice, and our freedom allows us to make bad choices as well as good ones. This freedom, however, is also "the freedom to love and act justly toward man." Using exercises from his own classes, Needleman suggests that the practice of attending to the other-listening carefully, repeating what the other person has said to ensure an accurate hearing-moves us a long way toward achieving the good. Though Needleman's answer to this age-old question about goodness is no more satisfying or original than any other, his lively prose, storytelling skills and lucid insights draw us into an animated conversation with a brilliant teacher. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"As usual Jacob Needleman gets to the heart of the matter with eloquence and efficiency. Perhaps it would be better to say the dark heart of the matter, for we find ourselves beset with trials and tribulations of our own shameful making. How to get out? Here is the road map-with a beautiful speck of light at the end of a very difficult path. This is Needleman's best work." -Ken Burns "An immensely learned man who is unembarrassed by the big questions that many of his fellow philosophers prefer to dodge." -"Chicago Tribune" "This book doesn't offer quick fixes or shortcuts, but it does present a way for readers attempting to follow an ethical, spiritual path to recognize, understand, and assimilate their human limitations." -"New Age Retailer"

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