From the creator of The Good Place and the cocreator of Parks and Recreation, a hilarious, thought-provoking guide to living an ethical life, drawing on 2,400 years of deep thinking from around the world.
Most people think of themselves as “good,” but it’s not always easy to determine what’s “good” or “bad”—especially in a world filled with complicated choices and pitfalls and booby traps and bad advice. Fortunately, many smart philosophers have been pondering this conundrum for millennia and they have guidance for us. With bright wit and deep insight, How to Be Perfect explains concepts like deontology, utilitarianism, existentialism, ubuntu, and more so we can sound cool at parties and become better people.
Schur starts off with easy ethical questions like “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” (No.) and works his way up to the most complex moral issues we all face. Such as: Can I still enjoy great art if it was created by terrible people? How much money should I give to charity? Why bother being good at all when there are no consequences for being bad? And much more. By the time the book is done, we’ll know exactly how to act in every conceivable situation, so as to produce a verifiably maximal amount of moral good. We will be perfect, and all our friends will be jealous. OK, not quite. Instead, we’ll gain fresh, funny, inspiring wisdom on the toughest issues we face every day.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Moral philosophy is a fascinating subject. Who wouldn’t want to learn to be a better person? The problem is that many philosophy books can be dense and boring. Enter Michael Schur, creator of the hit TV series The Good Place, who has written an easy-to-understand—and very funny—introduction to morality. Schur became interested in the topic when he began writing his iconoclastic sitcom about a selfish woman committed to improving herself in the afterlife, and he assumes we know as little about Descartes and nihilism as he did when he started. How to Be Perfect provides a brief history of philosophical thinking while also working as a sort of workbook for living in the modern world. For example, Schur explains the African philosophy of ubuntu by arguing why you should always return your shopping cart to the parking-lot corral. Laugh while you learn with this fun, charming read.
Schur, an Emmy Award winning television producer and a writer for TV shows including The Office and Parks and Recreation, debuts with a zippy guide to achieving moral perfection. While writing for The Good Place, Schur pored over 2,500 years' worth of philosophy to learn about human behavior and what it means to be good. Here, he lays out his findings, covering Aristotle's notion of happiness as the ultimate goal, Kant's deontology that considers happiness irrelevant, and the anguished existentialism of Sartre and Camus. Along the way, he presents questions and answers: "Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?" (he advises against it), "Should I lie and tell my friend I like her ugly shirt?" (best to find a way to be honest but soften the blow), and how to separate the art from the artist (it's possible to hold two things as true at once, that their art is good and they are "troubling"). Schur concludes that goodness comes down to what's inscribed on the temple at Delphi: "Know thyself." His chatty, informal, and often irreverent style does well to balance the serious inquiries. This smart romp is sure to pique those who tend to wonder about the right way to be.