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Ethical Wisdom: The Search for a Moral Life [Kindle Edition]

Mark Matousek

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“Mark Matousek guides us through a revolution in ethical science with deft, thought-provoking style. Ethical Wisdom is a riveting, fun, and insightful tour of life’s meaning and purpose, essential reading for anyone drawn to the query, ‘How ought we to live?’”
—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
“Mark Matousek has done some magic: he has written an informed, intelligent, humorous, insightful, and juicy book on ethics. You’ll enjoy this book and maybe become a better person because of it.”
—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“I don’t know how he has done it, but Mark Matousek has written a book about being good without being moralistic or judgmental. Ethical Wisdom is a call to our higher selves. Read it!”
—Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues 
“This broad-ranging book is remarkable for its emotional intensity, and for its message of redemption; it is a delineation of hope itself.”
—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon
“Bringing together the best of today’s scientific research with a plainspoken forthrightness, Ethical Wisdom does what few books of this type can do: it inspires.”
—Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts without a Thinker
Ethical Wisdom is a unique delight—a fascinating, enlightening, and adventurous romp through the territories of philosophy, psychology, science, and spirituality. Mark Matousek has pulled off a most difficult task: he has written an intellectually rigorous and expansive book that is also beautiful and funny and inspiring.”
—Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of Omega Institute and author of Broken Open
“This book springs from the latest research on biology [and] some of the oldest human wisdom. Both are interesting, and together they are potent.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
Ethical Wisdom provides tremendous insight into our collective and individual psyches. Like GPS for the soul, it is a necessary guide for human evolution, and survival, in the 21st century.”
—Peter Buffett, founder of the NoVo Foundation and author of Life is What You Make It
“Engaging, thought provoking, and enlightening . . . this book acts as an insider’s guide to what makes us tick, and gently prompts us to look in the mirror and at our place in the great pond of life. A must read for anyone interested in making the world a better place.”
—John P. Forsyth, Ph.D., coauthor of Your Life on Purpose


Since the days of the first primitive tribes, we have tried to determine why one man is good and another evil. Mark Matousek arrives at the answer in Ethical Wisdom.

Contrary to what we've been taught in our reason-obsessed culture, emotions are the bedrock of ethical life; without them, human beings cannot be empathic, moral, or good.

But how do we make the judgment call between self-interest and caring for others? What does being good really mean? Which parts of morality are biological, which ethical? When should instinct be trusted and when does it lead us into trouble? How can we know ourselves to be good amidst the hypocrisy, fears, and sabotaging appetites that pervade our two-sided natures?

Drawing on the latest scientific research and interviews with social scientists, spiritual leaders, ex-cons, altruists, and philosophers, Matousek examines morality from a scientific, sociological, and anthropological standpoint. Each chapter features a series of questions, readings, interviews, parables, and anecdotes that zoom in on a particular niche of moral inquiry, making this book both utilitarian and fun.

Ethical Wisdom is an insightful and important book for readers crisscrossing their own murky moral terrain.

From the Hardcover edition.


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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.8 von 5 Sternen  21 Rezensionen
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Descartes meets Aesop 2. Juni 2011
Von Gwenyth Jackaway, Ph.D. - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Ethical Wisdom is a remarkable book. In this deeply engaging exploration of some of life's most challenging issues, Mark Matousek achieves a rare synthesis: the successful intermingling of timeless philosophical inquiry, cutting edge academic research and the age old art of the teaching story. Interweaving a breathtaking synthesis of a vast range of scholarship with captivating vignettes and riveting interviews, Ethical Wisdom weaves together an impressive range of disciplines and perspectives, managing to avoid common political, religious and moral pitfalls that often cloud discussions of such issues. Bringing his considerable talents to the challenge of presenting complex concepts in an accessible manner, Matousek achieves that elusive goal: entertaining while educating. As a college professor, I can only dream of reaching, in my classroom what Matousek achieves in these pages.

Gwenyth Jackaway, Ph.D
Associate Professor
Communication and Media Studies
Fordham University
9 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen First impression: Too lite, too superficial, assumes too much 2. Juli 2011
Von English Setter - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This seems to be intended to be uplifting and inspirational -- "positive" -- rather than particularly thoughtful or searching. It draws on many sources, but doesn't seek out the disagreements and tensions between those sources. It assumes that morality has five common supports or pillars, and therefore, that ethics/morality is more or less universal and stable over time. This seems highly dubious, so I would have appreciated a deeper look at the differences between moralities and mores in different cultures. But it seems that this subject is raised and then abandoned.

The mix here is Buddhism + Judaism + feminism + liberalism + contemporary American cultural influences + environmentalism + evolutionary biology + brain research. (But none of the inevitable disagreements between these perspectives are really explored.) There's nothing wrong with that -- it's rather congenial to me, but not challenging.

It seems that Matousek doesn't bother to get a lot of little things right, and simply makes stuff up when he wants to. For instance, is it meaningful or correct to say we only use twenty percent of our brains? Another example: A reference to a funny scene in "Being John Malkovich" which misunderstands the reason why everything becomes "Malkovich": The reason is that it's a feedback loop caused by the bizarre situation, *not* that the *director* ventures inside the movie star's head.

In sum: In large and in small, this raises a lot of interesting points and theories but doesn't synthesize them well, or discuss them perceptively, so I don't think it's worth a highly careful read or a thorough critique. It's really more of a feel-good, try-a-little-harder sort of book. Not as deep as your average New Yorker article, and more scattered.

If I'm wrong about this, on second glance, I'll say so, but my gut tells me this isn't a book that's worth the effort.

From *is* to *ought*: There *are* a lot of good, searching books out there, so we *ought* to pay attention to those, and challenge ourselves instead of reading Ethics Lite.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent choice 23. Januar 2012
Von Francheska - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
My husband and I are both enjoying this book. We have had many good discussions stemming from it.
Fantastic book!
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Great Book - And That's the Truth! 22. September 2011
Von Stacey Diane Cohen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I was intrigued by the title, Ethical Wisdom, but didn't know what to expect before reading it. What I found was a wonderful and enlightening book. The information spans scientific research, the workings of the brain, evolution information, and philosophical and spiritual issues centering around moral issues and what causes us to behave and react the way we do in this realm. I've previously tried to read books which tried to explain human behavior using scientific research and was not able to get through them because they were too dry or too complex. Matousek has the talent to explain difficult scientific constructs in an interesting, meaningful and easily readable way. The concepts in this book also raise important social, technological, and child-rearing issues and I believe it would be especially beneficial for anyone interacting with children to read. The material in this book has caused me to think twice about my ethical decisions and actions, but I would not think twice about highly recommending this book.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Timely and Insightful 15. November 2011
Von rita freedman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Ethical Wisdom is wise, engaging and especially timely because it examines the fundamental political challenge we face in America today - our barren moral landscape. Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street Movement is also trying to shine a bright light on this dark ethical void. They could certainly use the insights of this book to clarify and articulate their goals. Matousek mixes just the right blend of scholarship, interviews and anecdotes, then anchors them in a solid theoretical framework. The section on disgust and it's connection to food and morality was especially fascinating. I'd never realized how disgust is used to create social stigma and thereby to justify exclusion and persecution. The tests and games at the end really bring the chapters to life on a personal level.
Rita Freedman, Ph.D. - psychologist
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