Mark Matousek, best selling author of “When You’re Falling, Dive,” “The Boy He Left Behind,” and “Sex Death Enlightenment,” presents in his latest book; Ethical Wisdom: What Makes Us Good, an inspiring and thought-provoking examination of what makes us good (and evil) and provides insights to the question – How ought we to live? This book suggests that emotions not logic enable morality, and delivers a thoroughly researched and beautifully written analyses on what Matousek terms our five primary moral foundations or moral receptors; innate principles or universal receptors that guide our moral judgments and factor into how we respond/react to events in our lives; both good and evil.
The five principles which divide the book into a literary symphony of five parts are: 1) Harm and Care – we are sensitive to pain (ours and others), we have keen emotions around threats and nurturing, and this factors into our acts of kindness, and our propensity for acts of emotional support and protection. 2) Justice and Fairness – we depend on laws and rights to stop offensive acts, and our belief in reciprocity and just punishment help us live harmoniously as individuals in groups while mitigating our inclination to vigilante behavior. 3) In-Group Loyalty – Our reliance on our group affiliations, patriotism, tribal pride and support of our community is crucial to ethics and shapes our reactions to “others” with not always positive outcomes.
4) Authority and Respect – we are attracted to codes of conduct and leadership figures that maintain our traditions and ways of life; a positive when we have good leadership as these figures can become examples of expected ethical behavior. And 5) Purity and Sacredness – this key moral precept turns us toward the divine and is a doorway to our yearning for goodness/purity and our proclivity for religious fervor. In exploring these principles, the author uses powerful stories, research, intellectual rigor and humor to help us answer many questions including; Which parts of morality are biological, which ethical? When should instinct be trusted and when does it lead us into trouble? and the key question: How Ought I to Live? I enjoyed reading this book and was impressed by the insights and stories which helped elucidate and explore the notion of good and evil… More below. Have a restful Memorial Day!