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Why Can't We Be Good?
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Why Can't We Be Good?

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  82 ratings  ·  15 reviews
The widely respected social philosopher embarks on his most gripping and broadly appealing work, asking the ultimate question of human nature: Why do we repeatedly violate our most deeply held values and beliefs?

For all our therapies, resolutions, self-help programs, and the vast religious and ethical literature available to men and women today, we return again and again
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Tarcher (first published 2007)
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This book triggered an extreme emotional reaction for me, as though it was chemically changing me. I can't entirely rationally explain why it touched me and made sense to me. Part of may be that, in its constant reminder to be patient with oneself and to change the self to understand others, I was more patient with the book than I otherwise might have been, and this was a good thing. The book has gotten mixed reviews and I understand why -- it's anecdotal, rambling and repetitive. But it's also ...more
Scott C
Jacob Needleman wrote this book by weaving together information and a narrative. I found the informational aspect of it fairly standard and quite repetitive. I found the narrative flow slightly more engaging. In fact, it's the only thing that kept me reading the entire piece.

Needleman uses a philosophy class he teaches as a springboard to develop his thesis concerning why humans "can't" be good. He then drags on, trying to tease us along, by dropping redundant snippets of reasoning to make his c
Michael Lewyn
A bit abstract for my own tastes (which of course may not be yours).
Nov 10, 2009 Klara is currently reading it
I find it quite interesting and not tiresome at all. I think one of his more interesting distinctions so far is the difference between guilt (societally ingrained feelings of wanting to correct oneself) and remorse (a coming back to yourself as a human, after having realized that you have failed your humanity). I also think that the question for me became much more vital when I realized that what comes naturally and thoughtlessly that is good, isn't necessarily the 'good' that Needleman is refer ...more
I'm not a huge fan of philosophy...but I enjoyed this. It got a little dense at times, but one important lesson that I took away from the book is that we seem to think the most/hardest about ethics when we are presented with a dilemma. The author advocates that we practice our ethics in a very conscious and deliberate way so that we work on "being good" each day. It's a skill, like learning a language...take it or leave it, it's an interesting idea to consider.
I read this several years back, and it still resonates as a pondering experience, as Professor Needleman gently, but firmly guides his students to look within at our own conflictedness ethically, morally. Its a book that deserves to be re-read. Its exposes the human dilemma between what is loving vs human conditions of selfishness, greed, fear Many of his facts and examples are startling. Its a tough concept he presents most worthy of consideration.
Maughn Gregory
This book brings together Socratic pedagogy, spirituality, wisdom studies, ancient philosophy and Judaism in a coherent inquiry into the theory and practice of living an ethical life and the kind of education that prompts it. I can't follow Needleman down his supernatural avenues, but I honor him as one of very few contemporary philosophers who still care about the "spiritual" meaning of philosophical and educational practices.
The Author is Philosophy professor at SFSU. I took a class of his which was ok. He wrote "American Soul", which I thought was excellent, but I'm not liking this book as much. All this nonsense about we know what's good, but don't act accordingly - of course we CAN do it. I think a better question would be "why don't we WANT to be good?
Virginia Bryant
There are some great things here, however there is a tendency to disregard the spirit by labeling it mind. Good and relevant questions from a philosopher deeply concerned with contemporary morality.
Needlman is the best in describing the difficult way to virtue. Reading this book gives me hope that the inner world is real, and movement to true integrity is possible!
Michael Brady
The required text for a seminar on ethics and social responsibility. It's an engaging read. Thought provoking...
Oh, philosophy. Very comforting when asking that question, what *can* we do in the face of evil?
David Tan
I got a blurb in it.
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Jacob Needleman is Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, former Visiting Professor at Duxx Graduate School of Business Leadership in Monterrey, Mexico, and former Director of the Center for the study of New Religions at The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He was educated in philosophy at Harvard, Yale and the University of Freiburg, Germany. He has also ser ...more
More about Jacob Needleman...
Money and the Meaning of Life Lost Christiantiy What Is God? The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders The Heart of Philosophy

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