A Decent Life: Morality for the Rest of Us (Hardcover)
In a world full of suffering and deprivation, it’s easy to despair—and it’s also easy to judge ourselves for not doing more. Even if we gave away everything we own and devoted ourselves to good works, it wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems. It would make them better, though. So is that what we have to do? Is anything less a moral failure? Can we lead a fundamentally decent life without taking such drastic steps?
Todd May has answers. He’s not the sort of philosopher who tells us we have to be model citizens who display perfect ethics in every decision we make. He’s realistic: he understands that living up to ideals is a constant struggle. In A Decent Life, May leads readers through the traditional philosophical bases of a number of arguments about what ethics asks of us, then he develops a more reasonable and achievable way of thinking about them, one that shows us how we can use philosophical insights to participate in the complicated world around us. He explores how we should approach the many relationships in our lives—with friends, family, animals, people in need—through the use of a more forgiving, if no less fundamentally serious, moral compass. With humor, insight, and a lively and accessible style, May opens a discussion about how we can, realistically, lead the good life that we aspire to.
A philosophy of goodness that leaves it all but unattainable is ultimately self-defeating. Instead, Todd May stands at the forefront of a new wave of philosophy that sensibly reframes our morals and redefines what it means to live a decent life.
About the Author
Todd May is the Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities at Clemson University. He is the author of many books, including A Fragile Life and A Significant Life, both also published by the University of Chicago Press.
"While no one would confuse it for light reading, May’s style is conversational, frequently funny and overall, he comes across as a very, shall we say, decent guy. May’s book is not prescriptive but is actually something better: a meditation on how striving for decency is a route towards personal satisfaction and happiness, even in a world that may seem to disadvantage the decent. . . . The book acknowledges the complexity of human beings and the world at large and offers a way of thinking about those complexities without falling into the dreaded trap of 'moral relativism.' Put simply, I am a better person for having read this book."
— John Warner
— Times Higher Education
— Publishers Weekly
— John Kaag, author of Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are
— Jeff McMahan, University of Oxford
— Svend Brinkman, author of Standpoints: Ten Old Ideas in a New World
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