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 2,500 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.
About Michael Schur
Michael Herbert Schur is an American television producer, writer, and character actor. He was a producer and writer for the comedy series The Office, and co-created Parks and Recreation with Office producer Greg Daniels.
A book of philosophy written by the creator of The Good Place?!
Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything -- youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. So, one cold November morning, she takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. But she does -- at a mental hospital where she is told that she has only days to live.
Inspired by events in Coelho's own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Bold and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.
You know how there are just certain things in life that your brain simply cannot comprehend no matter how hard you try? For me, that’s philosophy. Philosophy seems like something that should totally work for me, but the bigger picture, that moment of clarity, of understanding, NEVER comes. I signed up for Philosophy 101 in University and I’m not sure if I had the worst teacher known to man but I walked out less than halfway through the first class. The sole exception to this has been The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. Say what you want, but that shit is legit. Veronika could take a lesson or two from Pooh Bear.
So, Veronika decides to die. That’s not a spoiler, clearly.
‘When she had achieved almost everything she wanted in life, she had reached the conclusion that her existence had no meaning, because every day was the same. And she had decided to die.’
She decides, over a period of months where she begins collecting sleeping pills, that there is essentially no more point to life because she’s already accomplished everything. So why continue to live it? Veronika takes the pills yet she’s discovered by an unknown individual and wakes to find herself in Villete, the infamous mental hospital. She’s devastated to find that she didn’t succeed in her task but is informed by the doctor that she damaged her heart irreparably and that she has less than a week to live. Initially, this book started off strong and it seemed as if it would be an interesting look into the workings of a mental illness but Paulo Coelho opted to go for a philosophical angle instead which flawed the whole point he was trying to make. Within these short 191 pages, we’re introduced to other individuals currently staying at Villete: a woman with acute anxiety and a man with schizophrenia which are all meant to be traits of Coelho himself who was institutionalized when he was young.
‘In a world where everyone struggles to survive whatever the cost, how could one judge those people who decide to die? No one can judge. Each person knows the extent of their own suffering, or the total absence of meaning in their lives.’
There is much confusion when it comes to the medical aspects of the novel and the even more ridiculous plot twist. In a nutshell, this story is about reveling in our differences, the fact that what society views as “insanity” isn’t necessarily so, and the necessity for finding the beauty in each new day of life. While I understand what Paulo Coelho was intending with this story, taking a serious subject like attempted suicide and giving it a picture perfect (and unrealistic) ending made it all so very contrived.
"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug."
With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young traveling salesman who, transformed overnight into a giant, beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. Rather than being surprised at the transformation, the members of his family despise it as an impending burden upon themselves.
A harrowing–though absurdly comic–meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W. H. Auden wrote, ”Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.”
‘I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.’
Imagine you go to bed one night with nothing out of the ordinary occurring only to wake up to find you have transformed into a monstrous insect overnight. Your family can no longer communicate with you, they no longer can even stand to look at you. You’ve become repulsive and abhorrent for seemingly no apparent reason. What do you do?
Everyone has heard of The Metamorphosis, Kafka’s literary masterpiece, a book that is obviously more than meets the eye. The story possessed a dream-like quality where nothing is ever considered appropriately, as Gregor accepted his transformation into insect form a lot more readily than one might normally. Many have attempted to form their own interpretations of the story but I personally can’t see it being anything other than a metaphor. While there are bound to be several different opinions on this, this is what I came up with:
Up until that life altering morning Gregor led an uneventful life where he worked constantly to support his family and in turn they steadily grew unproductive the more they began to depend on him. Gregor travels so often for work that communication between him and his family begins to cease and most importantly his family stops being appreciative of all he does for them and instead begins to simply expect it. That fateful morning he woke and began to contemplate his job and how terrible he finds it and if he didn’t have his parents to worry about he would have “given in my notice a long time ago, I’d have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel.” The more and more he dwells on this the more he realizes what he does for them, what they don’t do and how his work ethic in order to support his family has in turn alienated them from him. By becoming the sole breadwinner of the family he transformed himself into an outsider, the transformation only becoming a physical interpretation when he realizes that himself.
I’ve never read Kafka before having always found myself intimidated by his works. When I discovered that the BBC Radio had produced a recording of this being read by Benedict Cumberbatch I jumped on the opportunity and I am so glad I did. I had listened to a clip of the audiobook that was released by Blackstone Audio and narrated by Ralph Cosham… that audiobook sat on my phone for so long I forgot about it because it sounded dreadfully dull. Benedict Cumberbatch truly brought this story to life and made this a real treat for me.
Winnie-the-Pooh has a certain Way about him, a way of doing things that has made him the world's most beloved bear. In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff shows that Pooh's Way is amazingly consistent with the principles of living envisioned by the Chinese founders of Taoism. The author's explanation of Taoism through Pooh, and Pooh through Taoism, shows that this is not simply an ancient and remote philosophy but something you can use, here and now.And what is Taoism? It's really very simple. It calls for living without preconceived ideas about how life should be lived-but it's not a preconception of how life-it's.... Well, you'd do better to listen to this book, and listen to Pooh, if you really want to find out.
“…the basic Taoism that we are concerned with here is simply a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life. From the Taoist point of view, the natural result of this harmonious way of living is happiness.”
There are some things that I’ve accepted that my brain is just not built to understand. Calculus and Economics are a couple of examples. But the one shining example is Philosophy. My freshman year of college I signed up for Philosophy 101 but I knew right from the start I was going to have difficulty. Most people would have stuck it out and studied super hard, but I? Timed it just right and booked it out of there when the teacher’s back was turned to the class. Yes. I am a coward. So suffice it to say, Philosophy and I don’t have a good track record. But if my Philosophy professor spoke of Philosophy (and maybe incorporated some Pooh-isms into his lecture) as Benjamin Hoff does in ‘The Tao of Pooh’ I think I would have lasted more than 10 minutes.
‘You’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.’
The Tao of Pooh discusses many Taoist principals by relating them to the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh symbolizes the Taoist ideal of a still and calm mind and his ability to accomplish tasks “effortlessly” and is a true personification of the Taoist foundation. At heart ‘The Tao of Pooh’ manages to be a simplified and practical introduction into the ideals of Taoism and how to go about incorporating them into your daily lives in order to change things for the better.
‘You can’t save time. You can only spend it, but you can spend it wisely or foolishly.’
While I had already read this book years past, the narrator of this audiobook was perfection and truly made this book even more spectacular. I had the pleasure of listening to Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner on audio (narrated by Peter Dennis) and I must say that Simon Vance did an incredible job with the different voices of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the gang from The Hundred Acre Wood. This production was nominated for an Audie in the Solo Narration—Male category and is in my opinion completely deserving of the nomination.
‘The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.’
While ‘The Tao of Pooh’ may not be the most profound study in Philosophy or Taoism, it makes it clear and concise and thoroughly enlightening.
This fascinating book charts the relationship between Mark Rowlands, a rootless philosopher, and Brenin, his well-traveled wolf. After acquiring Brenin as a cub, it quickly became apparent that Breinin was never to be left alone, as the consequences to Mark's house and its contents were dire. As a result, Brenin and Mark went everywhere together-from classroom lecture to Ireland, England, and France. More than just an exotic pet, Brenin exerted an immense influence on Rowlands as both a person, and, strangely enough, as a philosopher, leading him to re-evaluate his attitude to love, happiness, nature and death. By turns funny (what do you do when your wolf eats your air-conditioning unit?) and poignant, this life-affirming book will make you reappraise what it means to be human.
This book is part memoir, part story of the 11 years spent with his wolf named Brenin and the impression that he made on his life, and part philosophical interpretation of what it means to be human. I can’t claim to be a true lover of Philosophy; however, this book and the author’s writing style kept me engaged. The novels main emphasis tends to focus on the differences between men and wolves from a philosophical stand point. Not only his personal philosophical views but also various different philosophers’ and how their opinions and views apply to certain situations.
The book does not consistently tell the story of his life with Brenin, rather there are bits and pieces interspersed throughout the book with philosophical concepts in between. I would have liked to see more time spent on the connection between him and Brenin because their relationship was pretty amazing.
“But when I remember Brenin, I remember also that what is most important is the you that remains when your calculations fail – when the schemes you have schemed shudder to a halt, and the lies you have lied stick in your throat. In the end, it’s all luck – all of it – and the gods can take away your luck as quickly as they confer it. What is most important is the person you are when your luck runs out.”
The novel was very intellectually stimulating; I just wish I had more knowledge of philosophy in order for me to be able to truly appreciate it. Insightful, nonetheless, and I did enjoy the experience.