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Why Can't We Be Good? [Paperback]

Our Price $ 13.56  
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Item Number 444796  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   285
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 2008
Publisher   Tarcher
Age  18
ISBN  1585426202  
EAN  9781585426201  

Availability  2 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 07:41.
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Item Description...
The respected philosopher and author of The American Soul 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?

Buy Why Can't We Be Good? by Jacob Needleman from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781585426201 & 1585426202

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More About Jacob Needleman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! The acclaimed author of "The American Soul," "Why Can t We Be Good?" and "Money and the Meaning of Life," Jacob Needleman is Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, and former Director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, CA."

Jacob Needleman currently resides in the state of California.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Why Can't This Book Be Good?  Oct 2, 2008
Jacob Needleman's book asks an important and troubling question. Needleman is a professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University and is the author of many books about timely subjects that have concerned the humanities for centuries. He is a good candidate to give a sound answer. Unfortunately, my expectations were set a bit too high for this book as I was expecting a more analytical-historical approach. Instead, Needleman meanders from one anecdote to another, making some pretty outrageous claims on the basis of some religious beliefs that only he seems to understand.

In a nutshell the question at hand is answered by our lack of attention to ourselves. This isn't as psychological as it sounds. Drawing from a wide range of traditions, Needleman makes the case that ignorance of our human nature is the primary cause of our moral failure, and " the ethics of attention" are the first step in discovering what it is.

The book is not without its provocative insights. Needleman argues that reality is divided into moral categories; that there is no neutrality. Our lives are caught between good and bad forces that act upon us, and that by being aware of them we can find greater freedom from the bad, and more subservience to the good. Most of all we cannot do it alone. We need a community of people to "think together" with, and what we must discover is who (and what) we really are.

Who we really are, of course, is an important matter for Needleman. We act out of ourselves in the truest ways when we are in a crisis. The passing of a loved one usually brings the best out of us (but not always). When we are in pain or have suffered much we are much tenderer towards others whoever they may be. Our attention is fixed on what matters. Our true selves lay aside our false ones.

Yet Needleman dives into some strange ideas. His reverence for religion is admirable, but his pluralistic approach to it in the formation of his synthesis really respects none of them in the end. The driving theology in his worldview is that God is "the Self"--the true person within that sages like Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, the Buddha, and various rabbis have tried to discover and understand. However, at least for Judaism and Christianity, this is the exact opposite conclusion--yes, there is a God, and no we are not him! It isn't at all clear why he makes these assumptions, and they are so badly described I'm afraid no one could represent back to him what they are.

Though he portrays the problem of humanity well, especially with his brilliant analysis of infamous Stanley Milgram experiment, he doesn't give us much in the way of a coherent solution to it. I'm afraid I expected a little too much out of this book, and found myself skimming to the end wondering why this book can't be good?
Marvelous Insights, But A Puzzling Pluralism  Sep 20, 2007
Needleman does a tremendous job of exposing the stark reality of what is inside all of us - a knowledge of what is good, but a lack of power to do what we know is good. This is one of the most important ideas elicited by Needleman and one that we all must come to grips with. The moral problem of man is not so much a lack of moral knowledge as it is a strange lack of moral energy, moral power. And so the goal of ethics becomes not simply to do what is good whenever we can - because we will fail all too often - but to become people who have the power to do what is good. As Needleman writes: "The root of all moral obligation is the obligation to become capable of morality" (p. 202).

So how do we become people with moral power? Needleman argues that it begins with objective introspection - seeing our inner life for what it truly is. Once we come to grips with the fact that we cannot be good on our own, we must seek to receive help "from above." But here is where Needleman is dangerously vague. Is this Being "from above" God? Or is it the Buddhist Void? Or the Hindu Atman? Needleman is comfortable saying "all of the above," embracing a pluralist vision of Ultimate Reality: "I am obliged to care for the life that has been given me from within and above by God or the universal world of nature, or who or whatever is the father and mother of reality" (p. 197).

However, Needleman does affirm that this Ultimate Being is a "force of downward-descending love" (p. 226). The concept of love is essential, according to Needleman, agreeing that love is the ultimate goal of ethics. But do all of the differing accounts of God/Ultimate Reality see Him/Her/It as "downward-descending love"? Do all of these differing worldviews even see love as the central goal of ethics? I believe the answer to both questions is clearly no. For example, I cannot conceive of how an impersonal Ultimate Reality can even be capable of love, or even why love would be that important within that worldview. Additionally, within monotheism there are a countless number of portraits of God, each having a distinct view of the degree of love found within God. In other words, there are countless views on just how loving God is, and one's view of God's love is crucial for one's moral development, as Needleman I think would agree.

So this pluralism is puzzling to me. But I found Needleman's insights extremely helpful within my Christian worldview. This book encouraged me to pursue as a top priority introspective time with Christ, seeking personal growth and power as I dialogue openly with Him about what really lies in my heart, so that I can become more and more a person capable of goodness in everyday life. If you are interested in this subject, I also recommend any book written by Dallas Willard.
Needleman connects the dots.  May 12, 2007
This is Needlemans best book by far. It's dramatic as well as wise. And I hadn't realized how fine a writer he is. It engages the reader immediately, and that is it's message; get out of your head and into "the streets." The book is a warm and profound companion. Michael B. Daly City, Ca.
A Good Man Befuddled  Apr 22, 2007
Jacob Needleman has been writing books of great interest to all who students of the human condition for many years. I think, however, that he has been led into deep murkiness by too many years spent studying the works of Gurdjieff, to whom he gives scant credit here. Whatever it is, some of his thoughts, particularly in chapter 11, the Essence, are so incoherently expressed as to baffle the reader. He clearly knows a good deal but his ability to express his ideas seems to have been lost.
Needleman makes philosophy come alive.  Apr 1, 2007
I first became aware of Jacob Needleman many years ago, first as editor of the anthology "The Sword of Gnosis," and later as the author of the classic "Lost Christianity." In "Lost Christianity," Needleman spoke of "intermediate Christianity," which he defined as a missing element of attention and awareness, an awareness which enables us to see ourselves as we really are, and therefore avoid the automatisms that typically control our egoistic reactions to people and events.

It is that same element of inner attention which is the subject of this book. In this book, Needleman refers to that ability to enter a state of inner awareness and detachment as "crossing the Socratic threshhold." Needleman sees this as the key to ethical behavior whch rises above the self-serving rationalizations and automatic reactions of our everyday mind. Needleman postulates that in our everyday state of distraction, it is impossible to truly live ethically, even if - out of sheer habit or chance - we happen to "do the right thing." Needleman explores this theme in the writings of teachers as diverse as Plato/Socrates, Rabbi Hillel, and the stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius.

One reason that I love Needleman is that he personally embodies the candor and self-criticism which he advocates as the starting point for an ethical life. He relates numerous anecdotes from his life as a professor, where he tries to bring his students into a direct, personal contact with these themes. Needleman has long been aware of the sterility of purely academic philosophy, and his efforts to make philosophy come alive - without pandering to the expectations or biases of his students - is quite refreshing.

My only quibble with this book is that some of the themes and ideas are restated too often, and the book is maybe 40-50 pages longer than it needed to be.

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