The Good Life: The Moral Individual in an Antimoral World

Cheryl Mendelson. Bloomsbury, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60819-831-3
This powerful, thorough book preaches “moral mentality.” By following a moral geography mapping the good, moral life, Mendelson (Home Comforts) corrects oversimplified, misleading notions of morality. The author allows that the word “moral” suffers ambiguities, which, she regrets, has resulted in its co-opting by the political right. She is not neutral in her gritty analysis. She names names from Right to Left, from Cheney to Mamet. A professor of philosophy at Barnard College, Mendelson distinguishes among premoral, antimoral, and immoral; she discusses torture and abortion under “pseudomoral.” In 10 chapters, she marks among other coordinates the intersections of morality with democracy, family, money, and culture. She assesses the damage of being uncaringly cool or incurably narcissistic; she assails academe in one chapter and carves up puddin’-headed pundits in the last chapter, a long, often impenetrable disquisition. The headnotes—quotes from Hume, Leonard Cohen, Nietzsche and others—support her theories as much as multiple examples from literature (Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontës), law, and life. Her style, clean and sharp and heavily footnoted, does not suffer minds “immune to reason.” Agent: Geri Thoma, Markson Thoma Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 06/05/2012
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-4088-3367-4
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-60819-835-1
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