cover image How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question

How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question

Michael Schur. Simon & Schuster, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-9821-5931-3

Schur, an Emmy Award–winning television producer and a writer for TV shows including The Office and Parks and Recreation, debuts with a zippy guide to achieving moral perfection. While writing for The Good Place, Schur pored over 2,500 years’ worth of philosophy to learn about human behavior and what it means to be good. Here, he lays out his findings, covering Aristotle’s notion of happiness as the ultimate goal, Kant’s deontology that considers happiness irrelevant, and the anguished existentialism of Sartre and Camus. Along the way, he presents questions and answers: “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” (he advises against it), “Should I lie and tell my friend I like her ugly shirt?” (best to find a way to be honest but soften the blow), and how to separate the art from the artist (it’s possible to hold two things as true at once, that their art is good and they are “troubling”). Schur concludes that goodness comes down to what’s inscribed on the temple at Delphi: “Know thyself.” His chatty, informal, and often irreverent style does well to balance the serious inquiries. This smart romp is sure to pique those who tend to wonder about the right way to be. (Jan.)