Reading List: Being Good by Simon Blackburn

Being Good by Simon Blackburn on Kindle

One of the major sticking points of being religious is that you want to be a good person, that you want to help your fellow humans, that you want to be gentle and kind and those are the reasons we still need religion. Well, that is not true. Even if you feel that you need some guidance on how to live well and why you should do it when it seems that being evil is much more worthy, there are books that can help you in that regard. More than that, there are entire completely secular systems of why should you be ethical and how to best approach it.

These books do not rely on any theological view and still talk about deep ethical questions. This is one of those books. But what is so special about it is that unlike many others, it's accessible to the general public. You do not have to have any formal education in philosophy and yet you will understand everything that it tries to teach you.

The book is meant as an uncomplicated introduction - meaning it was written mostly for the people like me, who upon embarking on their journey of trying to learn as much as possible about our world were initially scared of 'big philosophy words' and complicated definitions. If you're there now - I understand this perfectly. But running away to the safety of religion or other doctrines that dictate every aspect of your life is not an honest alternative. This book will give you the basic ideas about morality in the secular world and will also give you the basic tools on how to approach new ethical questions.

The author takes a look at what are some threats to ethics these days and provides a response to those threats and shows why we should care about what is ethical. He also takes a look at some excuses people tell themselves when they argue for ideas that are not so ethical, like racism, sexism or unjustly benefiting from the work of others and shows where their ethical system is flawed. Later in the book, he discusses various ideas about life, death, desire, free will and gives us the basic tools to think about them for ourselves - all without leaning on theology. A lot of it is based on the writings of Kant, but he complements this with other ethical ideas and theories.

Personally, I found the first part of the book the best - Seven Threats to Ethics - where the author discusses what are some ideas that would prevent humanity to find a standard of ethics which we should live by. He discusses God and religion, relativism and determinism as threats to ethics - and tries to persuade you that none of that is really a threat to an ethical system. 

If you want a deep approach, then this is not really a book for you - and honestly, I would be far from being even remotely qualified to talk about one except to offer my opinion - but it is clear and relatively easy to read - a perfect short introduction to thinking about these things for yourself and it will certainly encourage you to try and read another, maybe deeper book. It will set you on the path of wanting to know more - but you have to be willing to continue.

Buy the book on Amazon.

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