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Human Goodness

Tuan, Yi-Fu

Publication Year: 2008

In his many best-selling books, Yi-Fu Tuan seizes big, metaphysical issues and considers them in uniquely accessible ways. Human Goodness is evidence of this talent and is both as simple, and as epic, as it sounds.
            Genuinely good people and their actions, Tuan contends, are far from boring, naive, and trite; they are complex, varied, and enormously exciting. In a refreshing antidote to skeptical times, he writes of ordinary human courtesies, as simple as busing your dishes after eating, that make society functional and livable. And he writes of extraordinary courage and inventiveness under the weight of adversity and evil. He considers the impact of communal goodness over time, and his sketches of six very different individuals—Confucius, Socrates, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Keats, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Simone Weil—confirm that there are human lives that can encourage and lead us to our better selves.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-xii

It is said that in a story the flawed characters—even the villains—have a certain appeal, whereas the good ones, despite efforts on the part of the author, are boring or inconsequential.1 Newspaper publishers and editors must think the same, for, inevitably, crimes appear on the front page, whereas good deeds appear, if at all, ...

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1. Vignettes: Range and Variety of Goodness

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pp. 3-68

An infant is a demanding tyrant, turning lobster pink in anger when thwarted. As one looks at the newborn’s contorted face and kicking legs, one can’t help being thankful that its power to do harm is limited. As it grows older, its tantrums may abate, but it remains—so psychologists tell us—a ...

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2. Doing Good in the Midst of Evil

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pp. 69-79

The vignettes of virtue I have provided so far are taken mostly from “normal” life, by which I mean life in a functioning civil society not actively engaged in war. Moreover, except in the examples of physical attractiveness and good manners, they are mostly single instances of virtue occurring ...

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.3 Good Individuals: Their Life Stories

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pp. 80-181

One feels instinctively that goodness cannot be just one act, that it has to be an overall quality, almost innate, like a characteristic smile or tone of voice that is sustained over a lifetime. But, if so, does this mean that the thief on the cross was not a good man even though, after showing signs ...

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4. Reflections

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pp. 182-212

At the beginning of this book I referred to Stephen Jay Gould’s expression the “ten thousand acts of kindness” that illuminate the human stage every day, making it—on the whole—a good place for people. I also said that, given the amount of evil on almost every page of world history, one can’t help wondering whether these ten thousand acts of ...


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pp. 213-222


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pp. 223-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780299226732
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299226701

Publication Year: 2008