by Mark Matousek

Doubleday, $26.95, 272 pages

Ever since mankind has started to farm, settled in cities, and started to write things down, it has been obsessed with one thing: what makes humans good. In Ethical Wisdom: What Makes Us Good, Mark Matousek takes a look at the many different ways we can be both good and bad, as well as how, why and what makes that happen. From the body’s physiological responses in certain situations to pathological disorders that show up at a young age. Many of our traits show up early on in life when we are attached to our parents.  From examining why we will help certain people and not others to the concept of virtue (we all need help in that area). Matousek does not claim to know all the answers, or to show the right path through life; instead, he wants to explore why we do what we do.

This book is for general audience, not for academics. The chapters are really short, except for the one on emotions. His style of writing is journalistic, so it is something similar to what you would see in The New York Times. Each section fits nicely, except for the last one.

Kevin Winter