Wednesday, April 3, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 122


Book offers answers to ethical dilemmas

By Ellen Simonson
Daily Cougar Staff

Many people think there are few uses for the study of ethics in everyday life.

They couldn't be more wrong. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as "the principles of conduct governing an individual or group,"
meaning they cannot help but impact all corners of everyone's existence.

Everyone faces ethical dilemmas and confusion about the right course of action in various situations. But there are surprisingly few
authorities we can consult when such problems occur.

To this end, the New York Times' weekly magazine has long employed Randy Cohen as the author of its column "The Ethicist." The
column is syndicated in several other publications as "Everyday Ethics." A collection of these columns, with elaboration, has been
published by Doubleday as The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Tell Right from Wrong in Everyday Situations.

Cohen's writing is not what one would expect from a person giving ethical advice. It is humorous, often colloquial and far from lofty,
and his open admittance that he does not have all the answers makes his replies to readers' questions all the more compelling. He
is certainly educated, even erudite, but he does not assume this makes him infallible.

The Good, The Bad & The Difference is made up of seven sections, each featuring questions from real people about how to deal
with real situations, as well as some hypothetical questions posed by Cohen. Readers are welcomed to write in and give advice on
these questions; the best advice will be featured in the paperback edition of the book.

If you fancy yourself a budding ethicist or just think you know what's best for everybody give some of these questions a try. For
example, there's this one, from the "Social Life" section:

"Everyone regards me as wicked, and it's really getting me down. I am typically associated with truly bad company Gluttony, Pride,
Sloth, Greed, Anger and Envy and I certainly see why they're considered a deadly crowd. But I think of myself as a force for life: I get
people together; I increase the supply of human happiness. Sure, I can be misused, but if properly applied, I contribute to life's joy.
Am I really so bad? Lust."

If you can provide a reasonable answer to this question, you'll do humanity a favor. And even if you can't, it's a joy and a learning
experience to watch Cohen struggle with similar, all-too-familiar queries. Anybody who's curious about how to live an ethical life
should devote some time to The Good, The Bad & The Difference.

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