Book offers answers to
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
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
authorities we can consult when such problems
To this end, the New York Times' weekly
magazine has long employed Randy Cohen as the author of its column "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
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
"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.