The ultimate question of human nature: Why do we repeatedly violate our most deeply held values and beliefs?
For all our therapies, resolutions, self-help programs, and the vast religious and ethical literature available to men and women today, we return again and again to the same limiting and predictable behaviors, vowing to do better "next time."
And far beyond the travails of our everyday existence-although sometimes intruding upon it with a ghastly shock-we witness a world twisted in conflict and warfare in which religious systems are continually used to justify slaughter. For sensitive people everywhere, the question resounds: Why can't we be good?
After nearly forty years of weighing humanity's deepest dilemmas-working in settings ranging from university and high school classrooms to corporate offices and hospitals - bestselling author, philosopher, and religious scholar Jacob Needleman presents the most urgent, deeply felt, and widely accessible work of his career. In Why Can't We Be Good? Needleman identifies the core problem that therapists and social philosophers fail to see. He depicts the individual human as a being who knows what is good, yet who remains mysteriously helpless to innerly adopt the ethical, moral, and religious ideas that are bequeathed to him.
In his jarring depiction of this most misunderstood of dilemmas, Needleman takes the reader through various settings and case studies: a college classroom, where students of all ages and backgrounds agonize to define goodness in an era marked by relativism and fundamentalism; a chilling psychological experiment from a generation earlier that reveals the capacity for brutality that lurks within us all-and our inability to see it; ancient stories from Rabbinic Judaism and mystical Christianity where, possibly, esoteric schools have left fragments of their own deep inner understanding of humanity's predicament and how to begin addressing it; and the words of Socrates, which lay bare the problems of the human psyche while hinting at a missing element that would serve to instruct us not merely on that which is good, but on how to commence our own efforts toward becoming the kind of men and women we are capable of being.