WRONG SERIES Review Of "How To Be Good: Or How To Be Moral And Virtuous In A Wicked World" By G. Cox

Hans Oberdiek, Swarthmore College

This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.


How to be Good is an accessible, engagingly written primer on moral philosophy and practice. The book comprises well-argued chapters on goodness and God, determinism, egoism, objectivism and subjectivism, duty, happiness, Aristotle, and freedom. There are also sensible discussions of abortion and the treatment of animals. In terms of philosophical orientation, Cox (Univ. of Birmingham, UK) is sympathetic to Sartrean existentialism, and he offers a clear discussion of authenticity and its opposite, bad faith. So far, so good. But the book does not live up to its title and subtitle. To tell one to live authentically, to live without bad faith, does not really tell one "how to be good" or "virtuous in a wicked world"—unless one counts some highly contestable remarks about fetuses not being persons so it is not morally wrong for them to be killed “below a certain number of weeks” (p. 174), and claims that some nonhuman animals (such as dolphins and pigs) are “undoubtedly persons” (p. 160) and so should not be killed, or at least not made to suffer when they are killed. These are pronouncements and do not deeply engage with disputes pro and con. This book is best thought of as a resource that will get one thinking about moral matters. Summing Up: Optional. General readers.