Human Goodness

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In his many best-selling books, Yi-Fu Tuan seizes big, metaphysical issues and considers them in uniquely accessible ways. Human Goodness is evidence of this talent and is both as simple, and as epic, as it sounds.
            Genuinely good people and their actions, Tuan contends, are far from boring, naive, and trite; they are complex, varied, and enormously exciting. In a refreshing antidote to skeptical times, he writes of ordinary human courtesies, as simple as busing your dishes after eating, that make society functional and livable. And he writes of extraordinary courage and inventiveness under the weight of adversity and evil. He considers the impact of communal goodness over time, and his sketches of six very different individuals—Confucius, Socrates, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Keats, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Simone Weil—confirm that there are human lives that can encourage and lead us to our better selves.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Yi-Fu Tuan is one of the most remarkable and creative forces in the intellectual life of our time.”—Simon Schama, Columbia University, author of Rough Crossings

“In all his work, Yi-Fu Tuan has led us on journeys that have extended our imagination by expanding our spirit. Here he has done so again, but perhaps never so importantly as in Human Goodness. Unfailingly engaging and profound.”—Steven Grosby, Clemson University, author of Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction

“Yi-Fu Tuan has produced a series of profiles that confirm his core assertion: humanity in the aggregate may be dispiriting, but in certain human lives a goodness prevails that has the power to instruct, inspire, and confound. In time of war, his discussion of physical and moral courage is especially pertinent.”—William Howarth, Princeton University, author of Walking with Thoreau

Human Goodness is a book of prose. However, its very human themes, especially the segment containing vignettes from daily life, bear similarity with what Gaston Bachelard judged to be a good mark of poetry: It prompts the reader to leave the reading at some point and begin to daydream or remember one’s own life experiences.” --Edmund V. Bunske, Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Publishers Weekly

What unites Mandela, Mother Teresa, Mozart and Keats? According to philosopher Tuan (The Good Life), it's not genius or even fame-it's that they were all preternaturally good people. Refuting the notion that " 'good' is monotonously alike, whereas 'bad' or evil is endlessly colorful and various," this remarkable book delights in the varieties and contradictions in goodness. Tuan examines what motivates kindness with an assortment of brief biographies, vignettes and examples from literature. Heroes of goodness are surprisingly often scientists and intellectuals-Schweitzer or Socrates-as fulfilling one's intellectual and physical potential is an essential component of Tuan's understanding of good behavior. As the age-old question goes: are humans naturally good or evil? Tuan finds them to be naturally empty, with the best choosing to fill that emptiness with what is most generous, grateful, vital and sensuous. In evaluating goodness, Tuan asks a simple question: "In his or her presence, does one feel oneself a better and more intelligent human being?" One might argue that readers will feel better and more intelligent for having read about these lives well-lived. (May)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299226701
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 3/17/2008
  • Series: Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography Ser.
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,496,811
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Yi-Fu Tuan is the author of more than two dozen critically acclaimed books, including Space and Place, Topophilia, Escapism, Coming Home to China, and Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets. His previous books published by the University of Wisconsin Press are The Good Life, Morality and Imagination, and the autobiography Who Am I? Tuan is theJ. K. Wright and Vilas Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been honored with the Cullum Medal of the American Geographical Society, the Lauréat d'Honneur of the International Geographical Union, and the Charles Homer Haskins Lectureship of the American Council of Learned Societies.

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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Vignettes: Range and Variety of Goodness     3
Doing Good in the Midst of Evil     69
Good Individuals: Their Life Stories     80
Reflections     182
Notes     213
Index     223

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