The Risk of Being: What It Means to Be Good and Bad / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $6.00
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 82%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (6) from $6.00   
  • New (3) from $36.28   
  • Used (3) from $6.00   


The Risk of Being attempts to forge a new language and a new way of reasoning about what it is like to be good and bad by focusing on existential phenomena that reveal what it means to be good and bad. It is thus a work that cannot be located among or compared to the more traditional theories of ethics or morality. What distinguishes this inquiry is not only the use of existential themes, such as outrage, temptation, and corruption, but the reasoning itself in an existential critique, which allows us to consider how and what we think as well as feel about being good and bad—the logos and pathos of these existential phenomena—and thus provides an access to the question about the reality of good and bad.

Recognizing that we have done wrong may induce frustrated responses, such as, "How could I have been so stupid?" or "Why was I so weak? " or even, "What has become of me? " These reactions, Gelven argues, point to folly, weakness, and corruption as ways of being bad, which can then be countered in phenomena such as judgment, courage, and integrity of character, as ways of being good. The analyses of these phenomena can reveal a great deal of existential understanding that no mere ethical or moral approach can offer. The emphasis is on understanding that "good" and "bad" are not mere axiological terms, but can refer to ways of existing.

By careful analysis, these ways can be forced to reveal the truth about goodness and badness. As Gelven's argument proceeds to show not only what it is "like" to be good and bad, but also what the reality of being good and bad must be, he offers new and often unorthodox insights into one of the great philosophical issues challenging the thinking mind.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

In this reflective meditation on ethical reality, Gelven philosophy, Northern Illinois U asserts that people are not good bad, but good bad, and that the fundamental presupposition for responsibility and moral ascription lies in our being fundamentally good and bad. He maintains that morals and ethics are distinct, and as a result, neither one is sufficient in itself for being good. No index. Paper edition unseen, $17.95. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271017082
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/26/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Gelven is Presidential Research Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University. He has published many books, two of them with Penn State Press, including Truth and Existence (1991) and War and Existence (1994).

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Locating the question 1
Prelude: Raising the Question 3
1 Provoking Phenomena 12
Pt. 2 What it Means to be Bad 23
2 The Three Ways to Be Bad 25
3 The Foolish and the Silly 40
4 Temptation 49
5 Corruption 61
6 Punishment and Forgiveness 68
7 Can the Good Do What Is Bad? Transition 76
Pt. 3 What It Means to be Good 93
8 The First Way of Being Good: Judgment 95
9 The Second Way of Being Good: Moral Strength 104
10 The Most Troubling Moral Judgment Transition 114
11 The Third Way of Being Good: Character 121
Pt. 4 Confronting the Good 129
12 The Pathos of Being Good 131
13 The Logos of Being Good 144
14 The Reality of Being Good 156
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)