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New Year’s Resolutions inspired by The Good Place

January 9th, 2019 · No Comments · Books, City Library, Main Branch, West Branch

As far as New Year’s Resolutions go, trying to become a better person is pretty common. But what does it mean to be a good person? What is good? And who can truly say who is good or not?


Figure 1: Dog Philosophy (image used with permission)

These are the questions that showrunner Michael Schur plays with in the NBC show The Good Place. Schur, with the help of Dr. Todd May, philosophy consultant, author, and Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University takes a uniquely interesting and dry topic and makes it funny, relatable, and accessible. It’s a great show—I love it. This post isn’t a review for the show, though. You can read more about it and stream episodes here.

Moral Philosophy wouldn’t normally be a topic I’d think much about on a day-to-day basis. I grew up Catholic, and as far as my parents were concerned, the Bible was all the ethical consideration I needed, but Catholicism isn’t big on asking, “Why?” It took a joke about existential dread to get me interested in moral philosophy, so the show must be doing something right.

Stop by the library today, and you can find books on display mentioned or referenced in The Good Place. Check out the links below, and you can discover some pretty entertaining videos, narrated by Dr. Todd May about some fundamental philosophical principals:

Existentialism, a philosophy that each person is ultimately responsible for defining meaning in their own life. If you ask yourself, “What is the point of being good?” Well, the answer isn’t 42.

Utilitarianism, the philosophy that actions do not matter, only the consequences and results of those actions. There are benefits and problems to this philosophy, and often contradictory answers.

Psychological Egoism , the perception that everyone only acts in their own self-interest. Everyone has a little psychological egoism to them, and David Hume believed that the most basic reason people want to be good is that they have sympathy for other people. So, either you’re a psychological egoist, or you’re a Hume-anist.

Dentology, the philosophy that every moral decision should be determined through pure reason. Ask yourself: would I want to live in a world where EVERYONE did this thing? If yes, do that thing. If no, don’t do that thing. Seems simple, right? WRONG.

Philosophy can seem daunting and probably a little dry if you haven’t explored it before, so try reading The Philosophy Book if you just want to get your feet wet, or this Crash Course playlist if you prefer watching videos. And of course, watch The Good Place.

-Sue

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