Ethical Wisdom: The Search for a Moral Life


Why does one CEO fire 2,000 people and walk away with a five million dollar bonus, while another takes that same bonus and spreads it among those who’ve lost their jobs?

In Ethical Wisdom, Matousek weaves together ideas from cognitive psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and evolutionary biology to explain why human beings choose (or not) to do the right thing. No book could be timelier or more timeless. Full of compelling anecdotes from every culture and every country, particularly our own, Ethical Wisdom explores questions such as: What does being good really mean? Which parts of morality are biological, which ethical? When should instinct be trusted and when does it lead us into trouble? Matousek sheds light on many of our behaviors, including why we overestimate our virtue and underestimate the power of situations to bring out our Mr. Hyde, and why we allow ourselves to cheat. Do you yawn easily when seeing others yawn? If you do, you may be surprised to learn that you’re more likely to do the right thing in a morally compromising situation. Drawing on the latest scientific research and interviews with social scientists, spiritual leaders, ex-cons, altruists, and philosophers, Ethical Wisdom is an insightful and important book for readers crisscrossing their own murky moral terrain.

Praise for Ethical Wisdom

“Mark Matousek guides us through a revolution in ethical science with deft, thought-provoking style. Ethical Wisdom is a riveting, fun, and insightful tour of life’s meaning and purpose, essential reading for anyone drawn to the query, How ought we to live?”
-Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

“I don’t know how he has done it, but Mark Matousek has written a book about being good without being moralistic or judgmental. Ethical Wisdom is a call to our higher selves. Read it!”
-Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and Founder of V-Day

Ethical Wisdom is a unique delight – a fascinating, enlightening, and adventurous romp (as opposed to the typical trudge) through the territories of philosophy, psychology, science, and spirituality. Mark Matousek has pulled off a most difficult task: he has written an intellectually rigorous and expansive book that is also beautiful and funny and inspiring. He offers a hand up to the landscape of our better angels, as well as a path through the murky territory of our darker urges and instincts.”
-Elizabeth Lesser, Cofounder, Omega Institute, Author of Broken Open

“Mark Matousek has done some magic: he has written an informed, intelligent, humorous, insightful, and juicy book on ethics. He covers a broad field and is up-to-date and thorough. You’ll enjoy this book and maybe become a better person because of it.”
-Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“This broad-ranging book is remarkable for its emotional intensity, and for its message of redemption; it is a delineation of hope itself.”
-Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon

Ethical Wisdom is a beautiful work. Bringing together the best of today’s scientific research with a plainspoken forthrightness, Ethical Wisdom does what few books of this type can do: it inspires.”
-Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts without a Thinker

“This book springs from the latest research on biology [and] some of the oldest human wisdom. Both are interesting, and together they are potent.”
-Bill McKibben, author of Earth

Ethical Wisdom provides tremendous insight into our collective and individual psyches. A necessary guide for human evolution, and survival, in the 21st century.”
-Peter Buffett, author of Life is What You Make It and founder of the NoVo Foundation

“As a species, we have not found a healthy way to harness our basic goodness and avoid the seeds of human suffering. The book you have in your hands will show you why this is so. Engaging, thought provoking, and enlightening … this book acts as an insider’s guide to what makes us tick, and gently prompts us to look in the mirror and at our place in the great pond of life. A must read for anyone interested in making the world a better place.”
-John P. Forsyth, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY and author of Your Life on Purpose and The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety