... an enjoyable next step for anyone who watched [The Good Place] and for anyone else who wants to learn about moral philosophy while avoiding the usual dry earnestness ... The narrative voice is not that of a gentle professor but of a slightly manic bar-room joker who is actually funny and genuinely excited to share his passion with anyone who will listen—and anyone who won’t ... does a good job of covering the basics ... it also manages to put its finger on key problems with the philosophies discussed ... Someone must have told Mr. Schur that if he was going to write a proper book about ethics, it needed to have footnotes. He decided to follow the letter rather than the spirit of this law. His footnotes are more akin to the bonus clips on a DVD than scholarly references. It probably doesn’t sound funny if I say that one footnote attached to the sentence 'You can imagine how popular I was at parties' reads: 'Not very'. But there’s something about having to look down to the bottom of the page to see it that makes it work ... At times the levity threatens to be too much, but somehow it never is ... This self-deprecation saves the book from coming across as moralizing or self-satisfied, which is always a risk when you dare to write about how we should live. Mr. Schur rightly spends some time discussing how the same moral standards can’t be applied in all circumstances ... there is no more to quibble over here than there is in any academic text. That makes How to Be Perfect one of the most accessible entry points to philosophical ethics available—in short, a very good place to start.
Schur’s gift to the reader is his ability to distill the writing of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates, more recent ones such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, and modern thinkers such as Pamela Hieronymi and Peter Singer into breezy, engrossing chapters. It’s as if the author has his arm around your shoulder and is whispering in your ear, Come on, give it a go; this is going to be fun. It’s a lively romp through moral philosophy that’s not dumbed down to be the philosophical equivalent of the chicken dance ... I’m relieved that Schur doesn’t give us 12 rules to live by, or a fixed list of ways to be good. How to Be Perfect is joyously absent of the bossing around you get from certain self-help scolds. Instead Schur’s approach is flexible–he offers lots of ways to examine a situation and make moral decisions. As we continue to navigate the new world we live in, Schur gives us not one road map but many ... I’m not a doctor, but as bibliotherapy, I prescribe How to Be Perfect to anyone trying to make moral choices in a complex and confusing world—which is all of us.
... a wryly funny book that is also packed with wisdom, a primer of sorts with regard to the semantics of being a good person ... Schur is a hell of a good writer, one who proves more than capable of converting these thoughts and concepts into material that is engaging, relatable and hilarious. Even as he guides us through these ideas, he never loses sight of his book’s central tenet – how to be a good person. And with that simple notion as his lodestar, he never loses his way. Sure, there are footnotes and tangents and the like, but that’s part of the joy of the journey. You’ll never laugh as hard at a tossed-off reference to Wittgenstein or heavy shade thrown at Kant’s treatise on wind as you will while reading this book ... might not be the sort of book you’d expect for Michael Schur’s debut. Honestly, that’s part of the appeal ... Tongue-in-cheek title aside, Schur knows that nobody’s perfect … but we can always try to be better. And considering the world in which we’re currently living, a bit of advice about being a good person is certainly welcome.