How to Be Perfect – Michael Schur

So, you’re currently season 1 Eleanor but you want to be season 4 Eleanor. How are you going to go about scoring enough points to get into the good place when you don’t have a Chidi in your life? Written by the guy who created Chidi, this book is the next best thing.

Each time I watched Chidi stand at the blackboard I’d feel like I should be taking notes. I wanted to enrol in his class. Now I don’t have to. Michael Schur has read a bunch of long, dry moral philosophy books so you don’t have to. This is your crash course, a road map for map for ethical dilemmas:

What are we doing?

Why are we doing it?

Is there something we could be doing that’s better?

Why is it better?

There’s the “Big Three”:

  • Virtue ethics – “What makes a person good or bad?”
  • Deontology – “the study of duties or obligations”
  • Utilitarianism – a branch of consequentialism, “which cares only about the results or consequences of our actions”.

There’s ubuntu, pragmatism and existentialism.

Life is anguish. Welcome to existentialism!

There’s the trolley problem!


It’s about trying to do better while acknowledging that no matter how hard we try, we’re not always going to get it right. So it’s also about learning to accept failure.

As soon as I began reading I imagined Chidi teaching me. I thought he’d be the perfect one to narrate the audiobook but then I encountered a problem. Michael Schur has a sense of humour that’s evident in his writing. Chidi? Not so much, and given Chidi’s extreme difficulty in making decisions, it’s likely we’d all be dead before he decided if he was going to sign up for the gig or not. Then my brain helpfully suggested Alan Tudyk for the job and it was all over; I couldn’t move past him and I found myself hearing everything I was reading in his voice. This entertained me as much as the content.

I borrowed this book from the library but plan to buy my own copy so I can continue my journey to season 4 Eleanor. I may have to check out the audiobook to see what it’s like to experience this book without Alan Tudyk in my head.

The trying is important. Keep trying.

I’m not holding the author’s views on pizza against him, but suspect the opposite may not be true.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the creator of The Good Place and the cocreator of Parks and Recreation, a hilarious, thought-provoking guide to living an ethical life, drawing on 2,500 years of deep thinking from around the world.

Most people think of themselves as “good,” but it’s not always easy to determine what’s “good” or “bad” – especially in a world filled with complicated choices and pitfalls and booby traps and bad advice. Fortunately, many smart philosophers have been pondering this conundrum for millennia and they have guidance for us. With bright wit and deep insight, How to Be Perfect explains concepts like deontology, utilitarianism, existentialism, ubuntu, and more so we can sound cool at parties and become better people.

Schur starts off with easy ethical questions like “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” (No.) and works his way up to the most complex moral issues we all face. Such as: Can I still enjoy great art if it was created by terrible people? How much money should I give to charity? Why bother being good at all when there are no consequences for being bad? And much more. By the time the book is done, we’ll know exactly how to act in every conceivable situation, so as to produce a verifiably maximal amount of moral good. We will be perfect, and all our friends will be jealous. OK, not quite. Instead, we’ll gain fresh, funny, inspiring wisdom on the toughest issues we face every day.

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