In this collection of interviews, accomplished luminaries discuss various dimensions of ethical life.
While the host of an internet-based radio talk show, Merchey (Building a Life of Value, 2005) conducted 89 interviews with writers, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and academics revolving around the nature of ethics. His book, which derives its name from the radio show it records, presents 20 of those dialogues, each one preceded by an introduction of the topic at hand and the participants. The conversations are broadly conceived and cover a panoramic landscape of philosophical subjects. Some of them chiefly handle political subjects like progressivism, liberalism, and leadership, while others are driven by economic concerns and assess the moral challenges posed by capitalism, entrepreneurialism, and business in general. One chapter features a provocative discourse with a seasoned scholar about the possibility of teaching children morality. Despite the eclectic character of the assemblage, there are two recurrent themes that tether the otherwise disparate parts into a coherent package. First, there is the centrality of the moral life, which every exchange returns to like a shared refrain. In addition, many of the discussions touch on the rational examination of the good life, or the goodness in thinking about goodness. In one particularly intriguing segment, author Jennifer Michael Hecht addresses the value of doubt itself. In another chat, scholar Tom Morris captures the importance of philosophy to practical life succinctly: “Philosophy is a personal quest for more wisdom about life and more insight about living.” The interviews are consistently thoughtful and engaging; besides leading them with great skill, Merchey also has a talent for recruiting lively contributors. And while the interviewees tend to be intellectuals—it’s remarkable how many of them have a Ph.D.—the dialogues always remain broadly accessible, avoiding the trap of overly esoteric digressions. Merchey has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from California State University Fullerton and is buoyantly erudite, effortlessly diving into all manners of issues. The book, which is studded with philosophical and inspirational quotes from famous personages, is a feast for both the mind and the soul.
An endlessly engrossing catalog of philosophical conversations.