Many of us struggle with issues of morality and ethics—we wonder if there's a God, and if so, why evil exists in the world. Dr. Oz talks with Jacob Needleman, professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University and author of Why Can't We Be Good?, about these big ideas and how to understand them.
Jacob says that when you're grappling with one of life's big questions, you have to learn to dig deep. "If we get quick answers, they usually just land in the head and stay there, and don't really have influence on our lives," he explains. "When one really wrestles with a question and suffers with it, ponders it and takes time with it, it tends to enter into the heart and body, begins to be a force for good."
So, as the title of his book asks, why can't we be good? Jacob says most people think that they only have to decide to do something, like be good, and they'll do it—mostly though, we're unable to do so. Once we begin to see that we don't exert that control over ourselves, we open ourselves to one of the great central questions—"Why do I betray so often the values I hold?" The short answer, according to Jacob, is because we are not unified beings; we have many parts in us that pretend to be the whole. "One part promises and values one thing, but the rest of our selves hasn't heard about it at all, and doesn't obey," he explains.
A belief in a higher power is critical for living with ethics, Jacob says, but it's not necessary to believe in God. "Faith is a very important part of human life," he says. "You don't have to call it 'God' necessarily, but we all need the feeling of possible contact with something greater and higher than ourselves. … If we have the sense that there is something greater than ourselves, something we are obliged to do just because we are human, that very much takes the place of religion."
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, December 4, 2013