By Stephen L. Carter
HarperPerennial, 277 pp, 1996
What I most enjoy about Stephen Carter
is his ability to write plainly yet persuasively. That's amazing because
he's a bona fide intellectual - a law professor - and most of the
intellectual types I've read are horrible writers. But not Carter, God
I've read his first book, Reflections
of an Affirmative Action Baby, and I liked it, though I certainly
did not agree with all his points. But I learned quite a bit, and
enjoyed his insights. He tries his best to be evenhanded, more so than
many intellectual writers (the few that write coherent sentences, at
Anyway, Integrity is a fine
book. Carter examines the concept, explores why it's so popular in
American though not always widely practiced, and even defines it. His
definition requires three steps:
- "A difficult process of
discerning one's deepest understanding of right and wrong."
This is first, and perhaps most important. The integral individual
must constantly re-examine his motives and question his beliefs, and
then make up his mind that they are just and true.
- Act on what he discerns to be true.
Do you believe the nation needs campaign finance reform? Then do
something about it. Repeal gun control laws? Do something. Outlaw
abortion? Do something. Get involved. Fight.
- "The person truly living an
integral life must be willing to say that he or she is acting
consistently with what he or she has decided is right." No
lying, no dissembling, no spinning. The integral person must be
honest and forthright about why he is doing what he is doing.
Those are Carter's three steps toward
integrity. Fairly challenging. Do you meet them? Do I?
But how does this apply to real life?
Carter uses this basis to examine certain elements of American society -
sports, the media, politics - and determines if the institutions and
people in them act with integrity.
It's quite fun, and a good book. It's
also refreshing, because Carter obviously believes in right and wrong,
not some wishy-washy moral relativism that says if it feels good, it
must be right.
I recommend the book, and watch for
more Stephen Carter on this site.