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Class of 2018 First Year Book

Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times
By Eyal Press

Beautiful Souls explores the experiences of several people, in different times and places, who were impelled to defy convention or authority and resist pressure to do what they felt was wrong. In Beautiful Souls we meet

  • a Swiss immigration official in 1938 who defied Swiss policy and admitted German Jewish refugees to Switzerland
  • an ordinary Serbian who in 1991 risked his life by defying orders in a prison camp and saving many Croatians
  • members of the Israeli Defense Forces in the late 1990s and early 2000s, some of whom refuse to serve in the occupied territories and some of whom refuse to oust Jewish settlers from disputed territories
  • an American woman in Houston, a financial advisor who refused to sell an investment product that was misleadingly advertised and who in 2003 blew the whistle on her employer when she suspected that this financial product was a fraud

Author Eyal Press weaves through these stories the difficult questions they raise: Why do some people obey orders or follow conventions that are morally wrong while others decide to resist? What factors in our upbringing, background, community and culture influence how we react when confronted with wrongdoing and pressured to participate? How do ordinary people make sense of these extraordinary situations and decide what to do? How do they deal with the consequences and aftermath of their decision?

Press also does a masterful job of presenting the ideas of psychologists, philosophers, social theorists, historians and legal scholars and synthesizing their insights. Whether you’re interested in the psychology of moral development, the history of dissent and civil disobedience, international law on human rights, philosophical theories of right and wrong, the rights and responsibilities of soldiers in war and peace, the psychology and sociology of prejudice, the ethics of business or the effects of trauma on individuals and communities, you will find thought-provoking insights on every page of Beautiful Souls.

Those of you interested in creative writing will also enjoy thinking about Press’ choices as an author. Why did he choose this approach to his topic and these people and situations to present? Why did he present them in the order he did? What rhetorical moves does he make to hold readers’ interest and provoke their thinking about the topic?

 Paul GruningerPaul Gruninger