A grappler with `principles'

``I feel very strongly,'' says social philosopher Sissela Bok, about ``exemplary human lives. That doesn't mean perfect human lives but just human beings who tried harder than many others to live up to their principles.'' Humanity's ability to grapple with ``principles'' has engaged Mrs. Bok's attention for years. Her doctoral dissertation at Harvard was a study of voluntary euthanasia, and her two best-known books -- ``Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life'' (1978) and ``Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation'' (1983) -- explore challenges arising when individuals and societies confront vexing problems of morality.

Her interest in such questions reflects her upbringing in a family where both parents were deeply involved in social causes. Her father, Gunnar Myrdal, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974. Eight years later her mother, Swedish diplomat Alva Myrdal, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on disarmament. Mrs.Bok studied in Sweden, Switzerland, and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where she met her husband, Derek C. Bok, now president of Harvard University.

Mrs. Bok, who has taught courses in ethics at the Harvard Medical School and John F. Kennedy School of Government, teaches courses in humanities and ethics at Brandeis University. She is completing a book based on her series of lectures on ``Human Values and the Threat of War'' for the Erikson Center at the Cambridge Hospital in Cambridge, Mass.

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