Moral Freedom. By Alan Wolfe. Norton, 256 pp., $24.95.

Everyone, to live in this world, has to become something of a moral philosopher," Alan Wolfe states halfway through this book. For the past decade, Wolfe has been diligently studying the moral philosophies of workaday Americans. For his best-selling One Nation After All (1998), Wolfe and his cadre of graduate students and assistant professors polled and interviewed 200 self-described middle-class Americans. Wolfe learned that the only culture wars taking place in the U.S. were in the halls of academe. Middle-class Americans are centrists.

In this sequel, he tries to ascertain what Americans think about the virtues. In cooperation with the New York Times Magazine, he disseminated a large poll in which he asked Americans questions such as, "Are people born with character or do they acquire it?" Afterwards, Wolfe conducted and/or supervised in-depth interviews with two dozen randomly selected people from all over the country.