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Moral Animal by Robert Wright

Moral Animal (original 1994; edition 1996)

by Robert Wright

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1,218136,542 (4.06)25
Title:Moral Animal
Authors:Robert Wright
Info:Abacus Little, Brown (1996), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Moral Animal : Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology by Robert Wright (1994)



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About the author, quoting from the inside of the book's cover: "Robert Wright is a senior editor at the "The New Republic" and is coauthor of its TRB column. He has also written for "The Atlantic Monthly," "The New Yorker," and "Time." He previously worked at "The Sciences" magazine, where his writings on science, technology, and philosophy won the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism. [He has also been] nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award." About the book, the reviewer for "Publishers Weekly," wrote, "The new field of evolutionary psychology--which seeks to explain human behavior, thought and emotions in terms of Darwinian evolution--finds its most articulate exponent in Robert Wright. In attempting to unravel the evolutionary logic behind friendship, romance, xenophobia, racism, sibling rivalry, and so forth, Wright leavens his presentation with wit and humor, interlacing a biographical profile of Charles Darwin, whose marriage, sex life, personal tragedies and travels in turns are thrust in a neo-Darwinian light. . .The most sophisticated in-depth exploration to date of the new Darwinian thinking."
  uufnn | Feb 17, 2016 |
The whole book is divided into 4 parts, with the first three doing a fantastic job of describing the science part and the finale being utterly boring. The author is purely to blame for the disastrous ending of an otherwise fantastic read. Had the author not reared his ugly self from the background as a excellent chronicler and commentator and took the center stage and then tried and failed to be an prescriber and orator, he would have written a convincingly 5 star book. Alas, as the author pointed out in the book on many occasions, the status seeking animalness once again ruined the day. ( )
  StanleyPhang | Feb 4, 2016 |
I was introduced to this book during a course on Buddhism and Modern Psychology. Wright covers a lot of ground in this well organized and tightly written book.

Wright doesn't hand down laws, saying "This is how it is," but rather leads with questions and tries to work out the answers based on Darwinian Natural Selection. This is not an easy task; so much is not available when examining the world from a purely materialistic point of view. When one is not allowed to give credit to supernatural, or even non-biological mental events, it really demands a serious and deep interrogation of the biological, chemical, and other physical causes of why people do the things they do. Wright uses several events from Darwin's life as examples, and in doing so makes both evolutionary psychology and Darwinian Natural Selection accessible to his readers.

If you're interested in morality, Darwin, evolutionary psychology, or why people do what they do, this is an excellent read.

If you're not interested in those topics, it's STILL and excellent read! I highly recommend it. ( )
  homericgeek | Apr 19, 2014 |
A provocative book by a senior editor of The New Republic, author of Three Scientists and Their Gods (1988), examining the vibrant new science of evolutionary psychology. Even though, according to this science, natural selection has molded human nature into a deterministic pattern of selfish behavior, says Wright, there is still hope for developing a common moral outlook as long as we accept the ramifications of our evolutionary legacy. Natural selection insures that individuals are subconsciously preoccupied with the propagation of their genes. Although the cold, underlying logic of natural selection doesn't care about our happiness, it fools us into thinking that by pursuing goals that make us happy, we will maximize our genetic legacy. Lost in this pursuit is any genuine concern about community welfare. This volume covers much of the same ground as William Allman's superb overview The Stone Age Present (p. 893). Wright extends Allman's arguments in much richer detail and a more authoritative tone, although he explains the science in a more roundabout manner. He weaves a complex and fascinating treatise in explaining the paradox of how society can engender moral and responsible actions when a strict Darwinian interpretation implies that human behavior is deterministic. Wright resolves this paradox by arguing that once people understand the Darwinian paradigm, they will understand their own subconscious motives, which is the first step towards addressing the bias toward self that natural selection instills in our minds. Many readers will feel uneasy reading Wright's dark and cynical portrayal of human nature, but he does a superb job of anticipating questions and objections. He points to a growing body of evidence that says this is the way we are whether we like it or not, and he argues we're better off if we accept this fact. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. ( )
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1 vote | MarkBeronte | Jul 28, 2013 |
I just finished wading through this book. I like it better than the other assigned book - Lucy's Legacy by Alison Jolly - but like many books for my current classes I've had to read it in too much of a hurry to really get into it. It's one I'll likely reread after I get a breather from my current evolutionary psychology overload. ( )
  DK_Atkinson | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Wrightprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thornton, GregNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679763996, Paperback)

An accessible introduction to the science of evolutionary psychology and how it explains many aspects of human nature. Unlike many books on the topic,which focus on abstractions like kin selection, this book focuses on Darwinian explanations of why we are the way we are--emotionally and morally. Wright deals particularly well with explaining the reasons for the stereotypical dynamics of the three big "S's:" sex, siblings, and society.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:24 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Darwin comes of age -- Male and female -- Men and women -- The marriage market -- Darwin's marriage -- The Darwin plan for marital bliss - - Families -- Darwin and the savages -- Friends -- Darwin's conscience -- Darwin's delay -- Social status -- Deception and self-deception -- Darwin's triumph -- Darwinian (and Freudian) cynicism -- Evolution ethics -- Blaming the victim -- Darwin gets religion.… (more)

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