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On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz

On Aggression

by Konrad Lorenz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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One of the classics of ethology by one of the 'founders' of the discipline - still a good read 40+ years after I first read it.

An earlier reviewer states 'I found it ultimately unsatisfactory in meeting its goal of explaining human aggression.' I don't
think that the book claims that this is one of its aims, although there is an implication that one might extrapolate from
animal to human behaviour? In the foreword the general term 'vertebrate' is used.

The cover picture of the first edition was not "Lion Attacking a Horse" by George Stubbs, but the cover shown in my entry
for the book. ( )
  captbirdseye | Mar 5, 2018 |
Required reading in college. Basically a treatise on aggression and how it manifests itself in nature (and in us). Puts "militant enthusiasm" on the map for the first time and is therefore a ground-breaking book. "The obvious conclusion is that love and friendship should embrace all humanity, that we should love all human brothers indescriminately." ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This book is a study of aggression in animals, where aggression refers to intra-species conflict for mating rights and territory, and also for protection of the young (against members of the same species or others). Having discussed aggression, ritual behaviour, instincts and the role of displaced aggression, he moves onto discuss various types of intra-specific relationships. Starting with flocking animals and shoaling fish where there are no individual relationships between members of the shoal or flock, and moving on via creatures like rats where the pack is violently aggressive to any rat that isn't a member of their pack, he finally comes to creatures that do have personal bonds with their mate and children, and even with 'friends', such as greylag geese.

The most interesting part of the book comes at the end, where Lorenz discusses the role of aggression in human culture and relationships and compares us to other animals. One thing he suggests is that war is possible because man did not evolve as a predator, with teeth or claws that could kill another member of the species with a single blow. Therefore humans did not develop the inhibitions that prevent predators from fighting to the death, so when we invented weapons there was noting to restrain us from using them to wage war and kill huge numbers of our own species.

Anonymity of the person to be attacked greatly facilitates the releasing of aggressive behaviour. It is an observation familiar to anybody who has travelled in trains that well-bred people behave atrociously towards strangers in the territorial defence of their compartment. When they discover that the intruder is an acquaintance, however casual, there is an amazing and ridiculous switch in their behaviour from extreme rudeness to exaggerated and extreme politeness.

Written in the early sixties, this probably isn't the most up to date book on the subject that you could find, but it is still very interesting.

The cover picture, "Lion Attacking a Horse" by George Stubbs was badly chosen, as early on in the book the author makes it clear that inter-species predation is not motivated by aggression, so a picture of a horse protecting its foal against a lion would have been relevant to the book's topic, but a picture of a lion attacking a horse is not. ( )
  isabelx | Dec 27, 2012 |
Konrad Lorenz’s book, On Aggression, wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be an in-depth look at human aggression, and how it affects humanity in general and small populations in particular. Instead, what the book is about is Lorenz’s studies of the aggressive behavior of fish and bird species. While these studies are interesting to read about, and may provide insight into some of the behavior of people, I found it ultimately unsatisfactory in meeting its goal of explaining human aggression.

Full review: http://libwen.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/on-aggression-by-konrad-lorenz/ ( )
1 vote juliayoung | Sep 17, 2010 |
The english translation of the german original Das Sogenannte Böse, Zur Naturgeschichte der Aggression, this book is a masterpiece. A brilliant essay on animal behaviour by an outstanding scientist, with deep insights into human nature and society. Outstanding! ( )
1 vote FPdC | May 27, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lorenz, KonradAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hillenius, DickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huxley, Sir JulianForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Latzke, MarjorieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stubbs, GeorgeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, Marjorie KerrTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My childhood dream of flying is realized: I am floating weightlessly in an invisible medium, gliding without effort over sunlit fields.
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Wenn ich den Menschen für das endgültige Ebenbild Gottes halten müßte, würde ich an Gott irrewerden. Wenn ich mir aber vor Augen halte, daß unsere Ahnen in einer erdgeschichtlich betrachtet erst jüngstvergangenen Zeit ganz ordinäre Affen aus nächster Verwandtschaft des Schimpansen waren, vermag ich einen Hoffnungsschimmer zu sehen. Es ist kein allzu großer Optimismus nötig, um anzunehmen, daß aus uns Menschen noch etwas Besseres und Höheres entstehen kann. Weit davon entfernt, im Menschen das unwiderruflich unübertreffliche Ebenbild Gottes zu sehen, behaupte ich bescheidener und, wie ich glaube, in größerer Ehrfurcht vor der Schöpfung und ihren unerschöpflichen Möglichkeiten: Das langgesuchte Zwischenglied zwischen dem Tiere und dem wahrhaft humanen Menschen – sind wir!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156687410, Paperback)

This work has had significant impact on the social and biological sciences and is now a classic point of reference for investigations of behavioral patterns. Lorenz presents his findings on the mechanism of aggression and how animals control destructive drives in the interest of the species. Translated by Marjorie Kerr Wilson. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:51 -0400)

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