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The Moral Animal : Why We Are the Way We…

The Moral Animal : Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of…

by Robert Wright

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,455168,007 (4.03)30
Every so often the world of ideas is shaken by what the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn famously dubbed a "paradigm shift." As Robert Wright shows in this pathbreaking book, such a shift is occurring now - one that will change the way people see their lives and the way they choose to live their lives. From the work of evolutionary biologists and of scholars all across the social sciences, a new science called evolutionary psychology is emerging, and with it a radically revised view of human nature and the human mind. In its light, the oldest and most basic questions look different and wholly new questions arise. Are men and women really built for monogamy? What kinds of self-deception are favored by evolution, and why? How and why do childhood experiences make a person more or less conscientious? What is the evolutionary logic behind office politics - or politics in general? Why is there a love-hate relationship between siblings? When, if ever, is love truly pure? Is the human sense of justice - and of just retribution - innate? Does it truly serve justice? This lucidly written book is set in a fitting context: the life and work of Charles Darwin. Wright not only shows which of Darwin's ideas about human nature have survived the test of time, he retells - from the perspective of evolutionary psychology - the stories of Darwin's marriage, his family life, and his career ascent. All three look as they have never looked before. The Moral Animal challenges us to see ourselves, for better or worse, under the clarifying lens of evolutionary psychology. Wright argues powerfully that, though many of our "moral sentiments" have a deep biological basis, so does our tendency to fool ourselves about our goodness. If we want to live a truly moral life, we must first understand what kind of animal we are.… (more)



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A fairly new field of psychology that attempts to align present day humanistic behavioral traits of virtues and vices to natural selection and social anthropology . I found certain chapters about how today's current economic structures and hierarchy have evolved through hunter gatherer societies and behavioral commonalities between social apes and homo sapiens due to genetic similarities quite engaging .

This also shows how moral values which is supposedly conceived by modern man very possibly predates him as it is seen in prehistoric man and social mammals, ingrained in genes which propagated through natural selection .

Where this book falls short , is trying to theorize every single current day socio-cultural phenomena to genetic codes , which sometimes can be testing . ( )
  Vik.Ram | May 5, 2019 |
An excellent insightful book. Explains some of the complexity of the mind through evolution and how the combination of Reciprocal Altruism (tit for tat) and Social Hierarchy has led to our behaviour and understanding of morals. He uses Utilitarianism as a lens to look man behaviour and its compatibility with morality. A bit waffly towards the end, but, as I say, very insightful. ( )
  jvgravy | Feb 23, 2018 |
Keep me awake and thinking for days. ( )
  Steven_Burgauer | Oct 26, 2016 |
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."
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  uufnn | Feb 17, 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. ( )
1 vote homericgeek | Apr 19, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Wrightprimary authorall editionscalculated
Anderson, MarjorieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Béraud-Butche… AnneTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deutsch, AntoniaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thornton, GregNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Without thinking what he was doing, he took another drink of brandy. As the liquid touched his tougue he remembered his child, coming in out of the glare: the sullen unhappy knowledgeable face. He said, "oh God, help her. Damn me, I deserve it, but let her live for ever." This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world: all the fear and the wish to save concentrated unjustly on the one child. He began to weep; it was as if he had to watch her from the shore drown slowly because he had forgotten how to swim. He thought: This is what I should feel all the time for everyone....
    —Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
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The Origin of Species contains almost no mention of the human species.
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