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On Aggression

by Konrad Lorenz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9381122,844 (3.84)12
First published in the 1960s, On Aggression has been the target of criticism and controversy ever since. It is not Lorenz's careful descriptions of animal behaviour that are contentious, but his extrapolations to the human world that have caused reverberations resulting in a statement adopted by UNESCO in 1989 and subsequently endorsed by the American Psychological Association that appears to condemn his work. But does On Aggression actually make the claims implicit in the Seville statement?In a new introduction by Professor Eric Salzen, the debate about Lorenz's work is set in its social and political context and his claims and those of his critics reassessed. Human aggression has not lessened since this seminal work first appeared and there are no convincing new solutions. On Aggression should be read by all new students and re-read by more experienced scholars so that the important evidence he presents from ethnology may be reappraised in the light of the most recent research.… (more)
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» See also 12 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
When I was an undergraduate, this book was one of the books lots of my classmates seemed to be reading. It owed its popularity to the eminence of the author, who applied his knowledge and expertise in the field of animal behavior to the human species. As noted by the New York Times review, the book was "the revolutionary study of the 'killer instinct' in animals and man... one of the most important works of our time!" At a time when the threat that small wars would devolve into larger ones, and with the threat of nuclear devastation on everyone's mind, it's easy to see why Lorenz's warnings found a wide audience. Decades later, wars continue to proliferate and the threat of nuclear devastation has not dissipated. However, the idea that groups of humans are genetically programmed to kill one another has given way to more nuanced and complex perspectives. Had I been rating this work when I first read it, I would have awarded 4 or more stars. But by a few years later, it had lost its luster; and Lorenz's cavalier generalizations from other vertebrate animals to humans seem superficial and ideologically- driven. That's not to say, however, that the author's grim perspective on our likely future won't eventually turn out to have been prophetic. ( )
2 vote danielx | Feb 2, 2021 |
Konrad Lorenz proposed in “On Aggression” the theory that the violence is something good and necessary for all the animals. Self-defense would be the reason why species have developed this mechanism of behavior over the centuries. Unfortunately, Lorenz had a big knowledge about animals, but he did not understand this matter in all its complexity. Erich Fromm, in his book “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”, made a total critique of the theories that Lorenz proposed in“On Aggression”. Although I think that Fromm's book is questionable in several aspects, what also seems certain to me is that his critiques against Lorenz are correct.

Fromm realized that Lorenz didn't see that in the humans (and in other species) there are other types of aggression, in addition to the defensive. When soldiers of an army, with imperialist intentions, invade a country that is not their country, they do not use a defensive violence. The aggressiveness of a serial killer is criminal and evil. Policemen and mercenaries on the pay of a political dictator, do not use violence for defensive purposes, but to terrorize and dominate the citizens of a country. The aggressiveness of animals is much more complex than Lorenz thought. It is very difficult to understand this subject by studying only ducks and rats. To understand it, it is necessary to study, in addition, history, psychology and religion.

Richard Dawkins is another writer who, in his book “The Selfish Gene”, has made critics to Lorenz's positive vision of violence postulated in “On Aggression”. ( )
1 vote Library_user_3.0 | Dec 29, 2019 |
An interesting study of the triggers for aggressive behaviour for Fish, birds and mammals. A seminal study it has often been reprinted and drawn from since its publication in 1962 ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 22, 2019 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lorenz, KonradAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hillenius, D.Contributorsecondary 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.
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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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First published in the 1960s, On Aggression has been the target of criticism and controversy ever since. It is not Lorenz's careful descriptions of animal behaviour that are contentious, but his extrapolations to the human world that have caused reverberations resulting in a statement adopted by UNESCO in 1989 and subsequently endorsed by the American Psychological Association that appears to condemn his work. But does On Aggression actually make the claims implicit in the Seville statement?In a new introduction by Professor Eric Salzen, the debate about Lorenz's work is set in its social and political context and his claims and those of his critics reassessed. Human aggression has not lessened since this seminal work first appeared and there are no convincing new solutions. On Aggression should be read by all new students and re-read by more experienced scholars so that the important evidence he presents from ethnology may be reappraised in the light of the most recent research.

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