THE MORAL ANIMAL examines the significance of this extraordinary shift in our perception of morality and what it means to be human. Taking the life of Charles Darwin as his context, Robert Wright brilliantly demonstrates how Darwin's ideas have stood the test of time, drawing startling conclusions about the structure of some of our most basic preoccupations. Why do we commit adultery, express suicidal tendencies and have the capacity for self-deception? Wright not only provides the answers to such fundamental moral questions from the perspective of evolutionary psychology but challenges us to see ourselves anew through the clarifying lens of this fledgling and exciting science.
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(159mm x 202mm x 37mm)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
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US Kirkus Review »
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. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Robert Wright
Robert Wright has written extensively for ATLANTIC MONTHLY, NEW YORKER and TIME magazine and currently works as a senior editor at THE NEW REPUBLIC. His latest book, NON-ZERO, is also published by Abacus. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and family.