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The Moral Sense

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  97 ratings  ·  13 reviews
The classic and controversial argument that morality is based in human nature.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 6th 1997 by Free Press (first published August 9th 1993)
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Tania
I normally wouldn't give a book that is this slow such a high rating. Some of the chapters are longer than they need to be. Despite that, Wilson's argument is so interesting that it is worth struggling through some rather difficult writing to try to understand it.

Wilson is making a very conservative argument that argues that everyone is born with an innate moral sense, but that the family is key to socializing children to express that basic human nature. He uses extensive reference materials to
...more
Jeff Delisle
I first heard of Dr. Wilson after recently reading glowing obituaries in many respected publications. His teaching and publications have been influential to many better known authorities. As I am a psychiatrist working with emotionally disturbed adolescents, I felt I should know his work better. I have not been disappointed. Dr. Wilson's thesis is that development of a moral sense is an inherently human characteristic. This stance contradicts many popular views, including that of moral relativis ...more
Robert Wechsler
This is supposed to be Wilson's masterpiece, and it does seem well written. But it starts out by opposing science and reason on the one hand, and morality and religion on the other. This is, as far as I’m concerned, a false dichotomy. Wilson felt that using the word “values” would let people talk about morality, but "values" is a word that means very little. Wilson also felt that we have an intuitive idea of what we’re obligated to do, which is our “moral sense.” But this ignores the many situat ...more
Nicole Smith
I can't remember what I was reading that suggested I read this book, but I'm glad I did. It took me a while to get through it, but I think the examples and points made are very clear and in some ways scary. Reading this also made me want to get back to "The De-moralization of Society" by Gertrude Himmelfarb. I know that society at large does not agree upon what is moral and what behaviors should be encouraged or banned, but I honestly think that one of our big problems is that we are not willing ...more
Thomas
An old-fashioned essay, which is to say that it's a little dull and diffuse. Still, Wilson draws from a wide variety of sources and combines them into a lengthy examination of contemporary morality. As you might expect, he doesn't think much of Darwinian or Smithian reductionism, but he's happy to use economic or biological explanations for human behaviour when it suits him. I especially liked his brief dissection of gangsta culture and thought that it adds to previous economic explanations of t ...more
Thomas
It is a great book to ponder to what extent morality is socially constructed or an inherent quality in human beings. Wilson challenges much of the moral relativism that continues to permeate social constructivist thought.
Sarah
Apr 25, 2012 Sarah marked it as on-the-back-burner
Just couldn't get my mind to focus on the droll information.
Amber
Meh. Required text fo my course.
Wil Roese
It seems strange to me that anyone would doubt the existence of a moral sense. Do these doubters not have a moral sense? If they do have a moral sense then how can they doubt the existence of something they themselves have? If you do not have a moral sense yourself then this book gives objective evidence from the fields of child psychology and anthropology that most humans do in fact have a moral sense.
Michal Leah
I liked bureaucracy a lot better - this seemed to ephemeral a topic to tie down. But I read it as an audiobook so maybe I didn't give it enough attention
Catalina
Very interesting to skim and also to slow down on some sections (according to what interests you as a reader). It's a bit dense at points but full of good sense, extensive examples, and thought-provoking analyses.
Peter
Confirms J.H.Breasted's work on ancient Egypt. Guess what, morality does not come from Christianity. See Greek philophy, see ancient Egypt.
Hans
Most intriguing argument made by this author is how all the social institutions were created to essentially control the destructive nature of male aggression.
Emmie M.
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Apr 12, 2015
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10343
James Q. Wilson was one of the leading contemporary criminologists in the United States. Wilson, who has taught at several major universities during his academic career, has also written on economics and politics during his lengthy career. During the 1960s and 1970s, Wilson voiced concerns about trying to address the social causes of crime. He argued instead that public policy is most effective wh ...more
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