Betty's Reviews > Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature

Beast and Man by Mary Midgley
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Oct 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2013, recs-for-my-sister, non-fiction, women-authors
Read from September 12 to 23, 2013

This is philosophy for biologists, or zoology for sociologists. For the layman, it's a mix of all of these things, a useful overall primer for the role of science and scientific thought in understanding human nature. Midgley successfully takes down egoism and The Selfish Gene* and the evolutionary psychology nonsense that's still so popular, while presenting logical arguments in plain English. Her thesis consists of a few intersecting points- essentially that there is an innate human nature, that human nature exists on a continuum with animal nature, and that trying to delineate what makes us different from The Animals is a fruitless exercise that oversimplifies the animal kingdom- she emphasizes that differing disciplines require different sorts of inquiry, but that asking those questions across disciplines or learning to apply modes of thought across these disciplines can only lead to greater understanding of humanity, ethics, and our place in the natural world. It's enjoyable, optimistic, and compassionate.

*I don't know why I didn't realize this before, but Dawkins is totally the Ayn Rand of scientists.
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09/12/2013 marked as: currently-reading
09/23/2013 marked as: read

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