Mary Midgley, one of Britian's most cherished moral philosophers, wrote "Beast and Man" at age 50. At a time where behaviorism and existentialism told the world that there was no such thing as instinct or human nature, Midgley took pen to paper after raising three kids and in observing them, realized how wrong that notion was. Kids have instincts, natures. What's more, these natures are not so far off from what we know of animals natures.
Now before I give the impression that Midgley's book is another sociobiology book in disguise, it is the farthest thing from it. The first thing Midgley does is to make it clear that phrases like "Man is JUST (substitute "merely", "only" or "simply") an animmal are not only unfair to animals, they are unfair to humans. Sociobiology even sadomasochistically revels in depressions like this. (after all, aren't we 'only' the 'third chimpanzee'?) Usually, the mistake made is to thihk that animals are 'humans that just haven't gotten there yet' or that humans are 'dressed up brutes that play at ratiionality'. Midgley spends many pages on tackling both of these assumptions, as tacit as they sometimes are.
From there, she tackles things like what it means to say 'instinct', why 'reductionism' doesn't explain much of anything, and intertwining them all with examples of why the 'lower animals' and humans have so much in common yet are so incredibly different.
In short, this book is not to be missed. It is informative, provocative, challenging and all the while written in a crisp and sensitive prose. Never has it felt so good to be called an animal.