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Emotional Amoral Egoism: A Neurophilosophical Theory of Human Nature and Its Universal Security Implications Paperback – 23 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Lit Verlag (23 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3825809544
  • ISBN-13: 978-3825809546
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,170,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Nayef Al-Rodhan is a Philosopher, Neuroscientist and Geostrategist.

He is a Senior Member of St. Antony's College at Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom and Senior Scholar in Geostrategy and Director of the Geopolitics of Globalisation and Transnational Security Programme at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Geneva, Switzerland.

He holds an M.D. and a Ph.D, and trained in Neurosurgery/Neuroscience research at the Mayo Clinic, Yale University and Harvard University. He founded the Neurotechnology programme, headed Translational Research and founded the Laboratory for Cellular Neurosurgery and Neurosurgical Technology at MGH, Harvard. He was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School, has published extensively on Neuroscience research and won several research prizes. These include: The Sir James Spence Prize; The Gibb Prize; The Farquhar-Murray Prize; The American Association of Neurological Surgeon Prize (twice); The Meninger Prize; The Annual Resident Prize of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons; The Young Investigator Prize of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons; The Annual Fellowship Prize of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

His Geostrategy interests include: Geopolitics of the Middle East; Sustainable National and Global Security; Geopolitics of outer Space and Strategic Technologies; and Global Strategic Cascading Risks.

His Philosophical interests include: Global Justice; Human Dignity and International order; Transcultural Synergy; Philosophy of Human Nature; Philosophy of Sustainable History; History of Ideas; Cellular and Neurochemical Foundations and Predilections of Human Nature and Their Implications for War, Peace and Moral and Political Cooperation.

He has proposed many innovative theories and concepts in Philosophy, Global security, and Geostrategy and published 19 books. He is best known for his Four Philosophical and analytic works on global politics: "Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man"; "Emotional Amoral Egoism"; "Neo-Statecraft and Meta-Geopolitics", and "Symbiotic Realism ". He has two new books from Palgrave: "Critical turning points in the Middle East: 1915-2015"; and "The Politics of Emerging Strategic Technologies".

For additional information on Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan's publications and ideas, please see: www.sustainable-history.com

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Format: Paperback
An extremely well researched and informative book into what constitutes not just what makes us think the way we do but also the way we act. The author uses clear and concise explanations and illustrations to explain his theories and to back up his statements.

An excellent study book which you need to read in a quiet or undisturbed room to fully appreciate and understand. In certain parts the text may need reading a couple of times. Students of psychology or philosophy must read this book to help further their learning.

I especially enjoyed the introduction and beginning of the book as the author uses famous philosophers to explain our behaviours and ideas with reasoned and balanced logic, he follows this by describing factors and/or influences that can have an impact on how we behave or react.

The second part of the book deals in more depth of how these factors and influences affect our way of thinking and how it is difficult for humans to change our nature or beliefs and offers theories on how we can change.

This is the second book that I have read by this particular author and this again did not disappoint, the area of mind and brain and its workings have been a mystery for centuries and this books goes a long way to answering or offering solutions to those questions.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kelsey R Holden on 4 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this neurophilosophical discussion of human nature and the resulting views of morality, xenophobia, conflict and governance.
Drawing on his experience as a leading neuro-scientist, Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan basically argues that humans are amoral. In other terms, as long as their basic needs are not satisfied, they will act without morality, only aiming at fulfilling their egoist, basic needs. This is why strong governance structures are required in order to contain and regulate these traits of human nature.
Furthermore, Dr Al-Rodhan challenges the underlying assumptions of conventional International Relations and Economic Theories by holding that Human Nature is much more emotional rather than rational. While the assumption of rationality of man has been frequently criticized in recent months, little effort has been made to provide new approaches. This book fills this gap by scientifically demonstrating that humans are emotional, amoral and egoist beings.
Despite its discussion of very complex topics, this book is an easy read and I recommend it to everyone with any interest in the these topics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Emotional Amoral Egoism 4 Aug. 2010
By Kelsey R Holden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this neurophilosophical discussion of human nature and the resulting views of morality, xenophobia, conflict and governance.
Drawing on his experience as a leading neuro-scientist, Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan basically argues that humans are amoral. In other terms, as long as their basic needs are not satisfied, they will act without morality, only aiming at fulfilling their egoist, basic needs. This is why strong governance structures are required in order to contain and regulate these traits of human nature.
Furthermore, Dr Al-Rodhan challenges the underlying assumptions of conventional International Relations and Economic Theories by holding that Human Nature is much more emotional rather than rational. While the assumption of rationality of man has been frequently criticized in recent months, little effort has been made to provide new approaches. This book fills this gap by scientifically demonstrating that humans are emotional, amoral and egoist beings.
Despite its discussion of very complex topics, this book is an easy read and I recommend it to everyone with any interest in the these topics.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A book that has earned a place on the shortlist for those seeking a timely, balanced, and informed point of view. 26 July 2010
By Norm Goldman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Author: Dr. Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan
ISBN: 978-3-8258-0954-6
Publisher: Transaction Publishers

For centuries there has been an ongoing debate as to how much of our human behavior, ideas and feelings are innate and how much are influenced by our environment. Are we born good or bad? Does reason or emotions drive us? Is our mind malleable or predisposed? In fact, these nature vs nurture debates have been one of the most enduring in the fields of philosophy, religion, psychology and many other disciplines.

According to Dr. Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan, author of Emotional Amoral Egoism: A Neurophilosopical Theory of Human Nature and its Universal Security Implications, how we answer these questions determine how we answer whether humans are capable of moral behavior (consistent with a system of rules of correct conduct).

Dr. Al-Rodhan believes that humankind is neither always moral nor always immoral, but is capable of being either at different times. As he states: "human nature is governed by general self-interest and affected by genetic predispostion, which implies that there are likely to be limits to our moral sensitivities."

To advance his theory, he sets out to accomplish two tasks in his book. Firstly, he endeavours to reach a comprehension of human nature, which, as he states, offers us the promise of living a good life. Consequently, he poses the following questions: what is it that motivates humankind? What is humankind capable of under certain circumstances and moreover, does humankind possess an innate morality?

To answer these questions, Dr. Al-Rodhan looks to the different perceptions that he has gleaned from the fields of philosophy, psychology, sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, to present a broader explanation of human nature. In addition, he also calls upon the recent findings of his own field of neuroscience. As Dr. Al-Rodhan states, recent neuroscientific findings confirm that we are primarily driven by our emotions rather than reason. Nonetheless, as pointed out, human psyche and behavior are also the product of our environment. Under the right circumstances and with deliberate effort, we are still capable of acting in a moral way, notwithstanding our genetic code.

The second objective of the book is to examine some of the global and security implications of human nature as Dr. Al-Rodhan conceives it.

Prior to advancing his own theory concerning human nature, which he terms Emotional Amoral Egoism, Dr. Al-Rodhan synthesizes the main approaches to human nature as advocated by different scholars in the fields of religion, spirituality, philosophy, psychology, evolution, and sociobiology.

After exploring these many diverse perceptions of human nature, Dr. Al-Rodhan presents his own theory of emotional amoral egoism. He contends that "humankind is conceived as primarily motivated by neurochemically mediated emotions resulting from genetic make-up and environmental influences, employing reason and engaging in conscious reflection only occasionally."

Fundamentally, and this is the essence of Dr. Al-Rodhan's theory, human nature is a "predisposed tabula rasa (clean slate)." In other words, as pointed out, we don't have innate ideas, but we do possess predispositions that are coded by genetics and influenced by our environment. His general theory is broken down into eight elements. Humans are primarily motivated by emotional self-interest which initially is focused on survival. Once this is achieved, we have domination. The survival instincts are emotionally based and are predisposed through genetic make-up with heterogeneous variations and personality traits that are mediated through neurochemistry. In turn, these are affected by personal state of affairs, upbringing, eduction, and societal, cultural and global state of affairs. However, these may be modified by psychotherapy, medicines, molecular/genetic engineering, neurotechnology and other means. Finally, humans can occasionally be moral, although probably for self-interest reasons. According to Dr. Al-Rodhan, reason, reflection and conscious morality is rare.

Why is all of this important and relevant today? Dr. Al-Rodhan maintains: " This insight has profound implications for the re-ordering of governance mechanisms at all levels with a strong emphasis on the role of society and the global system in maximising the benefits of what I term measured self-interest while minimising it excesses,because human beings cannot be left to their own devices to do the right thing."

This is my second book authored by Dr. Al-Rodhan, my first being, Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man, and I cannot come close in this review to covering everything this brilliant thinker and writer does within its 207 pages, which also includes a comprehensive reference section, helpful diagrams and an index. His superb overview and sharp analysis of the assorted schools of thought concerning human nature is wide and deep and presented in such a manner that readers can readily appreciate the role it plays in the understanding of emotional amoral egoism. In addition, Dr. Al-Rodhan has shown a remarkable understanding and insight into human nature, as he adopts a multidisciplinary approach in defence of his position. Readers will without doubt be satisfied by his level of analysis and synthesis which all contribute to a better understanding of a subject matter that at times can be quite daunting. And given how much has already been written on the subject, it is difficult for any new approach to the topic to stand out. However, I believe this book has earned a place on the shortlist for those seeking a timely, balanced, and informed point of view.

Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Interesting subject matter. 8 July 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Emotional Amoral Egoism: ..." by Nayef Al-Rodhan is a great look into many aspects of the human mind and human nature. Until now, many people believed that a strict moral code was responsible for the actions of most people. However, the author proposes that it is not morality but rather by internal desires and self preservation. He discusses his belief that humans are not moral or immoral by nature, but rather amoral. When faced with situations, our survival instinct kicks in and morality has little impact on our decision making. This theory can be expanded to cover a multitude of scenarios from the political realm to our day to day lives.

This book is definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy reading about how philosophy has changed and continues to change and shape our world, this is definitely the book for you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing book that will provide a tour de force of philosophy, politics and biology 26 Jun. 2010
By kratzy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book does it all. If you ever thought that a philosophy book was just a collection of thoughts and ideas without the real hard-core scientific proof or the basing in history, read this book and see how a well rounded basis for a new philosophical concept can be written.
The author starts off with an extremely well written summary of the history of philosophy. If you just heard of Kant, but have never read any of his books, this summary is highly recommend for anyone interested in getting a broad overview of the most well known philosophers. The author in clear and concise terms summarizes the major ideas and how philosophy developed/evolved over time.
Then comes the actual meat of the book. The author's basic idea is that the human mind or humans themselves are not a blank slate, but that some quasi imprinting has taken place that brings out certain character traits once the human being is exposed to stimuli in the environment. The author, to support, but for the reader more important, to build his hypothesis, draws from an array of knowledge areas, including molecular biology, neurology, history and, of course, philosophy.
I find this book to be the most thrilling when after the extremely well written center section, the author goes on to apply his theory to the cause of interational conflict and how his explanation can be used to mold the human slate in a way that the environment makes conflict less likely to find ground to develop.
The idea itself is fascinating. Politics as only one factor that leads to war, balanced or in some cases supported by environmental stimuli that makes humans so much more likely to follow politicians willingly into war.
I really recommend this book to people interested in conflict resolution and prevention, who are open and maybe searching already to new approaches to ward off conflict. I truly enjoyed reading this book. As someone who in various jobs worked in genomics, IT and law, this book allowed me to build on my training and use it throughout the book. It makes you think, but this book and the author do so in a good and enjoyable way.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"emotional amoral egoism" 21 Oct. 2010
By Michelle K. Malsbury - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Ph.D., Author
"emotional amoral egoism"
Transaction Publishers, ISBN 978-3-8258-0954-6
Non-Fiction-educational, psychology, conflict resolution, international relations, human nature
237 pages
October 2010 Review for Bookpleasures
Reviewer-Michelle Kaye Malsbury, BSBM, MM
Review

One cannot argue with Dr. Al-Rodhan's credentials, which are beyond reproach. He is Senior Scholar (Geostrategy) and Director of Programs on the Geopolitical Implications of Globalization and Transnational Security at the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Geneva, Switzerland. (2010, back cover). With his recent book, "emotional amoral egoism," he no doubt demonstrates his ability to influence the future direction of scholastic discourse and public policy.

Dr. Al-Rodhan begins "emotional amoral egoism" logically and sequentially with the topic of human nature and introduction of various theorists positions on same. The subject matter is complex and spans a variety of disciplines. Each chapter's material builds on the previous one in support of Rodhan's overall theme: which is to advance the scholastic understanding of human nature and to tie that understanding of human behavior to international relations associated with global security. (2010, pgs.13-14).

I found his hypothesis and arguments to be a refreshing and interesting approach to international relations that can be readily applied toward increased understanding, accountability, and transparency regarding human behavior on a number of levels ranging from our educational systems, to government and media.

Instead of using the Locke theory of the human mind (tabula rasa or blank slate), Dr. Al-Rodhan builds upon that framework and introduces what he calls "predisposed tabula rasa."

In this context Al-Rodhan states "...genetic make-up is...code for survival". He hypothecates that- "Survival instincts are emotionally based and neurochemically mediated." To which Al-Rodhan adds, "We are therefore driven by both basic survival instincts and rational thought." (2010, p.15) These statements form the backbone for his argument that human behavior is focused on emotional self-interest, i.e. survival first [fear] and foremost, that this self-interest sets the stage for what individuals might do, or be capable of, with regard to morality and/or pre-emptive aggression. (p,17)

Disciplines crossed in this in-depth, comprehensive, look at human nature range from psychological approaches to human nature to religious and spiritual approaches, to human nature, to philosophical approaches, and finally through evolutionary approaches. The theory proposed by Dr. Al-Rodhan considers human motivations, emotions, genetic make-up, personality traits and their heterogeneous variations along with neurochemical and environmental factors, behavioral modification, and reflection. He conceptualizes those theories and interfaces them with morality and international relations, identity construction, xenophobia, and ethnocentricity toward increasing our understanding of conflict and boundaries in our moral communities.

There is also chapter designated to global governance, challenges, and responses just prior to reconciling the research findings and offering implications/recommendations that is especially helpful in understanding how we can apply this theory to practice.

Questions to be pondered in reading this work hinge on age old debates beginning with: constraint of our emotions v. perfection through reason, the nature/nurture debate, what influences come from environment v. those attributed to our biological heritage, through whether or not human beings are endowed with innate morality or radical freedom? To which Dr. Al-Rodhan replies, "We are neither radically free to choose our nature nor entirely determined by our biological heritage". (2010, p.65) Furthermore, Al-Rodhan believes that our "...survival instincts are emotionally based..." and "the result of variation and competition." (p.68) However, it is important to note, "Sometimes, emotions may be influenced by conscious thought." (p.69) Human beings have the capability to be "...either moral or immoral depending on what their general self-interest dictates". (pgs.70-71)

Al-Rodhan suggests that "...environment can alter how instincts are acted on". (2010, p.73) And that "...fear, pain, and grief..." are some factors that influence human motivation. Depth of the emotion may add to the intensity of the act. (p.77) Other drivers of human actions/behavior are: "ego, pride, and reputation" as well as, "...greed...individual inclinations..." and "...reason...reflection and morality...". (pgs.78-82) Taken together or singularly, all of those influences are likely to contribute to, and determine, what each person deems moral or immoral according to Al-Rodhan.

Emotions and genetic make-up need also be factored into our actions or reactions to any given situation or circumstance. Al-Rodhan has traced brain activity to emotions and notes that emotions are neurochemically based and stress related. Certain societal factors and environmental situations, as well as, personality disorders can trend toward more aggressive behaviors and negative emotions. Therefore, changes induced via medications targeting specific areas of the brain where these chemicals are triggered or via introduction of behavioral modification therapy should be capable of creating differing outcomes in certain circumstances. (2010, chapter 3.7)Toward this end, Al-Rodhan happens to attach more importance to emotions as controllers for behavior than reason. (p.138)

Can understanding what drives certain human behavior be a critical factor in creation of peace and international stability? Dr. Al-Rodhan suggests yes. It should be the express desire of world leaders to "...create the conditions under which the expansion of our moral communities may become more likely". (2010, p.156) How can this be done? Al-Rodhan believes this can be achieved by: promotion of inclusive "...national identities" and "...diversity..."spearheaded through "...policies and governance structures aimed at reducing structural inequality and promoting inter-civilisational understanding and dialogue". (p,165)

In closing Al-Rodhan adds "The educational system is a particularly important means of combating xenophobia and ethnocentrism by increasing awareness of others and teaching children to unlearn stereotypes". (2010, p.173) "The media and information and communication technologies are also critical vehicles." Putting this into practice means we must pay close attention to: "...traditionally marginalized groups, including the poor, women, and people with disabilities, in the political process". (p.198)

In "emotional amoral egoism" Al-Rodhan writes a very comprehensive summary outlining the components that comprise human behavior and how various factors can influence actions and emotions. This book should be a must read for world leaders who wish to work toward more peaceful and stable international relationships, educators who are concerned with undoing biases and stereotypes that contribute to creation of conflict and division, and the media who are challenged with writing truthfully and with integrity about what can and needs to be done to make this world a better place for all people.
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