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The Moral Animal: Why We Are The Way We Are [Paperback]

Robert Wright
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

4 April 1996

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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The Moral Animal: Why We Are The Way We Are + The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin Press Science) + How the Mind Works (Penguin Press Science)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (4 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349107041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349107042
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 167,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


THE MORAL ANIMAL overturns old ways of thinking. (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

This is not a book of breathless reportage from some frontier of science; it is an eye-opening, thought-provoking, spine-tingling, mind-boggling, wish-I-had-thought-of-that sort of science book. (TLS)

A damn good book. (THE TIMES)

Anyone who finds the human race a bit of a puzzle will find much stimulation in this book. (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

* A lucid and provocative study of the ground-breaking new science of evolutionary psychology.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This book sets out the theory that the human brain evolved,like the other organs, not to cope in todays society but in the world as it was thousands of years ago. Going further than the usual "sewing your wild oats" explanations it looks at not only "survival of the fittest" but also how the "best fit for the largest number" might also have effected natural selection and therefore the evolution of the human brain. Written in avery easy style this book does not claim to have all the answers but has the fascinating ring of truth.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The Moral Animal is the ideal introduction to evolutionary psychology. It also has some advantages over more technical works like Barkow et al.'s The Adapted Mind: it deals with the political implications (or lack of implications) of evolutionary psychology, and tries to suggest what a new ethics informed by the findings of evolutionary psychology might be. Clear and entertaining but also profound and suggestive.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shamefully Badly Edited 7 May 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is good when it sticks to a summary of the new discipline of evolutionary psychology. The summary and explanation of why group selection is not a valid theory is excellent. But when he strays into a polemic in favour of Victorian morality he is partial and argues by assertion rather than with scientific neutrality. His attempts to provide a psychological analysis of Darwin's character and life are clumsy and spoil the book.
I have come to tolerate badly edited free books from Amazon but having paid good money I feel the lack of even s simple spell check makes this a serious condemnation of Amazon abusing its partial monopoly of e-books. I give it 3 stars as an average of 4 stars for content and zero for bad presentation and editing

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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Occasionally a book comes along that changes you in a profound way. It's partly the book, partly you, and partly where you are in your life when you read it. For me, this was one of those books.

Robert Wright ranges all over. Sex, marriage, monogomy, families, kin bonding and support, social hierarchy and status, reciprocal altruism, and modern morality. If you are interested in the nature of human behaviour and morality, and what modern genetics has to say about it, this book will tell you.

The author doesn't preach. He's very aware that this is a young science and much of what he discusses is speculation. This makes the book stronger: much of it is questions to ponder, not 'truths' to be believed. Open minded rather than didactic.

He also thoroughly debunks many of the myths surrounding evolutionary psychology. As a discipline, it has fallen victim to many mis-respresentations. It's a shame that so much of the discussion around it in the media is so off-base and mis-informed. This book is an excellent way to sort the reality from the propaganda.

Very highly recommended.
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54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matrix - The Reality! 27 Aug 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Down, down I was falling. Sucked into a set of cultural values I didn't understand or sign up to. I had learnt to cope with people vehemently defending the indefensible, but was still struggling with the sickening moral righteousness. Bump! Ow! A ledge? No, but as good as. A copy of Robert Wright's The Moral Animal.
It has let me glimpse how and why a few basic natural phenomena such as genetic mutation, sexual recombination, reproductive economics, game theory, memory, non-zero-sum exchanges, reciprocal altruism (an unfortunate misnomer for reciprocal selfishness), sexual selection and parental investment have combined together to produce morals, cultural values and even emotions that are just expedients to the success of particular genes.

Darwin himself expressed the stark reality best by suggesting that if our ecological system had happened to develop more like that of bees, human morals would have us convinced that the pre-natal murder of her fertile sisters by the first fertile daughter and the murder of all their brothers by her sterile sisters is how things should be. They would be seen as acts of fundamental natural justice. As ‘humane'.
I found that pretty shocking, but its probably right.
The book shows how our emotions come to be as they are; love jealousy, guilt, even fashion. The reason men and women think differently. The origins and the power of the Madonna/Whore complex (most females' genes gain from only exchanging sex for committed male parental investment - the Madonna - but some females' genes succeed through the use of other strategies).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In search of the psychic unity of humankind 30 Aug 2010
By Sphex
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Human anatomy applies to all peoples of the world. Why should the anatomy of the mind be any different? Every living human has the same sort of heart. Every thinking, feeling, loving, caring, hating, judging, lusting person has the same sort of brain. Being vastly more complex, the brain has more scope for individual variation while remaining a functioning organ, but still there is a huge overlap between the brains of any two people on the planet, and so also between the behaviours those brains generate. Our everyday behaviour is rooted in a biology we all share, and evolutionary psychology is its scientific study. In this classic work, Robert Wright explores this new science and shows how it leads to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our social world.

We all have intuitive ideas about why we are the way we are: nationality, colour, parental influence, peer pressure, culture, and so on, all partly determine our identity. One fact beyond intuition, however, is the rather longer timescale over which evolution has shaped both our bodies and our brains. Just as the circumstances of a childhood can affect a whole life, so too does the ancestral environment we grew up in as a species continue to make itself felt. That it does so in ways which are largely hidden from conscious view only serves to point up the importance of evolutionary psychology. We should not make the mistake of comparing the sparsely populated open savannah with the bustling cities many of us now live in and concluding that our evolutionary history has no relevance. We are remarkably flexible in many ways, but we are most certainly not blank slates. Human nature is a collaborative project in which we are often the junior partners who cannot edit the words of long-dead senior scriptwriters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Life is interesting
This is a good explanation about people and why we are what we are I would recommend it to thinkers ,those who are interested in why people do the things they do and say the things... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Terry
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind blowing.
Every so often I'd have to put the book down midway through a paragraph or chapter, just to mull over what I'd just read as it has the effect to change your understanding of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Duncan
2.0 out of 5 stars nasty, brutish, and long.
If you want the basics of evolutionary psychology, then this book will give it to you, but in a long-winded, rather boring way. Read more
Published 15 months ago by A. J. McGowan
5.0 out of 5 stars The evolutionary benefit of morals
If we accept the theory of evolution as the explanation of how we came to be who we are, what does that tell us about our psychology and our morals? Read more
Published 16 months ago by Rod Matthews
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening and challenging view of man's psychological evolution
As the author admits he is selling the new Darwinian science of psychological evolution. But you don't need to sell true science, just explain it. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Alan Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and important
An evolutionary approach to human nature. AT first I thought he was taking a rather limited and deterministic approach to the subject, with old conservative, pre-feminist theory... Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2012 by H. Easton
1.0 out of 5 stars Biased
The author of this book is a self-professed Utilitarian, but I had to wade through pages of biased tripe until finding that out on page 341. Read more
Published on 11 May 2012 by Tommy Tank
5.0 out of 5 stars Why we do what we do.
This book is great, really thought provoking and well written. I can see why the detail of Darwins life could be seen by some as distracting and irrelevant but i thought it was a... Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2012 by akedup4bbq
4.0 out of 5 stars Rolling the Universe in a Ball...
This is certainly an interesting book: it gets the reader to re-think his/her place in society and wonder about his/her life choices. Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2011 by rob crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb introduction to Evolutionary Psychology
Popular science can be written in one of two ways: a scientist learning to communicate, or a writer researching a topic and then presenting it clearly. Read more
Published on 17 Mar 2011 by anozama
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