Moral Animal

  • by Robert Wright
  • Narrated by Greg Thornton
  • 16 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years. Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics - as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.

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What the Critics Say

"An accessible introduction to the science of evolutionary psychology and how it explains many aspects of human nature. Unlike many books on the topic,which focus on abstractions like kin selection, this book focuses on Darwinian explanations of why we are the way we are--emotionally and morally. Wright deals particularly well with explaining the reasons for the stereotypical dynamics of the three big "S's:" sex, siblings, and society." (Amazon.com review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fascinating, and Frustrating

Wright's book is essential reading on, and a monument to the aspirational leanings of early evolutionary psychology. He does an excellent job of benchmarking the scientific understanding of evolution and psychology in the waning years of the 20th century. But the book was much more a work of yearning, than one of sober scientific understanding. Wright intertwines the personal biography of Charles Darwin amidst a continuous stream of speculative theories about the purposive role of reciprocal altruism, relatedness, kin selection, and social 'fitness', in our genetic heritage, using Darwin as a kind of "patient zero" role model for these theories. The goal of all of it, as the title of the book exclaims, is to understand "why we are the way we are".

But Wright doesn't stop there. Despite numerous cautions against the urge to derive rules for living from natural purposes, even appealing directly to G. E. Moore late in the book, he still couldn't help himself but turn the book into an attempt to derive some sort of "moral of the story" from the various theories he'd sketched in the previous chapters. This, I think, was a mistake. It was as if Wright was confused about the purpose of his own book. Is it science, or philosophy?

After a long trek through the psychological and biological literature, suddenly we're thrust into a long discussion on Mill's Utilitarianism, and Darwin's particular flavor of it. And in the end, a meander into the religious tradition to ponder on questions of self-sacrifice, brotherly love, and self-denial. Ultimately, Wright ignores his own warnings, and seems to counsel for a kind of detente between the rational and the biological self, in which we seek self-awareness, but not *too much* self-awareness, and follow Darwin's role model of a psychology cynical of the self, but generous toward others.

As a founding document in the literature of evolutionary psychology, this work is definitely worth the read, but don't go into it expecting much in the way of answers. It's so early in the game, all it has to offer is a long string of questions. Maybe that's it's greatest strength, actually.
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- Greg Gauthier

The best book I've read in a long time

The best book I've read/listened to in a long time. So many important and valid points, it's almost overwhelming.
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- Simon

Book Details

  • Release Date: 29-06-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios