Download PDF by Mary Midgley: Beast and man : the roots of human nature

By Mary Midgley

ISBN-10: 0203626508

ISBN-13: 9780203626504

ISBN-10: 0203630416

ISBN-13: 9780203630419

ISBN-10: 0415289866

ISBN-13: 9780415289863

ISBN-10: 0415289874

ISBN-13: 9780415289870

`Beast and Man is an excellent and persuasive try and set us in our animal context, ... and to point a morality for a society with out spiritual absolutes - a morality of which we see the rudiments in our brother species.' - The Observer

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That is, we want to see how it fits into the background of his life, and of human life generally. Shall we accept a simple Marxist interpretation, that he is showing off his riches to establish his class status? This will not get us far. Of course people do show off for that reason. But merely saying so does not account for the particular forms showing off takes. The ostentatious rich buy big cars, because those are what most people would like to have if they could. They do not usually display their status by burning themselves to death on piles of paper money in the streets.

They would not do so if they did not feel the need for some sort of belief, or if they did not mind disagreeing with everyone in sight, or if they insisted on clear proof before they ever accepted a suggestion. Wilson simply points out that there is a general human tendency to pick up any belief that is current. He does not say that it is irresistible. But it certainly is one thing that has to be assumed to explain social conditioning. And it becomes especially relevant when people are perpetuating a bad society, one which fails to “reward” them with anything more palpable than the sense that they are agreeing with their neighbors and are supporting the honored status quo.

I had completed the first draft before I came across Edward O. Wilson’s remarkable tome, Sociobiology, 4 and the suggestion arose that I should add some comments on it. What Wilson says on many points rounds out and completes admirably what I want to say. On others I differ from him sharply. Both the agreement and the difference light up my theme. His book is an immensely comprehensive survey of social life throughout the 1 See The Behavior of Organisms (New York, 1938), p. 7. ethology, first coined by Konrad Lorenz and his followers to describe their own studies of animal behavior, and disowned by some who disagreed with him, is now quite generally used for all systematic animal behavior studies.

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Beast and man : the roots of human nature by Mary Midgley


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