Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature by Mary Midgley

By Mary Midgley

Philosophers have normally targeting the traits that make humans various from different species. In Beast and guy Mary Midgley, one among our most effective intellectuals, stresses continuities. What makes humans tick? mostly, she asserts, an identical issues as animals. She tells us people are far more like different animals than we formerly allowed ourselves to think, and reminds us simply how primitive we're compared to the sophistication of many animals. A veritable vintage for our age, Beast and guy has helped switch the way in which we expect approximately ourselves and the realm within which we are living.

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If the neighbors too did not care what they did apart from conforming, there would be nobody to generate the standards that everybody conforms to. Society is not a subsistent Being, a creative divinity. Not everybody can always be at the receiving end of culture. Paul, we will say, knows what he is doing, to the extent that what moves him actually is the motive he mentions, not his class or society. Indeed, both may disapprove of what he does, and he himself may even be rather puzzled by his motive, in the sense that its strength surprises him, and that it is not explicitly linked to his value system.

Facts about it are directly relevant to values. Values register needs. It is a mistake to suppose that there is some logical barrier, convicting such thinking of a “naturalistic fallacy” (Chapter 9). 7 Those interested in this melancholy subject can find some of the material in question in BioScience, 26 (1976), no. 3 (“Sociobiology—Another Biological Determinism”), and in the letters column of The New York Review of Books, November 13, 1976. We are not, and do not need to be, disembodied intellects.

We can study both. What behaviorism, it seems, still needs is to complete its metamorphosis from a dogmatic, fighting, metaphysical creed to an impartial method of study. The strength of behaviorism is that it is a form of empiricism, that is, an assertion of the primacy of experience over dogmatic theoretical principles in forming our knowledge. So, when it finds a dogmatic theoretical principle blocking our recognition of obvious and pervasive aspects of experience, its interests lie in ditching that principle, even when it happens to be a homegrown one.

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