The Ethical Primate

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In The Ethical Primate, Mary Midgley, 'one of the sharpest critical pens in the West' according to the Times Literary Supplement, addresses the fundamental question of human freedom.
Scientists and philosophers have found it difficult to understand how each human-being can be a living part of the natural world and still be free. Midgley explores their responses to this seeming paradox and argues that our evolutionary origin explains both why and how human freedom and morality have come about.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Midgley (Can't We Make Moral Judgments, St. Martin's, 1994) aims at making evolutionary sense of human freedom and our capacity for morality. She analyzes and rejects as "folk psychology" the reductivism that dismisses the concepts with which we normally live. She claims that, because reductivists ignore the first-person view of agency, they cannot understand human freedom, and she therefore proposes a nonreductive pattern of explanation that enables her to bring together objective and subjective points of view. Midgley contends that morality is a response to natural conflicts of motive, emphasizing that we are far more aware than other animals of our own individuality and, unlike them, not only act but recognize the actions of others as actions. Clearly written and well argued, this commonsensical book will be profitable reading for anyone with a serious interest in ethical ideas and their application. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415095303
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/9/1994
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Inner Divisions 3
2 Misguided Debates 13
3 Guiding Visions 27
4 Hopes of Simplicity 43
5 Crusades, Legitimate and Otherwise 52
6 Convergent Explanations and Their Uses 63
7 Troubles of the Linear Pattern 71
8 Fatalism and Predictability 80
9 Agency and Ethics 95
10 Modern Myths 109
11 The Strength of Individualism 121
12 The Retreat from the Natural World 128
13 How Far Does Sociability Take Us? 136
14 The Uses of Sympathy 141
15 On Being Terrestrial 157
16 What Kind of Beings Are Free? 169
17 Minds Resist Streamlining 177
Notes 185
Index 192
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