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First published twenty years ago to great acclaim, The Tangled Wing soon became a must-read for anyone interested in the biological roots of human behavior and emotions. Since then however, revolutions have taken place in the biological sciences—not only in genetics but molecular biology and neuroscience as well. All of these innovations have been brought into account in this vastly expanded edition of a book originally called an "overwhelming achievement" by the Times Literary ...
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First published twenty years ago to great acclaim, The Tangled Wing soon became a must-read for anyone interested in the biological roots of human behavior and emotions. Since then however, revolutions have taken place in the biological sciences—not only in genetics but molecular biology and neuroscience as well. All of these innovations have been brought into account in this vastly expanded edition of a book originally called an "overwhelming achievement" by the Times Literary Supplement.
In a masterful synthesis of biology, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy, Konner delves unabashedly into the seat of human emotions. He shows what is "natural" and what is merely construct. His discussion and analysis are both sensitive and straightforward, ranging from such compelling topics as brain differences between the sexes to the roots of mental illness. Finally, in a stirring tribute to the human spirit, he demonstrates how our tremendous capacity for change illuminates our prospects for the future.
Notes and References
Complete notes and references for The Tangled Wing are available online in either PDF or HTML format, at www.henryholt.com/tangledwing
Part One: Foundations of a Science of Human Nature
Chapter 1: Adaptation, An Introduction
Chapter 2: The Quest for the Natural
Chapter 3: The Crucible
Chapter 4: The Fabric of Meaning
Chapter 5: The Several Humours
Chapter 6: The Beast with Two Backs
Chapter 7: The Well of Feeling
Chapter 8: Logos
Part Two: Of Human Frailty
Chapter 9: Rage
Chapter 10: Fear
Chapter 11: Joy
Chapter 12: Lust
Chapter 13: Love
Chapter 14: Grief
Chapter 15: Gluttony
Part Three: The Modification of Behavior
Chapter 16: Change
Chapter 17: The Invisible Galaxy
Part Four: Human Nature and the Human Future
Conclusion: The Tangled Wing
Chapter 19: The Dawn of Wonder
So began an entertaining, lifelong adventure watching human antics and foibles, but also heroism and strength. Ignoring academic boundaries, I tried to learn as much as possible about anthropology, psychology, evolution, genetics, and brain science. As a pre-med I was so drawn to anthropology that I put medical school aside and went on to do field research among the Bushmen, one of the last hunter-gatherer groups and possibly the most interesting people on earth. I had always loved the saying, Nothing human is alien to me. Well, some of the things I saw among the Bushmen were pretty close to alien. But those two years changed my life, and ever since, the Bushmen have been my mental testing ground for any theory or generalization about human nature. When, in the back of my mind, one of my African friends finds a theory hilarious, that's usually a good sign it's a bad theory.
After five years teaching at Harvard -- also a pretty exotic environment -- I went to medical school. Once again I wanted to prove -- to myself, not anyone else -- that nothing human was alien, and the sight of people under the hammer of serious illness was as revealing as it was inspiring. I learned more science, and diseases of the mind and brain were especially revealing. But even patterns like puberty, childbirth, and aging filled in the sketch of human nature I had made as an anthropologist. Then illness struck close to home, claiming the lives of my parents and my wife and teaching me much more about the human spirit.
I wrote the first The Tangled Wing before the blizzard of medical school, and before the great revolutions in genetics and brain science of the last 20 years. These, together with the new experiences of my life -- my wife's long battle with cancer, my role as a single parent, my success in overcoming depression and loss -- convinced me that I needed to The Tangled Wing all over again. So much in it is new that my editor John Michel and I considered for a long time giving it a new title. But in the end we decided that those who had read the first version would want to see its transformation into something wonderfully new, yet retaining the basic character of the original. It's for everyone who shares my fascination with human nature. (Melvin Konner)