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

By Mary Midgley

`Beast and Man is a superb and persuasive try and set us in our animal context, ... and to point a morality for a society with no spiritual absolutes - a morality of which we see the rudiments in our brother species.' - The Observer

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3 Certainly he is more free than other species. But that extra freedom flows from something natural to him—his special kind of intelligence and the character traits that go with it. It is not, and does not have to be, unlimited. ) It is not something added by his own will after birth, or by some external force called culture. A very recent controversy closely related to this theme has changed the scope and balance of my book. 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.

The desire for power is necessarily secondary to other desires, because power is power to do certain things, and valuing those things has to come first. Those who really pursue power just for its own sake are neurotics, entangled in confusion by habit and destroying their own lives. Hobbes realized this: So that in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in Death. And the cause of this is not always that a man hopes for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power: but because he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more.

Beast and man 12 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 18 and half the papers in periodicals. Human contentiousness is a fact. We could never keep our heads in the babble of controversy if we did not know how to allow for it. Indeed it is just those readers least aware of the deliberately polemical, challenging element in works such as these who are most likely to be drawn in by it, to involve themselves in the amusing but irrelevant game of cops-and-robbers that the authors want to play, rather than sticking to the central questions about the value of what is being said or done.

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