Biology and Freedom: An Essay on the Implications of Human Ethology

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Cambridge University Press, 1988 - Psychology - 376 pages
Biology and Freedom is an essay on human nature; an attempt to make a just assessment of a species often presented as predominantly and unavoidably violent, greedy, and stupid. Likening human beings to animals is a traditional method of influencing attitudes on questions of morals and politics. Here, Professor Barnett shows that modern ethology, experimental psychology, genetics, and evolutionary theory give the currently fashionable misanthrophy no authentic support. He asks whether the theory of evolution has any bearing on, for instance, Machiavellianism in politics or the concept of original sin; and whether laboratory experiments on the effects of reward and punishment tell us anything useful about why we work, or about the enigma of free will. Combining the findings of modern biology with logic and humor, Professor Barnett gives a lucid alternative portrait of humanity. He stresses the questions that the complexities of human existence will raise long after the currently fashionable theories have faded. All those interested in these questions, in the truth about human nature, and in the future of human society will want to read this book.

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Contents

Four portraits
1
The pessimistic tradition
7
Animals and analogy
16
Communication and instinct
33
The aggression labyrinth
56
Evolution and natural selection
80
Environment and heredity
102
Stories of human evolution
116
The reductionist imperative
229
Human communication
251
Teaching and tradition
270
Reiteration
282
Glossary
303
Notes
316
References
336
Name index
361

Darwinism genetics and politics
141
Conditioning and improvisation
178
Work and play
207

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