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Beyond Human Nature: How Culture and Experience Shape the Human Mind Hardcover – November 19, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
Prinz states early on, that he is on the side of culture, so the reader knows what to expect. If you have been a naturist so far, see if he can convince you. If you are a nurturist, see if his arguments are similar to yours. And if you never thought about the issue, then prepare for a roller coaster ride of ideas and reasoning! Prinz structures each chapter around a question (e. g. “Where does thinking come from?”), and answers it first by summarising the arguments of the naturist side. Then he takes them apart, step-by-step. He points at flaws in research methods, logical problems, over-interpretation of results and offers alternative explanations. To underpin his arguments, he quotes about 250 scientific studies from psychology, philosophy, sociology and anthropology, but he gathers these in form of end notes at the end of the book, which makes the text easier to read than a traditional psychological text (which quotes the names of the researcher in parentheses in the text). Sometimes he also speculates, but when he does he tells you, and as the speculations agree with the quoted research results, he thus shows that there are alternative ways to interpret the data, so more and cleverer research is needed.
Reading original research is often hard for an outsider.Read more ›
The book that I have finished reading off-late also talks of the way we view our world and how and why do we do what we do. "Beyond Human Nature: How Culture and Experience Shape Our Lives" by Jesse J. Prinz completely left me astounded by the end of the read. It gave me more perspective to the human condition and what impact do places and upbringing and what surrounds us have on our way of thinking and behaviour.
Prinz asks if the idea of human nature has any place in the sciences and the book tries to unearth or discover that very thought. The argumentation is strong in most places and somehow felt weak in some others, which I ignored, because the overall book appealed to me.
The book is divided into six parts and each part focuses on the idea of where do the following come from: Feelings, Values, Traits, Knowledge, Language, and Thinking. While the book is great overall, the reader cannot start reading the book from any part. The vast diversity of behaviour is explored in great depth in this book with a lot of relevant instances, which both astound and amuse. The conclusions for each argument are valid and rolled out well, also carefully tying the knots. There is no vagueness left for the reader to deal with.Read more ›
Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at CUNY, presents a sustained argument against any sort of simple biological determinism, genetic, neural, or anything else. He systematically points out the fallacies in such an approach. While genes have clear influence on simple physical traits (eye color, height, etc.), there is little evidence of their direct influence on psychological or behavioral traits. Similarly, there is little good evidence that the brain is "hard-wired" for particular traits or tendencies, such as Chomsky's "universal grammar" or intelligence/IQ. Prinz is at his best providing a critique of particular studies that purport to demonstrate evidence of fixed "human nature"; he demolishes in two pages for example the claim that there is a "cheater detection" module built into our brain. He criticizes psychologists in particular for their basic methodological assumption that there is a fixed human nature, and that the best way to understand behavior is to study the brain and the genes. This is philosophy at its best, scientifically informed and critiquing the assumptions and hasty conclusions of innumerable psychological studies.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Prinz is only half right, when he says that "we invented language". Language also invented us. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Gunnar Odhner
Sure, we are a product of biology, but we are also a product of culture and experience.
There is indeed something after genetics and evolution. Read more
For the most part persuasive, although at times difficult to follow. The first chapter on why overemphasizing the role of genes could lead us astray as a society is important - it... Read morePublished 18 months ago by pow
Being interested in such an fascinating topic to what extent human behaviour and psychology are a result of inborn abilities on the one hand and of life experiences on the other I... Read morePublished 23 months ago by vandee
Wow. Who knew that a book this bad could make it into print. And its not self-published, but is actually published by Penguin Books, a famous and prestigious publisher. Read morePublished on May 5, 2013 by Amazon Customer