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Human Nature After Darwin: A Philosophical Introduction (Philosophy and the Human Situation)

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415212441
ISBN-10: 0415212448
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Editorial Reviews


Janet Radcliffe Richards has scored yet another success ....simply the clearest and most accurate introduction that there is to the current controversies about evolution, about Darwinian evolution in particular, and about how these do or do not apply to our own species. This is a book that will prove invaluable to students of all ages. Highly recommended.
–Michael Ruse, University of Guelph, Ontario

...a lucid treatment of one of the most important (and political) conflicts of our time.
Wilson Quarterly

...a contribution to the Darwinian debate.
Contemporary Review

...a superb book...Written with real verve and large doses of humour...provides insights with relevance to many issues in public policy and to numerous fields, including philosophy, political science, sociology, and law.
–Cass R. Sunstein, [Karl N. Llwellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence,] Law School and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago.

A really excellent text. Richards uses the controversy over sociobiology as a way to discuss a whole series of traditional philosophical problems....
–Professor David Hull, Northwestern University

About the Author

Janet Radcliffe Richards is Reader in Bioethics and Director of the Centre for Bioethics at University College London. she was formerly lecturer in philosophy at the Open University and is the author of the acclaimed book The Sceptical Feminist.


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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy and the Human Situation
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415212448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415212441
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Herbert V. Leighton on October 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book achieves its goals, but one goal is to be excruciatingly systematic. It is a pity that it is not more widely read, especially by those who argue about the broader implications of Darwinism. "If your reasoning from premises about facts to conclusions about actions goes wrong because of muddle, or equivocation, or mistakes in logic, then your practical conclusions will be just as unreliable as if you get the facts wrong" (269). Thus concludes this book.

Having read many books on both Darwinian evolution and philosophy, I was intrigued by this book, which was advertised as an exploration of the philosophical implications of evolution in general, including evolutionary psychology.

The author's original purpose for the book was to be strictly a introductory logic text, a "Logic 101" textbook as it were. The author indicates that she originally planned to have three main themes for the examples and exercises in the book, but that when she discovered that the theme of evolution had so many common logical errors used by those arguing about it, she decided to devote the book exclusively to the theme of Darwinism. The legacy of that original goal is still evident in the book, and it can be used as a Logic 101 textbook. For example, each section of each chapter ends with exercises for the student, and answers to the exercises are found in the back of the book. (Those exercises use the other two themes that Richards had originally planned to include in the book.)

As far as attacking the issue of the philosophical implications of Darwinism, the author admits that she intends to make her points slowly and ploddingly, and she does.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Buce on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
The publishers seem to have misunderstood (or at any rate, underrated) this superb book, which would profit from exposure to a wider audience. It's as if someone in a suit smelled a whiff of the lamp around here and exiled it to the ghetto of academic writing. This is a pity, but it is perhaps in part understandable. The nominal topic is "evolution," but the real subject is the activity of clear thinking. More directly -- no one excels Janet Radcliffe Richards in demonstrating how to use the tools of philosophy in the analysis or understanding of every day problems. There is an audience for this sort of thing. The publisher seems not to have found it and both auther and audience (saying nothing of the publisher) are the losers.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By criticalreader on August 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent introduction to current Darwinian thinking about human nature. As the book discusses the implications of accepting Darwinism it does not put forward an awovedly materialist view backed by arguments, but the author's stance on this issue is nevertheless unequivocal.
The style is admirably clear, and the general claim that in most cases, the often supposed differences between non-Darwinian and Darwinian lines of thinking are only apparent ones is convincing.
However, there are some passages which I disagree with.

1. The distinction between the formal validity of conditionals and the existence of a causal or explanatory relation between the antecedent and the consequent is blurred. Radcliffe writes:

"finding out the truth of the conditional is not a matter of finding out whether the antecedent is true... or whether the the consequent is true. Even if you proved conclusively that either of those was true or false, you would still have no evidence at all for the truth of the conditional... In fact, even if you proved both antecedent and consequent true, or both false, or the consequent true and the antecedent false, that would still have no bearing on the truth of the conditional. In all these cases, the conditional could be either true or false...
This is because a conditional is a statement which is not about the truth of any individual proposition, but a particular connection between the two."(p. 92)

For someone trained in formal logic this should seem puzzling. Formally, the truth table of the conditional does determine when it is false, namely when the antecedent is true and the consequent is false.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. T. on January 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
So, I taught an intro to philosophy class with this book and although I was hopeful that it would work out, I found it to be uneven in its quality.

The main argument of the book seemed a promising way to introduce philosophical argument to students. Richards proposes that the philosophical interest in Darwinism today is not the fundamentalist vs. scientist, but rather what happens when scientists speculate about the social, ethical and political implications of Darwinism.

The social construction arguments are thin, the stuff on relativism is weak, and the history of materialism and the critique of teleology in scientific explanation is missing a few crucial centuries. Richards appears to make Darwin into the first convincing materialist philosopher, which leaves out some important ones (if this is to be a philosophical text). The second chapter on skepticism and 'subject changing' is weak and the number of rape related exercises troubling. Chapter 3 is sort of unusable given Richards inability to set out the debates in any sort of objective or clear way.

In any case, chapters 1, 4 and 7 were usable for my class, but that was it. Next time, we're reading Dennett!
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