- Series: Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology
- Hardcover: 456 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 20, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393706559
- ISBN-13: 978-0393706550
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) 1st Edition
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“Narvaez offers so much material and information about the types of morality. . . . Understanding how each form of morality relates to the others and to early nurturing offers a sense of continuity. Narvaez concisely spells out the steps for healing and recovery, and I found myself devising ways to assist others to move beyond a stuck place of morality. By compiling so much information in a readable form, Narvaez offers therapists a wonderful gift. I recommend this book because it provides compelling and useful information in dealing with clients.”
- The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter
“[F]ascinating and compelling . . . . [A] must for any college or institutional library and a highly recommended read for practitioners interested in neuroscience and the wider implications of human behavior in society today.”
- Contemporary Psychotherapy
“It will be an extremely useful textbook in philosophy, psychology, and interdisciplinary studies, as well as a good read for anyone interested in morality and its genesis.”
- Metapsychology Online Reviews
“Acknowledging advances in the intricate neuroscience of emotions and human communication, Darcia Narvaez illuminates the sympathy and moral sentiments upon which all our achievements depend. She shares her wealth of knowledge of how we must balance moral being and practical becoming in the cultivation of arts and sciences and, especially in education of youth, we should welcome playful enthusiasm for the discovery of meaningful skills. This book will guide researchers, teachers, and therapists to appreciate the foundations of their work.”
- Colwyn Trevarthen, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychology and Psychobiology, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh
“A masterfully written book with insights, fresh ideas, and important questions worthy of wide readership and influence. With a background taken from evolutionary biology and virtue ethics, the author integrates knowledge from a sweeping array of disciplines within biology, anthropology, and the developmental sciences to advance her compelling narrative about the human condition and what is needed today for healthy development and flourishing. Concluding appeals for more of an ‘engagement ethic,’ becoming in balance with nature, and appreciating values from our indigenous cultures are graced with her personal experiences and poetically-toned positive advice.”
- Robert N. Emde, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine; Centers for American Indian Alaska Native Health, Colorado School of Public Health
About the Author
Darcia Narvaez, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame specializing in ethical development and moral education, and a fellow of the American Psychological Association. She integrates a bicultural and interdisciplinary background into her scholarship, and writes a blog for Psychology Today called “Moral Landscapes.”
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Elizabeth A. Johnson, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)
Darcia Narvaez, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014).
I was pleased that I read them in tandem because these two books complement each other.
Elizabeth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, uses Darwin’s understanding of the natural world as her foundation upon which to build her thesis that ecological care is at the center of human moral life. Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, uses Darwin’s evolutionary framework to develop an understanding of human moral development that has implications for child rearing and global ecological health.
At the core of both authors’ vision is the endorsement of human intersubjectivity, i.e. emotional attunement, with all of creation. In the words of Elizabeth Johnson, “difficulties can be met if we admit the existence in nature of variations, the interactions of organisms with one another in competition or cooperation for the good of life” (page 96). In the words of Darcia Narvaez, “Ecological attachment develops from a ‘sentient ecology,’ or knowing a place. Sentient knowing is based not in book learning but in the feelings, sensitivities, perceptions and orientations that develop through extensive living within a particular environment. It represents types of intuitions and highly honed perceptual skills that develop in a historically specific environment as a ‘poetics of dwelling’” (page 288).
With regard to moral life and ecological care, Elizabeth Johnson proposes, “Christian social teaching about the common good underscores the need to change not just individual behaviors but social structures that create misery. If nature be the new poor . . . then the passion to establish justice for poor and oppressed humans widens to include suffering ecosystems and other species under threat” (page 283). Darcia Narvaez says, “For optimal moral functioning, one must have help from caregivers in early life and during sensitive periods to develop prosocial emotion systems (engagement) as well as the ability to derail from one’s less imaginative and hopeful emotions and to think beyond reacting to immediate threat . . . When a child does not receive appropriate care, the more self-protective, reactive brain will dominate and deficits for (social) pleasure may ensue, making replacements such as drugs attractive . . .” (page 201). With regard to ecological health, she adds, “Everything deserves to flourish on its own terms rather than to be treated as objects, resources to harvest, or inferior creatures. . . . We choose actions as individuals, families, and community members according to ‘which actions support living relationships, and which cause harm?’ A transformative, responsible life pays attention to place, to the needs and beauty of a place, to the wisdom inherent in the life there” (page 292).
These two eminent professors in diverse fields (religion and science) share a common vision that includes Charles Darwin’s theories. I highly recommend these two books to all who are interested in human moral development and to all who are concerned about ecological health.
Moreover, the style in which the interdisciplinary concepts are presented initially appear as teachable, which they are, but nonetheless, provoke deep reflection from the onset. I appreciate the recursive building of multilayered complexity in the interconnection of ideas. Of particular importance is Narvaez’s insistence on the holistic notion of the vital importance of early experience grounded in developmental system theory based on moral motivation “as a shifting landscape”. Indeed this process model provokes continual testing of the contradictions in our deep sense of ethical behavior and how we determine future paths to reshape the world and ourselves now, and in the future. Narvaez’s multiple ethics theory proposes a revisioning of moral responsibility which may forge new visions to live by in shaping a more sustainably and strikingly cooperative social world. A world in which we will better survive and learn to restore the human essence in our acute awareness of the ethics of care for the natural world.
However, she does not happen to mention the 2003 book Archetype Revisited: An Updated Natural History of the Self (orig. ed., 1982) by Anthony Stevens, M.D. (born in 1932), in which he discusses archetypes in connection with attachment theory. But Narvaez also discusses attachment theory.
In the book The Two Million-Year-Old Self (1993), Stevens says that archetypal wounding requires archetypal healing. What he means as archetypal healing involves what Narvaez and others refer to as brain plasticity.
Narvaez includes numerous figures and table throughout her book. But they are not listed in the contents in the front matter of her book, as I think they should have been – and should be if Norton brings her book out in a paperback edition.
At the end of each chapter, Narvaez provides a list of Summary Points. I’d suggest reading them first as a way to get a preview of the chapter -- and then read the text of the chapter.
Narvaez’s book deserves to be widely read.