In "The Ethical Primate, " renowned philosopher Mary Midgley tackles important questions about human freedom and morality. Scientists and philosophers have found it difficult to understand how each human being can be both a living part of the natural world and, at the same time, a genuinely free agent. Midgley explores their responses to this seeming paradox and argues that our evolutionary origin, properly understood, explains why human freedom and morality have come about.
Midgley shows that the unrealistic isolation of mind from body in reductive scientific ideologies still causes us confusion. Such ideologies posit a separate human will which exists outside the natural world. But such a crude picture ignores the manifest importance of the higher human faculties and fails to provide room for any realistic notion of the self.
Midgley attempts to make it easier for us to acknowledge an evolutionary origin for our higher faculties. She argues that human morality necessarily arises out of human freedom: we are uniquely free beings in that we are aware of our conflicting motives; those conflicts and our abilities to resolve them are part of our natural inheritance. Though our selves are in many ways divided, we share the difficult project of wholeness with other organisms. "The Ethical Primate" raises basic and profound questions about what it means to be human and proposes some provocative new answers.
..."arduous and instructive...."
-"Ethics & Medicine, 1998
"Clearly and gracefully written, it should prove very interesting and accessible to a wide audience.."
"Although her account hardly answers all the perplexities concerning relations of mind to body or how we can act freely, her honest and informed probing provides a highly sensible perspective. As a brief work not attempting to survey the literature (it has no bibliography), but it does exhibit knowledge of a fair range of relevant biological and philosophical literature. Clearly and gracefully written, it should prover very interesting and accessible to a wide audience. Undergraduate through professional "Choice, April, 1995."
""The Ethical Primate raises basic and profound questions about what it means to be human and proposes some provocative answers."
-"Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society
"The book is especially good incriticizing egoistic explanations of morality...blends philosophy and science in a conversational, rather than technical or rigorous, style."