The Age of Empathy

MANY people have argued that humans are naturally cooperative. Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, the Dalai Lama, Russian zoologist and anarchist Peter Kropotkin, neurobiologist James Rilling and psychologist Dacher Keltner, among many others have all made the case that our animal nature is characterised as much by kindness and collaboration as it is by competition and carnage. Now, the prolific primatologist Frans de Waal joins the fray to convince people that we are not such nasty creatures after all. Empathy, de Waal explains, is the social glue that holds communities together, and if humans are empathetic animals it is because we have “the backing of a long evolutionary history”. “Bonding… is what makes us happiest,” he writes, and rapidly accumulating evidence from the behavioural and neural sciences supports the claim. A pleasing corrective to the ‘nasty, brutish and short’ view of human life first propounded by Thomas Hobbes (or even worse the “warre of every man against every man”) and held by many to be self-evident to the present day.

304 pages in Souvenir Press Ltd.

ISBN 978-0285640382

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