On Human Nature by Edward O. Wilson

Is there such a thing as human nature? Sartre denied it with his epithet that ‘existence precedes essence’. We are free to choose what we become, he argued. Indeed, in a memorable phrase ‘we are condemned to be free’.

Of the opposite opinion are thinkers like Steven Pinker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker) (Cf. The Blank Slate: The Modern denial of Human Nature, 2002 http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Blank-Slate-Penguin-Science/dp/014027605X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389449752&sr=8-2&keywords=blank+slate) who insists there is a very definite human nature, and that the mind is certainly not a tabula rasa. Wilson is in the second camp. E.O. Wilson’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_O_Wilson) book On Human Nature (1979) began a new phase in this most important intellectual controversy. His question is ‘Is human behaviour controlled by the species’ biological heritage? Does this heritage limit human destiny?

With characteristic pungency and simplicity of style, the author of the hugely influential Sociobiology (1975) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sociobiology-The-Synthesis-Edward-Wilson/dp/0674002350/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389450376&sr=8-1&keywords=sociobiology) challenges old prejudices and current misconceptions about the nature-nurture debate.

Listen to the R4 ‘In Our Time’ 45 minute podcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00548kf  With Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre of Cognitive Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Janet Radcliffe Richards, Philosopher, Reader in Bioethics, University College London; John Gray, Professor of European Thought, London School of Economics.

260 pages in Harvard University Press

ISBN 978-0674634411

Edward O. Wilson

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