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Paul Seabright's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Paul Seabright recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Paul Seabright's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Somewhere in Africa, more than a million years ago, a line of apes began to rear their young differently than their Great Ape ancestors. From this new form of care came new ways of engaging and understanding each other. How such singular human capacities evolved, and how they have kept us alive for thousands of generations, is the mystery revealed in this bold and wide-ranging new vision of human emotional evolution.

"Mothers and Others" finds the key in the primatologically unique length of human childhood. If the young were to survive in a world of scarce food, they needed to be...

Carol GilliganHrdy is an evolutionary anthropologist and her research challenges the widely held view that the nuclear family is the traditional or original human family. (Source)

Paul SeabrightHrdy has done more than any other individual to bring a sophisticated understanding of biology to the heart of a feminist perspective that we can live with in the 21st century. (Source)

Alison GopnikShe makes the very interesting argument that our particular evolutionary niche is such that we can’t just depend on mothers to provide care. (Source)

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Peacemaking Among Primates

Does biology condemn the human species to violence and war? Previous studies of animal behavior incline us to answer yes, but the message of this book is considerably more optimistic. Without denying our heritage of aggressive behavior, Frans de Waal describes powerful checks and balances in the makeup of our closest animal relatives, and in so doing he shows that to humans making peace is as natural as making war.

In this meticulously researched and absorbing account, we learn in detail how different types of simians cope with aggression, and how they make peace after fights....
Recommended by Paul Seabright, and 1 others.

Paul SeabrightDe Waal came to fame in an earlier book Chimpanzee Politics, which reminded us about something very important in many primate societies. This is that although such societies are intensely competitive, they are as much about competition between coalitions and groups as they are about competition between individuals. In a group-living primate society any individual is engaged in a complicated... (Source)

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Are humans by nature hierarchical or egalitarian? Hierarchy in the Forest addresses this question by examining the evolutionary origins of social and political behavior. Christopher Boehm, an anthropologist whose fieldwork has focused on the political arrangements of human and nonhuman primate groups, postulates that egalitarianism is in effect a hierarchy in which the weak combine forces to dominate the strong.

The political flexibility of our species is formidable: we can be quite egalitarian, we can be quite despotic. Hierarchy in the Forest traces the roots of...
Recommended by Paul Seabright, and 1 others.

Paul SeabrightYes, indeed it is. Boehm starts from the paradox that we share a common ancestry with apes and monkeys who live in very hierarchical societies, and that today we live in pretty hierarchical societies, but that all the evidence suggests that in between the two we went through a period of existence as hunters and gatherers in societies which were remarkably egalitarian, with very little... (Source)

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Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin.

In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis--pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior--show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural...
Recommended by Paul Seabright, and 1 others.

Paul SeabrightFor a long time the puzzle of cooperation in modern societies was posed as: How can selfish individuals come to cooperate? This book – which again is clearly in the tradition of Darwin’s The Descent of Man – says that this question is mis-posed because the evidence is overwhelming that human beings are not entirely selfish. They are motivated by lots of other things like sympathy, altruism and... (Source)

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If, as Darwin suggests, evolution relentlessly encourages the survival of the fittest, why are humans compelled to live in cooperative, complex societies? In this fascinating examination of the roots of human trust and virtue, a zoologist and former American editor of the Economist reveals the results of recent studies that suggest that self-interest and mutual aid are not at all incompatible. In fact, he points out, our cooperative instincts may have evolved as part of mankind?s natural selfish behavior--by exchanging favors we can benefit ourselves as well as others.Brilliantly... more
Recommended by Naval Ravikant, Paul Seabright, and 2 others.

Naval RavikantGetting into the more evolution, science kind of books, I really highly, highly recommend picking up [...] Origins of Virtue. (Source)

Paul SeabrightYes, exactly. In one sense Matt Ridley was restating the message which was already there in The Descent of Man but which had rather been forgotten. What this book did was popularise the idea that cooperation can indeed be favoured by natural selection. (Source)

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