Seven Theories of Human Nature
With over a quarter of a million copies sold, Seven Theories of Human Nature has established itself as the classic introduction to Western intellectual theory. Ranging from Plato's Republic to Edward O. Wilson's On Human Nature, and drawing on philosophy, psychology, sociology, politics, biology, and theology, this admirably lucid volume compresses into a small space the essence of such thinkers as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, B.F. Skinner, and Konrad Lorenz.
Stevenson juxtaposes the ideas of these and other thinkers in a way that helps us to understand how humanity has struggled to comprehend its nature. We see how Freud's theory of subconscious motivation is directly attacked by Sartre's claim that there are no subconscious acts at all. And how Skinner's theories, which assert the primacy of learned behavior, are undercut by Lorenz's studies of animals, which suggest that complex behavior can occur prior to learning. To bring these comparisons into sharper relief, Stevenson examines each theorist on four points--his speculation on the nature of the universe, his assessment of the nature of man, how he views the ills of the world, and what he would do to change it. This structure enables Stevenson to compare Plato's theory of the philosopher-king with Skinner's idea of utopia in Walden Two and pose the same questions to both: Who decides what is best for everyone else? And how can the misuse of power be prevented? Along the way, we are treated to fascinating analyses of some of the most pivotal and controversial books ever written, including Marx's Das Capital, Sartre's Being and Nothingness, Plato's Republic, and Konrad Lorenz's On Agression.
The revised edition of Seven Theories of Human Nature is more relevant than ever. For the new volume, Stevenson has added an extended discussion of sociobiology, and cites recent books for further reading on such topics as Creationism, nuclear holocaust, and feminism. Brought completely up to date, this classic introduction will fascinate anyone curious about who we are, what motivates us, and how we can understand and improve the world.
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