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Leslie Stevenson and David Haberman

Ten Theories of Human Nature

Throughout history we have tried to understand what makes people tick, as well as trying to find rules for the best ways to live our lives. In Ten Theories of Human Nature, Leslie Stevenson and David Haberman look at some of the ideas which have stood the test of time.

The first half of the book looks at what early philosophies and religions had to say on the matter. This includes the work of Plato, Aristotle and Confusius, as well as the teachings of the Bible and of Upanishadic Hinduism. In the middle of the book comes a 'historical interlude', in which the authors look at how the early ideas were modified in the ensuing centuries, with the development of medieval Christianity and the rise of Islam. The second half of the book looks at the ideas of more recent thinkers, discussing Kant, Marx, Freud and Sartre. The tenth chapter is a bit longer, discussing how Darwinism has been applied to society, for example in the works of E.O.Wilson.

It's a lot to fit in to a short book, and sometimes I felt that, when the authors tried to add their own critical evaluation of ideas, there wasn't enough space to do the arguments justice. But overall I thought it was well worth reading, in that it gives a useful summary of some of the most important ideas of human history.