The Moral Sense

  • Title:

    The Moral Sense
  • Paperback ISBN:

    0684833328
  • Paperback Dimensions:

    9.25'' x 6.25''
  • 336 Paperback pages
  • Hardcover ISBN:

    0029354056

In this age of self-gratification and widespread lawlessness, author James Q. Wilson takes the unfashionable view that a moral sense is part of our basic nature, albeit one that competes with our narrowly defined self-interest.

In this lucid, elegant, magisterial and controversial essay, the eminent social scientist, a public policy professor at UCLA, punctures the tenets of neo-Darwinian biologists, cultural relativists, Freudians, behaviorists and anthropologists. Social bonds, he argues, are not entirely a matter of convention or a tool to ensure perpetuation of the species. Instead, our moral faculties--sympathy, fairness, self-control, etc.--grow directly out of our mutual interdependence as social animals.

Wilson believes that the moral sense is formed as the child's innate disposition interacts with earliest familial experiences. Self-restraints on appetites are built into the "primitive" limbic brain, he stresses. Perhaps his most controversial thesis is that men and women differ in their moral orientation, with men more inclined to emphasize justice and emotional control, while women stress sympathy, caring and cooperation.

James Q. Wilson is the chairman of AEI's Council of Academic Advisers.

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