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Moving Beyond Self-Interest: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and the Social Sciences

Ed. Stephanie Brown

Stephanie Brown’s new edited book, Moving Beyond Self-Interest: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and the Social Sciences, is a benchmark in the science of caring for and helping others.

It is a volume that brings together the world’s leading scientific researchers including Phillip R. Shaver, Stephen W. Porges, C. Sue Carter, Jean Decety, James E. Swain, Dachter Keltner and many others, topped off with a marvelous Foreword by Frans B.M. de Waal. It covers the evolutionary and biological foundations of caregiving, the neuroscience and psychology of caregiving motivation, and the implications of all this powerful new science for economics, political science, social policy and ethics. Professor Brown presents a new theory of the evolutionary basis of caregiving, broadly inclusive of our ability to be concerned for the well-being, security and happiness of others. I have found no more sophisticated theory anywhere, nor any better window into the very basis of our human ability to move beyond Machiavellian values to a genuine interest in others. The great Jewish thinker Martin Buber described two ways of living, “I-IT” and “I-THOU.” In the first, “I am at the center of the universe, and I relate to others only in so far as they contribute to my own little agendas.” In the second, we discover that we flourish best when we treat others with respect, care, and equality. Every moral and spiritual tradition that does not succumb to cynicism bases its image of the good life on contributing sincerely to the lives of others. Here, in this scientific volume, we see perennial wisdom, the Golden Rule, and the best of modern science converge around what has quickly become the centerpiece in bioethics – the literal “bio” of “ethics.” Some edited volumes really have the potential to shape a new field. Brown’s is one of them. It should be read by everyone who has not given up on the better side of human nature. 
Stephen Post