THE SHAPING OF MAN: Philosophical Aspects of Socio biology by Roger Trigg

THE SHAPING OF MAN: Philosophical Aspects of Socio biology

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Trigg, Reader in Philosophy at the U. of Warwick, probes the philosophical underpinnings not only of sociobiology, but also of various past and present schools of philosophy, sociology, and psychology. All make assumptions on the nature of man. Some, following Sartre or Marx, deny any universal human nature--either by asserting that man exists and is free to choose his nature (Sartre), or by asserting the essential malleability of man by society (Marx). Trigg examines theological as well as atheistic traditions, plotting a course from Plato to Hume to Skinner to followers of Husserl--like the German Gadamer, who denies that any notion of a human nature can explain our ability to understand other peoples at other times. (Hence his seizure on language and hermeneutics, or textual interpretation.) Trigg is quite good at pointing out the inherent traps in positions like Gadamer's. As he moves to discuss sociology and sociobiology, he again steers a clear path between those who believe that society makes the man and those who think that ""the significant point is membership of a biological species."" Certainly Trigg accepts inherent biological traits and constraints on the kinds of culture and activities man can adopt. He faults sociobiologists, however, for their implicit determinism--quoting Barash: ""thus far our species has not been particularly successful at designing environments that liberate rather than enslave us. . . it may be that now sociobiology will at last bring us face to face with ourselves."" In the final chapter, Trigg avers that it is human reason and intellect, the ability to possess a disinterested morality and to act on a concept of truth, that prevent man's reduction to genetic byproduct or social experiment. ""Man is both the knowing subject and the object of his own knowledge. Any attempt to make him one without the other must be incoherent."" An able demonstration of an attractive position.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Schocken