The Myths We Live By
With a new Introduction by the author
'An elegant and sane little book. – The New Statesman
Myths, as Mary Midgley argues in this powerful book, are everywhere. In political thought they sit at the heart of theories of human nature and the social contract; in economics in the pursuit of self interest; and in science the idea of human beings as machines, which originates in the seventeenth century, is a today a potent force. Far from being the opposite of science, however, Midgley argues that myth is a central part of it. Myths are neither lies nor mere stories but a network of powerful symbols for interpreting the world. Tackling a dazzling array of subjects such as philosophy, evolutionary psychology, animals, consciousness and the environment in her customary razor-sharp prose, The Myths We Live By reminds us of the powerful role of symbolism and the need to take our imaginative life seriously.
Mary Midgley is a moral philosopher and the author of many books including Wickedness, Evolution as a Religion, Beast and Man and Science and Poetry. All are published in Routledge Classics.
Acknowledgements Foreword to The Routledge Classics Edition 1. How myths work 2. Our place in the world 3. Progress, science and modernity 4. Thought has many forms 5. The aims of reduction 6. Dualistic dilemmas 7. Motives, materialism and megalomania 8. What action is 9. Tidying the inner scene: why memes? 10. The sleep of reason produces monsters 11. Getting rid of the ego 12. Cultural evolution? 13. Selecting the selectors 14. Is reason sex-linked? 15. The journey from freedom to desolation 16. Biotechnology and the yuk factor 17. The new alchemy 18. The supernatural engineer 19. Heaven and earth, and awkward history 20. Science looks both ways 21. Are you an animal? 22. Problems about parsimony 23. Denying the animal consciousness 24. Beasts via the biosphere 25. Some practical dilemmas 26. Problems of living with otherness 27. Changing ideas of wildness Notes Index
'For those who haven't yet read Midgley, these essays are an excellent place to start.' - Jon Turney, The Guardian
'An elegant and sane little book. Unusually for a philosopher, Midgley has a superb ear for the use and misuse of language.' - Edward Skidelsky, New Statesman
'She has, perhaps, the sharpest perception of any living thinker of the dangerous extremism that lurks behind so much contemporary scientistic discourse ... Merely as anthologies of contemporary folly, Midgley's books are essential reading ... we have Mary Midgley among us. We should pay attention and be grateful.' - Brian Appleyard, The Sunday Times
'[Mary Midgley's] latest book is full of good sense and illumination on many topics ... Midgley's pathbreaking efforts should be warmly welcomed.' - The Philosopher's Magazine
'Mary's voice, sane, clear and brooking no nonsense, speaks crisply from every page, debunking scientific and non-scientific pretensions alike. A chapter each evening will help me keep sane.' - The Sunday Times
'Christian readers will be sympathetic and find much material for helpful reflection on the topics chosen.' - The Gospel and Our Culture Network