The Myths We Live By  book cover
1st Edition

The Myths We Live By

ISBN 9780415610247
Published May 17, 2011 by Routledge
296 Pages

USD $26.95

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

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

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Mary Midgley (1919-2018) was 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.


'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