With insight and wit, Robert J. Richards focuses on the development of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior from their first distinct appearance in the eighteenth century to their controversial state today. Particularly important in the nineteenth century were Charles Darwin’s ideas about instinct, reason, and morality, which Richards considers against the background of Darwin’s personality, training, scientific and cultural concerns, and intellectual community. Many critics have argued that the Darwinian revolution stripped nature of moral purpose and ethically neutered the human animal. Richards contends, however, that Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and their disciples attempted to reanimate moral life, believing that the evolutionary process gave heart to unselfish, altruistic behavior.
“Richards’s book is now the obvious introduction to the history of ideas about mind and behavior in the nineteenth century.”—Mark Ridley, Times Literary Supplement
“Not since the publication of Michael Ghiselin’s The Triumph of the Darwinian Method has there been such an ambitious, challenging, and methodologically self-conscious interpretation of the rise and development and evolutionary theories and Darwin’s role therein.”—John C. Greene, Science
“His book . . . triumphantly achieves the goal of all great scholarship: it not only informs us, but shows us why becoming thus informed is essential to understanding our own issues and projects.”—Daniel C. Dennett, Philosophy of Science