We all admire the altruism
of a Mother Teresa or the heroism of people who risk
their lives to save a drowning child. But when it comes
to our own everyday lives, we tend to regard "looking
out for number one" as more central to human nature than
reaching out to others. Surprisingly, though, that
cynical view does not hold up in the light of recent
research. In this lively book, Alfie Kohn draws from
hundreds of compelling studies in psychology, sociology,
economics, and biology to demonstrate convincingly that
we are more caring than we give ourselves credit for,
and that our generosity cannot be reduced to mere
self-interest. The Brighter Side of Human Nature
shows that helping is every bit as natural as hurting.
To make this case, Kohn
artfully weaves together insights on topics ranging from
the nature of empathy to the causes of war, from our
tendency to blame our behavior on our genes to the
importance of understanding evil from the inside. He
explains why humans cannot be described as innately
aggressive and suggests that our understanding of
morality may be transformed by this new view of our
species. Along the way, Kohn accounts for the curious
attraction that a darker world view seems to hold for
us. He also refutes much of the conventional wisdom,
debunking, for example, the notion that women are
inherently more altruistic than men, and showing how
children's generosity can best be promoted without using
rewards. Rigorously researched and engagingly written,
The Brighter Side of Human Nature offers an informed
optimism that asks us to reconsider what it means to be
a human being.
"A vastly informative,
closely reasoned yet very readable book."
"Parents should read [this
book]. So should teachers. So should anyone quick to
dismiss human kindness as no more than a facade for
-- Washington Post Book
front page review
"A persuasive meditation on
altruism as a fundamental human trait...An elegant and
erudite defense of human kindness."
-- Kirkus Reviews
thought-provoking....[and] thoroughly engaging."
-- Washington Times
researched treatise pleading for a more benevolent
assessment of human nature [is]... highly recommended."
-- Library Journal
"A masterpiece -- engaging,
reasoned, provocative, and a joy to read. Kohn's
hard-headed good news is precisely what we need to make
our way into the 21st century.
-- Frances Moore Lappe,
author of Rediscovering