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A Different Kind of AnimalHow Culture Transformed Our Species$
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Robert Boyd

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691195902

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691195902.001.0001

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Adaptable, Cooperative, Manipulative, and Rivalrous

Adaptable, Cooperative, Manipulative, and Rivalrous

(p.160) Chapter 6 Adaptable, Cooperative, Manipulative, and Rivalrous
A Different Kind of Animal

Paul Seabright

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores economist Paul Seabright's argument that there is a “darker dimension to what makes us human,” which Robert Boyd largely leaves aside. Human beings are the most ecologically adaptable and massively cooperative species on the planet. Seabright argues that humans are also the most spectacularly and violently competitive, and the most deviously manipulative of all species. This might seem an incoherent description, but in fact the latter qualities are deeply implicated in the former ones. It is precisely the fact of humans' extraordinary cooperativeness that allows them to create the massive resource gains that provoke their competitiveness and manipulativeness. Indeed, Seabright contends that “a much larger part of the communication that takes place around norms in most societies is about individuals manipulating other individuals” than one would think from Boyd's examples.

Keywords:   Robert Boyd, human beings, ecological adaptability, cooperativeness, competitiveness, manipulativeness, social norms, societies

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