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Publisher's Summary

"A fine achievement."--Peter Singer, author of The Life You Can Save and The Most Good You Can Do

A sweeping psychological history of human goodness -- from the foundations of evolution to the modern political and social challenges humanity is now facing.

How did humans, a species of self-centered apes, come to care about others? Since Darwin, scientists have tried to answer this question using evolutionary theory. In The Kindness of Strangers, psychologist Michael E. McCullough shows why they have failed and offers a new explanation instead. From the moment nomadic humans first settled down until the aftermath of the Second World War, our species has confronted repeated crises that we could only survive by changing our behavior. As McCullough argues, these choices weren't enabled by an evolved moral sense, but with moral invention -- driven not by evolution's dictates but by reason.

Today's challenges -- climate change, mass migration, nationalism -- are some of humanity's greatest yet. In revealing how past crises shaped the foundations of human concern, The Kindness of Strangers offers clues for how we can adapt our moral thinking to survive these challenges as well.

©2020 Michael McCullough (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"A deliciously provocative analysis of an entirely admirable human quality."
Kirkus (starred review)

"An inspiring and engrossing new look at human goodness. Without sentimentality or glibness, and wearing his depth and erudition lightly, McCullough enlightens us on when and why we care for others."―Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now

"This is a controversial book, but McCullough's arguments are smart, clear, and ultimately persuasive."―Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy

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  • chris boutte
  • 11-11-2020

Excellent blend of psychology and philosophy

After reading quite a few books about inequality, racism, and other issues that plague the world, this book was a bright light that was much needed in my reading rotation. I've been waiting for this book for months from Michael McCullough, and it was phenomenal. The Kindness of Stranger is a perfect blend of evolutionary psychology along with effective altruism, and I learned a ton by reading this book.  I've read many books about group selection and why cooperation developed via altruism within tribes, but this book shed new light on the topics. McCullough also details the interesting history of social work and social services, which I was unaware of prior to reading the book.  I was hoping to learn a little bit more about human selfishness and ingroup vs outgroup problems that we see today, but the author chose not to dive into it in this book. I actually think it was a good decision to leave some of those things out because there are plenty of books on those topics, and his focus on kindness and altruism helped keep the book positive, and I appreciate that.

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