The Origins of Virtue argues that the human mind has evolved a special instinct for social exchange that enables us to reap the benefits of co-operation, ostracise those who break the social contract and avoid the trap of being ‘rational fools’.

It traces the evolution of society first among genes, then among cells, then in ants, vampire bats, apes and dolphins, and finally among human beings. Along the way, it plays games with computers, traces the psychological roots of football riots, finds trade to be ten times as old as economists believe, compares dead mammoths to lighthouses, explains the evolution of human emotions and shows how to save the rain forest.

Buy The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation

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You can also buy it from my favourite bookshop Aldeburgh Bookshop

Book Reviews

Dashing, apophthegmatic, ingenious in argument and beautifully constructed.

Galen Strawson

Enthralling and provocative.

Penelope Lively

It has done it brilliantly.


Bracing, informative, amusing and infuriating by turns.

Maggie Gee

I was enthralled by it all.

Ruth Rendell