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Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good Evil | [Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson]

Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good Evil

There are two supreme predators on the planet with the most complex brains in nature: humans and orcas. In the 20th century alone, one of these animals killed 200 million members of its own species, the other killed none. Jeffrey Masson’s fascinating new book begins here: There is something different about us. In Beasts he demonstrates that the violence we perceive in the "wild" is mostly a matter of projection. We link the basest human behavior to animals, to "beasts" ("he behaved no better than a beast"), and claim the high ground for our species.
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Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author Jeffrey Masson shows us what the animals at the top of the food chain - orca whales, big cats, etc. - can teach us about the origins of good and evil in ourselves.

There are two supreme predators on the planet with the most complex brains in nature: humans and orcas. In the 20th century alone, one of these animals killed 200 million members of its own species, the other killed none. Jeffrey Masson’s fascinating new book begins here: There is something different about us. In his previous best sellers, Masson has shown what animals can teach us about our own emotions - about love (dogs), contentment (cats), grief (elephants), among others. But animals have much to teach us about the negative emotions such as anger and aggression as well, and in unexpected ways. In Beasts he demonstrates that the violence we perceive in the "wild" is mostly a matter of projection. We link the basest human behavior to animals, to "beasts" ("he behaved no better than a beast"), and claim the high ground for our species. We are least human, we think, when we succumb to our primitive, animal ancestry. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Animals, at least predators, kill to survive, indeed, but there is nothing in the annals of animal aggression remotely equivalent to the violence of humankind. Our burden is that humans, and in particular humans in our modern industrialized world, are the most violent animals to our own kind in existence, or possibly ever in existence on Earth. We lack what all other animals have: a check on the aggression that would destroy the species rather than serve it. It is here, Masson says, that animals have something to teach us about our own history.

In Beasts, he brings to life the richness of the animal world and strips away our misconceptions of the creatures we fear, offering a powerful and compelling look at our uniquely human propensity toward aggression.

©2014 Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"If the argument of this audiobook sounds gloomy, even misanthropic, the warmth of Edoardo Ballerini's narration quickly dispels that impression." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (31 )
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  •  
    kristen OAKLAND PARK, FL, United States 03-10-14
    kristen OAKLAND PARK, FL, United States 03-10-14 Member Since 2011
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    "This one is a MUST!!! Thought provoking...."

    Fascinating culmination of comparative human/animal data. A MUST listen for all interested in altruism and a multi-species comparative beginning with a true and riveting story of a crocodile attack leading us to question humans as prey.
    I have listened to this audio twice and strongly recommend it for all above age 12.
    Parents this is a fantastic, thought provoking and educational listen for the whole family!!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 03-11-14
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 03-11-14 Member Since 2002
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    "simple, but powerful"

    Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson lays it all out in an elegant fashion. While I'm not sure I agree with his point of view about the impact of domestication and agriculture on our proclivity for evil, he backs up most of his ideas with strong thinking and solid research.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alexis corpus christi, TX, United States 03-07-14
    alexis corpus christi, TX, United States 03-07-14
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    "eye opening"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Very interesting to listen to. This audio book gave me a new respect for animals and how we can learn from them.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Rathoe, Ireland. 07-11-14
    Dave Rathoe, Ireland. 07-11-14 Member Since 2011
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    "A frustraing rant."
    What would have made Beasts better?

    The use of facts and science not anecdotes for a start. The whole underlying premise of the book is that he really wants his readers to quit eating meat. He has a rose-tinted view of the natural world, We are constantly reminded through-out how essentially despicable humans are. It is a joyless book and very bias.


    Has Beasts turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, but I will check the writers credentials in the future.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Joy Lamkin SANTA CRUZ, CA, US 07-01-14
    Laura Joy Lamkin SANTA CRUZ, CA, US 07-01-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Poorly argued, pseudo-scientific waste of my time"

    This book will appeal to rabid, simple minded misanthropic animal lovers. All others beware. The author cherry picks his facts to depict humanity as demonic and, well, as beastly as possible, while the rest of the animal kingdom gets a pass. Non-human animals are depicted with a most egregious romanticism, entirely ignoring mounds of relevant data on such realities as gang raping dolphins, territory roaming gangs of chimps, genocidal ants, even our beloved house cats who enjoy their greatest thrills whilst tormenting an innocent house mouse to death. Meanwhile the vast store of good we humans bring to the table is summarily dismissed. He offers an ad hominim attack on Steven Pinker. Ironically, perhaps, I would recommend Pinker's 'Better Angels of our Nature' as a direct antidote to the poison which is 'Beasts'. The content is all pseudo-science parading as science. Clearly the author entered the project with a biased view, cherry-picked the data which confirmed his naive, romantic hypothesis, and outright ignored a giant body of relevant facts about the real world in which we all live. So much for content. But the work suffers structurally as well. His argumentation is seriously inconsistent. That is, assertions in support of his thesis are not subject to the same rigorous standards brought to bear on the views he derides and ridicules. In short, the work fails philosophically, in terms of argumentative structure, and scientifically, in terms of his facts and general content. If you want to indulge in some post-hippie, animal loving romanticism, or an equally naive misanthropic, uninformed, pessimistic rant about we evil humans, go at it. But if, instead, you want good science or good argumentative structure, steer clear of 'Beasts'.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan J. Couch Canberra, Australia 05-19-14
    Alan J. Couch Canberra, Australia 05-19-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Loaded but Thought Provoking"
    What made the experience of listening to Beasts the most enjoyable?

    Dripping with 'I am a vegan therefore I am better than you' subtext, this book inconsistently applies high standards. Expecting much from others and not always holding itself to the same. Highly rational in places, it embraces spiritual claptrap in others. Appropriately anthropomorphic in places, this book is then critical of others who have, albeit less sensibly, attempted the same. Despite the above this is a good thought provoking book. It is well written and well read, and brings life to many interesting facts from an eclectic variety of places. It's a good listen!


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The description of Peter Benchley's revision of his attitude to sharks and his admission of past ignorance is inspiring and noteworthy. But, many 'scenes' are compelling and hold one's attention even when they provoke a bit of cognitive dissonance.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Outrageous attacks on Charles Darwin border on the bitter, and apply a moral relativism and arrogance usually reserved for the other side of campus. It glosses over some of the less palatable aspects of real world biology, and appears to lean towards how the author wishes the world to be rather than a dispassionate look at how life is.


    Any additional comments?

    I recommend you listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Natalie D Michigan 05-15-14
    Natalie D Michigan 05-15-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Challenging Point of View"
    Would you listen to Beasts again? Why?

    Parts of It. There is a lot of information presented in the book.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The description of how bulls are prepared for bull fights was very informative. I had no idea that bulls were put at such a tremendous disadvantage and treated so poorly before the event.


    Any additional comments?

    I think the author puts forward an interesting idea about the root of all problems in the animal kingdom. The hypothesis put forward is that humans barbaric treatment of each other, the animals we use for food, and the destruction of habitat cause animals to behave more violently than they normally would. There are facts and conjecture presented next to each other and it is difficult to know which is which. The author seems skeptical about some scientific studies (maybe with good reason) and then completely credulous about some fantastic claims of animal benevolence. I do think this book is worth listening to as it will most likely challenge your point of view; however, I think the author over-reaches in making his argument.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Todd Duluth, MN, United States 04-15-14
    Todd Duluth, MN, United States 04-15-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Ideas to make you think"
    Where does Beasts rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the best. More for the material than the fact it was an audiobook, but the material calls into question what society has accepted as normal.


    Have you listened to any of Edoardo Ballerini’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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