Bryan Appleyard

Hitting The Wall

The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness

By

The Bodley Head 427pp £20 order from our bookshop

In the contemporary imagination kindness is a puzzle requiring a solution. Looking after Number One makes sense: looking after everybody else for anything other than purely selfish gain is unimaginable. To the cynic, altruism must be just one more move in the great game of life.

There is a fine line between cynicism and neo-Darwinism. Darwinians have always been more than puzzled by altruism. To them, it makes even less sense. If evolution through natural selection is the fundamental truth of biology, how could such a disadvantageous strategy have arisen? Since altruism requires sacrifice, there does not seem, on the face of it, to be anything in it for the individual.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,