So You Think You're Human? by Felipe Fernández-Armesto; A Brief History of the Human Race by Michael Cook - review by A C Grayling

A C Grayling

Man and Beast

So You Think You're Human?


Oxford University Press 179pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

A Brief History of the Human Race


Granta Books 385pp £20 order from our bookshop

I ADMIRE FELIPE Fernández-Armesto's erudition and the elegance of his writing. From his broad and copious talents has issued a stream of illuminating history in recent years, and in this short new book their wonted extent is again on display. This time, however, though the mellifluous manner remains, the substance is much more questionable. He seems to me to have got the wrong ends of several sticks, and made a muddle where none need exist: and on a crucial matter to boot.

In the last several decades, Fernández-Armesto observes, we human beings have devoted enormous energy, blood and treasure to the question of human values and human rights. But at the same time, 'quietly but devastatingly', science and philosophy have jointly undermined our concept of humankind. 'And if the term "human" is

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