With a new Introduction by the author

'An elegant and sane little book. – The New Statesman

Myths, as Mary Midgley argues in this powerful book, are everywhere. In political thought they sit at the heart of theories of human nature and the social contract; in economics in the pursuit of self interest; and in science the idea of human beings as machines, which originates in the seventeenth century, is a today a potent force. Far from being the opposite of science, however, Midgley argues that myth is a central part of it. Myths are neither lies nor mere stories but a network of powerful symbols for interpreting the world. Tackling a dazzling array of subjects such as philosophy, evolutionary psychology, animals, consciousness and the environment in her customary razor-sharp prose, The Myths We Live By reminds us of the powerful role of symbolism and the need to take our imaginative life seriously.

Mary Midgley is a moral philosopher and the author of many books including Wickedness, Evolution as a Religion, Beast and Man and Science and Poetry. All are published in Routledge Classics.

chapter 1|9 pages

How myths work

chapter 2|8 pages

Our place in the world

chapter 3|12 pages

Progress, science and modernity

chapter 4|12 pages

Thought has many forms

chapter 5|11 pages

The aims of reduction

chapter 6|10 pages

Dualistic dilemmas

chapter 7|5 pages

Motives, materialism and megalomania

chapter 8|13 pages

What action is

chapter 9|7 pages

Tidying the inner scene: why memes?

chapter 10|9 pages

The sleep of reason produces monsters

chapter 11|9 pages

Getting rid of the ego

chapter 12|11 pages

Cultural evolution?

chapter 13|9 pages

Selecting the selectors

chapter 14|8 pages

Is reason sex-linked?

chapter 15|11 pages

The journey from freedom to desolation

chapter 16|9 pages

Biotechnology and the yuk factor

chapter 17|8 pages

The new alchemy

chapter 18|11 pages

The supernatural engineer

chapter 19|8 pages

Heaven and earth, an awkward history

chapter 20|10 pages

Science looks both ways

chapter 21|10 pages

Are you an animal?

chapter 22|6 pages

Problems about parsimony

chapter 23|11 pages

Denying animal consciousness

chapter 24|7 pages

Beasts versus the biosphere?

chapter 25|8 pages

Some practical dilemmas

chapter 26|9 pages

Problems of living with otherness

chapter 27|10 pages

Changing ideas of wildness