Is the Idea Behind Minds Make Societies Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts?

Justin Lane

Minds Make Societies, by Pascal Boyer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018, ISBN 978-0300223453). 376 pp. Hardcover, $30.00.


Minds Make Societies by Pascal Boyer is a fresh new perspective on approaching our social world. Boyer has a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking scientists on topics of society and culture today. His hallmark is the use of evolutionary psychology to understand the complexities of human sociality, and for those familiar with his work, Minds Makes Societies does not disappoint.

Beyond being accessible and generally well written, the book stands out because it presents readers with a scientific framework for understanding society. Today, when political debates appear ever more ideologically rooted, having a scientific foundation upon which to analyze critical aspects of our society is enormously important. Society faces myriad problems, yet few reasonable answers seem available. In part, we face a lack of answers because we have failed to ask the relevant question. Rather than getting tied up into the minutiae of political ideologies—or bogged down in the infinite anecdotes that plague political discourse today—Boyer consistently returns to a foundation of evolutionary psychology to pose critical questions about contemporary society. He supplements this with cogent explanations of why we do what we do because of how we, as humans, evolved.

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