Reading Literature through the Prism of Evo-Psych

David Barash in Evolutionary Pyschology:

“Just as nature is said to abhor a vacuum, it abhors true altruism. Society, on the other hand, adores it. A dose of evolutionary biology not only helps clarify the origins of this ancient conflict between individual and group, it also points out how often the two are ultimately the same, since groups are frequently made up of relatives. . .

Part of the difficulty of being human is the often agonizing need to decide where to draw the line between self and society. And part of the delight of our best stories is the opportunity to watch others struggling to do just that. There, by the grace of evolution, go a large part of “ourselves,” part hungry octopus, part Tyrone Slothrop, part selfish sinner and part altruistic saint, by turns big-hearted and narrow minded, self-actualizing and groveling groupie. In his “Essay on Man,” Alexander Pope concluded, with some satisfaction,

Reason and Passion answer one great aim

That here Self-love and Social are the same …”