Latest Issue

The altruistic ape

Matt Ridley has written a fine book on the nature of altruism, not a Blairite manifesto. But neither author nor reviewer has an answer to the "groupishness" problem

By Samuel Brittan   February 1997

One compensation for being late with a review is the opportunity to correct for any distortion perceived in previous reviewers. I realised this might be necessary for The Origins of Virtue when I saw its author, Matt Ridley, shaking his head vigorously when someone at a meeting praised him for having written a Blairite manifesto.

“Virtue” is used to stand for all conduct that departs from unalloyed selfishness; and this may have encouraged such misreadings. Virtue is an inherently contestable concept. At my local underground station I am faced on most mornings with the following choices: giving money to a…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect