Being a Human – Adventures in 40,000 Years of Consciousness

Charles Foster


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  • Profile Books
  • 2021
  • ISBN 9781788167178
  • 400 pages
  • Hardcover
  • 22 × 14.5 × 3.5 cm

A radical work of nature writing and philosophical enquiry, resituating us in our real human skins.

A New Statesman Essential Non-Fiction Book of 2021 and Kirkus Best Book of 2021

What kind of creature is a human? If we don’t know what we are, how can we know how to act? In Being a Human Charles Foster sets out to understand what a human is, inhabiting the sensory worlds of humans at three pivotal moments in our history.

Foster begins his quest in a wood in Derbyshire with his son, shivering, starving and hunting, trying to find a way of experiencing the world that recognises the deep expanse of time when we understood ourselves as hunter-gatherers, indivisible from the non-human world, and when modern consciousness was first ignited. From there he travels to the Neolithic, when we tamed animals, plants and ourselves, to a way of being defined by walls, fences, farms, sky gods and slaughterhouses, and finally to the rarefied world of the Enlightenment, when we decided that the universe was a machine and we were soulless cogs within it.

Charles Foster is the author of the New York Times bestseller Being a Beast, which was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and the Wainwright Prize, won the 30 Millions d’Amis prize in France, and is the subject of a forthcoming feature film. A fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, in 2016 he won the Ig Nobel Prize for Biology.

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