The Professor in the Cage Book Summary - The Professor in the Cage Book explained in key points
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The Professor in the Cage summary

Jonathan Gottschall

Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch

4.2 (23 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

The Professor in the Cage by Jonathan Gottschall blends memoir and ethnography to explore the world of mixed martial arts, examining its place in modern society and the human condition.

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    The Professor in the Cage
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    Fighting is a human act, but over time it has become more and more codified.

    Some people fight for revenge, others for prestige and still others just fight for fun. But one thing is for sure: people have been fighting since the beginning of human history.

    However, certain aspects of fighting have indeed changed. In the past, men have fought in ways that would seem brutal to people today. They would batter each other to death with stone axes, slice each other to pieces with swords and burn each other alive.

    The reasons why people fought would also seem strange nowadays. For example, honor used to be one of the main reasons for fights, because a person’s capacity to defend his honor defined his social status. And without social status, a person was nothing in the eyes of others.

    Clearly, our species’s past was quite violent. But over the course of many generations, humans collectively learned how to control their violent urges by allowing society to codify violence.

    Take duels as a case in point. Instead of a fight breaking out without warning, duels controlled violence by codifying strict limitations and rules. For example, opponents had to agree on a time and place to fight, and only “civilized” weapons, like swords or guns, could be used. And if you could get your opponent to back down instead of fighting, you could win before anyone got hurt.

    This pattern of increased codification of violence continues right up to the present.

    Even though fighting still happens, and people do fight for honor, most of it is highly codified. Take the incredibly popular sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Although there are barely any rules regarding the actual combat, the act of fighting itself is highly codified: it’s limited to a specific time and place, and is closely supervised by a referee.

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    What is The Professor in the Cage about?

    In The Professor in the Cage (2015), professor Jonathan Gottschall enters the world of mixed martial arts to discover the sources of our fascination with violence. Through the power of modern science and by applying the weight of human history, these blinks reveal how our love of fighting is grounded in our deepest human instincts.

    The Professor in the Cage Review

    The Professor in the Cage (2015) by Jonathan Gottschall is a fascinating exploration of the author's journey from a mild-mannered academic to a cage-fighting test subject. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a unique perspective on the world of mixed martial arts, providing insight into a subculture that is often misunderstood.
    • Gottschall combines personal anecdotes, scientific research, and philosophical musings to create a thought-provoking exploration of violence, masculinity, and the nature of human aggression.
    • The book's humor and humility make it an engaging and enjoyable read, even for those who may not have an interest in combat sports.

    Best quote from The Professor in the Cage

    Sustained eye contact is as stressful for other primates as it is for humans. As monkeys pace through their stare-down duels, the stress hormone cortisol floods their blood.

    —Jonathan Gottschall
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    Who should read The Professor in the Cage?

    • Anyone interested in the origins of violence
    • People fascinated by martial arts
    • Anyone hoping to learn more about humanity’s fascination with fighting

    About the Author

    Jonathan Gottschall studies the intersection of science and art as a distinguished fellow in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College. He is also the author of The Storytelling Animal, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice Selection.

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    The Professor in the Cage FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Professor in the Cage?

    The main message of The Professor in the Cage is the transformative power of mixed martial arts.

    How long does it take to read The Professor in the Cage?

    The reading time for The Professor in the Cage varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Professor in the Cage a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Professor in the Cage is worth reading as it offers an intriguing perspective on masculinity, competition, and personal growth.

    Who is the author of The Professor in the Cage?

    The author of The Professor in the Cage is Jonathan Gottschall.

    What to read after The Professor in the Cage?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Professor in the Cage, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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