Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved

Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved

by Frans de Waal
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691141290

ISBN-13: 9780691141299

Pub. Date: 01/12/2009

Publisher: Princeton University Press

"It's the animal in us," we often hear when we've been bad. But why not when we're good? Primates and Philosophers tackles this question by exploring the biological foundations of one of humanity's most valued traits: morality.

In this provocative book, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that modern-day evolutionary biology takes far too dim a view of

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Overview

"It's the animal in us," we often hear when we've been bad. But why not when we're good? Primates and Philosophers tackles this question by exploring the biological foundations of one of humanity's most valued traits: morality.

In this provocative book, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that modern-day evolutionary biology takes far too dim a view of the natural world, emphasizing our "selfish" genes. Science has thus exacerbated our reciprocal habits of blaming nature when we act badly and labeling the good things we do as "humane." Seeking the origin of human morality not in evolution but in human culture, science insists that we are moral by choice, not by nature.

Citing remarkable evidence based on his extensive research of primate behavior, de Waal attacks "Veneer Theory," which posits morality as a thin overlay on an otherwise nasty nature. He explains how we evolved from a long line of animals that care for the weak and build cooperation with reciprocal transactions. Drawing on both Darwin and recent scientific advances, de Waal demonstrates a strong continuity between human and animal behavior. In the process, he also probes issues such as anthropomorphism and human responsibilities toward animals.

Based on the Tanner Lectures de Waal delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2004, Primates and Philosophers includes responses by the philosophers Peter Singer, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Philip Kitcher and the science writer Robert Wright. They press de Waal to clarify the differences between humans and other animals, yielding a lively debate that will fascinate all those who wonder about the origins and reach of human goodness.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691141299
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/12/2009
Series:
Princeton Science Library Series
Pages:
232
Sales rank:
622,697
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction by Josiah Ober and Stephen Macedo ix

PART I: Morally Evolved: Primate Social Instincts,Human Morality, and the Rise and Fall of "Veneer Theory" by Frans de Waal 1

Appendix A: Anthropomorphism and Anthropodenial 59

Appendix B: Do Apes Have a Theory of Mind? 69

Appendix C: Animal Rights 75

PART II: Comments: The Uses of Anthropomorphism by Robert Wright 83

Morality and the Distinctiveness of Human Action by Christine M. Korsgaard 98

Ethics and Evolution: How to Get Here from There by Philip Kitcher 120

Morality, Reason, and the Rights of Animals by Peter Singer 140

PART III: Response to Commentators: The Tower of Morality by Frans de Waal 161

References 183

Contributors 197

Index 201

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