Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animalsby Marc Bekoff, Jessica Pierce
Scientists have long counseled against interpreting animal behavior in terms of human emotions, warning that such anthropomorphizing limits our ability to understand animals as they really are. Yet what are we to make of a female gorilla in a German zoo who spent days mourning the death of her baby? Or a wild female elephant who cared for a younger one after she
Scientists have long counseled against interpreting animal behavior in terms of human emotions, warning that such anthropomorphizing limits our ability to understand animals as they really are. Yet what are we to make of a female gorilla in a German zoo who spent days mourning the death of her baby? Or a wild female elephant who cared for a younger one after she was injured by a rambunctious teenage male? Or a rat who refused to push a lever for food when he saw that doing so caused another rat to be shocked? Aren’t these clear signs that animals have recognizable emotions and moral intelligence? With Wild Justice Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce unequivocally answer yes.
Marrying years of behavioral and cognitive research with compelling and moving anecdotes, Bekoff and Pierce reveal that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Underlying these behaviors is a complex and nuanced range of emotions, backed by a high degree of intelligence and surprising behavioral flexibility. Animals, in short, are incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. Ultimately, Bekoff and Pierce draw the astonishing conclusion that there is no moral gap between humans and other species: morality is an evolved trait that we unquestionably share with other social mammals.
Sure to be controversial, Wild Justice offers not just cutting-edge science, but a provocative call to rethink our relationship with—and our responsibilities toward—our fellow animals.
"The authors write as though they are having a conversation with the reader. . . . This well-thought-out, provocative work will give scientific and lay readers plenty of examples to rethink and open new paths of research into the lives and minds of animals."
Cognitive ethologist Bekoff (The Emotional Lives of Animals) and philosopher Pierce (Morality Play) explore the moral lives of such commonly studied animals as primates, wolves, household rodents, elephants, dolphins-and a few uncommon critters as well. Citing too few examples (though the authors say that the more we look, the more we'll see) and too many term definitions, this book presents studies of rats refusing to obtain food if it means hurting another rat; the care given by chimpanzees to a chimp stricken by cerebral palsy; and comfort offered to grieving elephants by members of the same herd. The authors contend that, in order to understand the moral compass by which animals live, we must first expand our definition of morality to include moral behavior unique to each species. Studies done by the authors, as well as experts in the fields of psychology, human social intelligence, zoology and other branches of relevant science excellently bolster their claim. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
While Darwin's theory of natural selection, which holds that species are engaged in a competitive and violent struggle for existence, is well known, less familiar is the concept that moral behavior (e.g., cooperation, empathy, and a sense of justice) has also evolved in many animal societies. Focusing here on the gentler side of animal natures, animal behaviorist Bekoff (ecology & evolutionary biology, emeritus, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; Animals Matter) and philosopher Pierce discuss recent scientific studies documenting that great apes, monkeys, wolves, coyotes, hyenas, dolphins, whales, elephants, rats, and mice are capable of a wide range of moral behavior. They strongly urge the scientific and philosophical communities to recognize that these animals can act as moral agents within the context of their own social groups. This provocative and well-argued view of animal morality may surprise some readers as it challenges outdated assumptions about animals. The authors' intention, however, is not to unseat humans from their moral pinnacle but to uplift our animal kin into the moral realm. Written as much for other academics as for interested lay readers, this lucid book is highly recommended for animal behavior collections in university and large public libraries.
- University of Chicago Press
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Meet the Author
Marc Bekoff (http://literati.net/Bekoff) has published numerous books, including The Emotional Lives of Animals,and has provided expert commentary for many media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC. Jessica Pierce (www.jessicapierce.net) has taught and written about philosophy for many years. She is the author of a number of books, including Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics.
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