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  1. Moral Agency in Other Animals
  2. About the Book
  3. Books by Frans de Waal and Complete Book Reviews
  4. Books in Review

On the final page of his startling new book, he asserts that "we seem to be reaching a point at which science can wrest morality from the hands of philosophers. McGrew Scientific American In [this] original and engaging new book The book employs a solid core of statistical evidence to bolster his case, but what makes his argument so compelling is the richness of detail De Waal is an original thinker and writes with such a light hand that the reader can take a stimulating ride through his imaginative philosophical discourse This work is He is more or less ideally placed to answer that question, after years of perceptive research on captive chimpanzees, bonobos and monkeys As de Waal fans will already know, chimpanzees and other primates come alive as individuals under his expert gaze Sympathy, attachment, social norms, punishment, a sense of justice, reciprocation, peacemaking and community concern--all are writ large in chimpanzee society.

Good Natured makes the point with the help of a profusion of gripping examples. Not only does this tighten up the terms of the debate as did ape language research for linguistics , but ironically it injects a special kind of humanism that recognises the origins of our moral failings as well as our successes. Snowdon Science A large and entertaining collection of anecdotes about animal behaviour. These are used to bolster the proposition that mental processes governing complex forms of human behaviour, such as sympathy and empathy with others, must have their homologues in the animal kingdom De Waal skilfully weaves together anecdotes, theories and data to create a text that is thought-provoking and a pleasure to read.

The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged.


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This book has soft covers. With usual stamps and markings, In fair condition, suitable as a study copy. With usual stamps and markings, In good all round condition. Spine creases, wear to binding and pages from reading. May contain limited notes, underlining or highlighting that does affect the text. Accessories such as CD, codes, toys, may not be included.

A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting, but may contain a neat previous owner name. Light rubbing wear to cover, spine and page edges. Very minimal writing or notations in margins not affecting the text. Possible clean ex-library copy, with their stickers and or stamp s. In this provocative book, a renowned scientist takes on To observe a dog's guilty look. In this provocative book, a renowned scientist takes on those who have declared ethics uniquely human Making a compelling case for a morality grounded in biology, he shows how ethical behavior is as much a matter of evolution as any other trait, in humans and animals alike.

World famous for his brilliant descriptions of Machiavellian power plays among chimpanzees-the nastier side of animal life--Frans de Waal here contends that animals have a nice side as well. Making his case through vivid anecdotes drawn from his work with apes and monkeys and holstered by the intriguing, voluminous data from his and others' ongoing research, de Waal shows us that many of the building blocks of morality are natural: they can he observed in other animals.

Through his eyes, we see how not just primates but all kinds of animals, from marine mammals to dogs, respond to social rules, help each other, share food, resolve conflict to mutual satisfaction, even develop a crude sense of justice and fairness. Natural selection may be harsh, but it has produced highly successful species that survive through cooperation and mutual assistance.

De Waal identifies this paradox as the key to an evolutionary account of morality, and demonstrates that human morality could never have developed without the foundation of fellow feeling our species shares with other animals. As his work makes clear, a morality grounded in biology leads to an entirely different conception of what it means to he human--and humane.

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Moral Agency in Other Animals

Published January 1st by Harvard University Press. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Good Natured , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters.

Sort order. Oct 28, Michael rated it really liked it. My follow up to Moral Minds. It presents a lucid, straightforward account of how our moral faculties may have evolved from our pre-human ancestors. I've been thinking about why I find this subject fascinating, and one reason is that this research challenges a fundamental notion of human nature advanced by some religions, which is that the humans are inherently sinful, and it is only by the grace of God that our sinful natures can be restrained or redeemed.

There is a secular version of this view My follow up to Moral Minds. There is a secular version of this view as well, which holds that humans are beasts at heart whose basest instincts are held in check by a mere veneer of civilization.

About the Book

Take away our modern moral codes and laws and the beast quickly emerges. I find this to be a grim, depressing view of what it means to be human, one that has us constantly at war with our inner selves. It also makes no sense from an evolutionary perspective, since if civilization or God is all that keeps us from tearing each other apart, how could we and our pre-human ancestors have made it through the period before organized religions and systems of laws were developed?

What would have held primitive human and pre-human groups together, and how would moral systems have ever emerged? The view advanced in this book is that our system of morals actually draws on deep-seated social instincts developed over millions of years of evolution culminating in the primates, and specifically us. Humans are, in fact, naturally "good" in the sense that we have all the basic elements to be moral citizens - such as the ability to empathize with others, the need and desire for close social bonds with friends and mates , an acute sense of fairness, a willingness to share and help others with no conscious awareness of promoting the general good, the ability to feel shame in the face of the group's disapproval.

Elements like these have served an evolutionary purpose by promoting group cohesion, stability, and success. It is therefore more accurate to say that our moral codes were built upon a framework of innate moral capacities than that we owe our sense of right and wrong to those same codes. The author, a biologist, backs this up with much research on primates, and especially chimpanzees, our closest relatives. There is evidence in chimpanzee communities of quite evolved capacities such as sympathy for others' distress, mourning the loss of a parent or child, and reciprocal altruism doing favors for others with no immediate expectation of reward.

There is no claim that chimpanzees have a moral code similar to ours, but it is possible to see how moral systems might have emerged from some of these basic elements. To be sure, there are always cheaters, and all societies deal with them through a system of punishment.

Books by Frans de Waal and Complete Book Reviews

They also reward good behavior by elevating the status of individuals who do good things - and all primates including humans are acutely conscious of status. There are also dysfunctional societies where what we think of as civilized legal systems have broken down, leaving anarchy. And yet, even in such dysfunctional environments think Somalia , elements of our common moral heritage remain - parents love and care for their children, friends protect friends, tribe members look out for other tribe members - and crimes are generally directed at those perceived to be outside the group.

What I like about this approach is that it gives us a rather more hopeful view of human nature. Yes, we need to fight against selfish and destructive impulses - but it's in our nature to want to do good for our family and friends.


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  7. This general view also explains far better why the overall arc of human development has been towards a gradual reduction of everyday brutality and the emergence of international standards of conduct. The more we communicate across groups and cultures, the more we feel part of one large group, and the more our innate moral faculties seem to apply to everyone. Jan 10, Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing Shelves: animals-and-humans. If you're going to read about animal intelligence - animal emotion - and onwards to animal ethics - oh, do start with Frans de Waal.

    He's so sensible. He's certainly not over-excitable he's a trifle under-excited for me and you can trust him. Explore further, but drop your anchor in Frans de Waal, that's my philosophy. And if you're like me, the fact that animals, yes, have ethics, which are built out of emotion, changes how you see the world. Nov 21, Jon rated it it was amazing. From one perspective, it is an explanation of how human morality could be explained by evolutionary forces that would favor the reproduction of organisms who exhibited rudimentary moral behavior.

    From another perspective, the book is a counter-argument to the viewpoint that seemingly ethical or altruistic behavior in animals perhaps including humans are explained by the simple pairing of stimulus and response that happen "Good Natured" is easily among the top three nonfiction books I've read. From another perspective, the book is a counter-argument to the viewpoint that seemingly ethical or altruistic behavior in animals perhaps including humans are explained by the simple pairing of stimulus and response that happen to increase genetic fitness.

    In , Richard Dawkins published his seminal book "The Selfish Gene," supporting the theory, colloquially stated, that an organism is merely a gene's way of reproducing itself. With this paradigm shift, biologists were able to explain a wide variety of seemingly altruistic or self-sacrificing behaviors - for instance why so many animals will increase their offspring's chances of survival by sacrificing their own. In short time, many had attributed all animal behaviors including human , even those that were seemingly altruistic, to strategies to maximize reproduction.

    In one sense, this conclusion was correct; an animal that sacrifices it's own reproductive success will not pass on the genes that allowed that behavior. However, de Waal makes an important distinction between the evolutionary cause of a behavior's persistence and the psychological motivation for an organism acting as it does. De Waal's is a primatologist who has spent thousands of hours observing apes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, humans and monkeys many varieties and his writing is replete with examples from his own observations that bolster his theories.

    De Waal takes neither the position that non-human animals lack any sense of morality nor that they possess the abstract moral reasoning of which some humans are capable. While morality has taken the form of abstract reasoning among humans, de Waal argues that the roots of morality lie with emotion rather than reason. De Waal identifies a number of behaviors with concomitant emotions in animals that lead to a sort of proto-morality. One aspect of morality could be called "sympathy.

    Books in Review

    Helping relatives, as are found in extended families and tribes, also has clear reproductive value on a genetic level. At its most advanced levels, sympathy takes the form of empathy - an actual understanding of how another individual in a different situation might feel, think, and act. How did human ancestors get from basic instincts to care for their offspring to an actual understanding of how others of their species might experience a different situation?

    Two factors are necessary to make this jump. First, the species must be social and inter-dependent on other members of their own species for survival. Solitary animals do not exhibit any behavior that approximates morality. This is why dogs care about pleasing their people and cats don't. Second, members of the species must be able to distinguish among individuals of their species and remember past actions of each individual which is really two requirements.

    With sociality and memory come rudimentary sharing among non-related individuals that will benefit both over the long run. For instance, bats, which die if they don't eat for more than two days, will share meals with non-related bats who were unsuccessful getting food on a particular night - provided that the recipients reciprocate in the future when the tables are turned. It works like a rudimentary insurance policy spreading risk among pairs of individuals. Animals with more developed memories actually begin to assign a "reputation" to others of their species.

    Chimpanzees remember which members of their group have shared food with them in the past and which have not and reward and punish those individuals, respectively, in the future. It works much like what humans call "fairness. Smaller chimps will team up to prevent one of their group from being beaten by a larger, more dominant chimp.

    ISBN 10: 0674356616

    Again, chimps who try to take advantage of an alliance by reaping protection from others without protecting others when they are in trouble are shunned or worse. With the advantage that comes with alliances comes an evolutionary factor that could select for the mental capability to guess what others are thinking to generalize the expectations that others will have of one's behavior in an alliance.

    Another outgrowth of sociality and memory is a dominance hierarchy. Stronger individuals have a natural advantage in competing for scarce resources and taking those resources away from others. One way to avoid an out-and-out fight every time resources are discovered is to remember which individuals have prevailed in past competitions and to give deference to such individuals provided that the dominant individual allows the subordinate enough of the resources to make it worth the subordinate not challenging the dominant in a desperate attempt at survival.

    Remember, even the dominant individual depends on the subordinates for his or her survival. And as alliances can turn the table on a strong chimp, alliances can also turn the tables on an otherwise dominant chimp. At their best, dominant chimps act as impartial arbitrators of disputes between other chimpanzees and can break up fights that are detrimental to the group.

    Chimps who always favor stronger or more dominant chimps in altercations presumably to curry favor with the strongest allies usually are overthrown in the dominance hierarchy.

    It's that concept of fairness coming into play again at a much more complex level. Chimpanzees even have their own complex system of making amends to bring a conflict to an end. In some of his most daring and successful experiments, de Waal showed that a species of monkey that is typically very hierarchical and aggressive can actually learn to be more tolerant and relaxed if members of the aggressive species are raised with slightly older members of the tolerant species.

    De Waal is consistently articulate; he identifies high-level trends in behavior among different species without ever making over-generalizations. And he always illustrates his theories with examples and counter-examples which may account for his ability to avoid "painting with a broad brush. I hope you get a chance to read it sometime. Aug 02, Dev Scott Flores added it. Good stuff! Apr 03, Andrea rated it it was amazing. This is my favorite primate-ish book to recommend to non primatologists. Easy read and fascinating way to envision more than science can tell us about how similar we are or are not to monkeys and apes.

    Some folks find it depressing to imagine generosity and love as somehow biologically based, but I think its pretty darn interesting.