The Moral Lives of AnimalsBook - 2011
Challenges popular beliefs to reveal the animal kingdom's impulses toward cooperation, generosity and fairness, citing numerous examples of animals who have compromised their own safety to protect each other and what humans can learn from animal codes of behavior. By the author of Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man. 50,000 first printing.
Wild elephants walking along a trail stop and spontaneously try to protect and assist a weak and dying fellow elephant. Laboratory rats, finding other rats caged nearby in distressing circumstances, proceed to rescue them. A chimpanzee in a zoo loses his own life trying to save an unrelated infant who has fallen into a watery moat.
The examples above and many others, argues Dale Peterson, show that our fellow creatures have powerful impulses toward cooperation, generosity, and fairness. Yet it is commonly held that we Homo sapiens are the only animals with a moral sense-that we are somehow above and apart from our fellow creatures.
This rigorous and stimulating book challenges that notion, and it shows the profound connections-the moral continuum-that link humans to many other species. Peterson shows how much animal behavior follows principles embodied in humanity's ancient moral codes, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament. Understanding the moral lives of animals offers new insight into our own.
Dale Peterson's biography Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and Boston Globe Best Book of 2006. His other publications include Visions of Caliban (with Jane Goodall) and Demonic Males (with Richard Wrangham). Peterson lectures in English at Tufts University.
Peterson, who holds a PhD in English from Stanford University, has written numerous books on studying animals in the wild. Here, he draws on research, theory, and philosophy of the past 500 years, from Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and Charles Darwin to Jane Goodall and Richard Dawkins. He describes a way of thinking about animals which allows for the existence of animal minds yet recognizes the great differences between animal and human minds. The author's discussion of morality begins by viewing morality as a gift of biological evolution. He then describes two dynamic aspects of morality: rules and attachments. He posits that the rules of morality evolved in response to social conflict over authority, violence, sex, possessions, and communication. Attachment morality is described next; it involves mechanisms promoting cooperation and kindness. Human and nonhuman examples of antisocial and prosocial behaviors are given. In the most speculative section of the book, the author theorizes that the future evolution of human morality could bring an expanded role for empathy, leading to greater tolerance and peace between humans and nonhumans. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Examines the moral behavior observed in animals and argues that human beings are not the only species to live by the principles of cooperation, kindness, and empathy.