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Good Natured

Good Natured

The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals

Frans B. M. de Waal

ISBN 9780674356610

Publication date: 10/15/1997

To observe a dog's guilty look.

to witness a gorilla's self-sacrifice for a wounded mate, to watch an elephant herd's communal effort on behalf of a stranded calf--to catch animals in certain acts is to wonder what moves them. Might there he a code of ethics in the animal kingdom? Must an animal be human to he humane? 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.

Praise

  • Evolutionary continuities have been sought in intelligence, language, tool making--anywhere but in morality. Now a respected ethologist, Frans de Waal, tackles the problem from a novel angle...Good Natured is no touchy-feely celebration of animal innocence, but a hardheaded study by a specialist in primate behavior with a wealth of observational experience. Mr. de Waal, a research scientist at the Yerkes Regional Primate Center at Emory University, presents his rich data in an accessible prose lit with flashes of wry humor and beautifully illustrated with his own vivid photographs...Far from being half ape, half angel, torn between a moral sense that strives upward and an eons-old bestial viciousness that drags us down, [we are portrayed by de Waal] as inheritors of a basically moral view of life that has evolved over countless millenniums--not through some fictitious social contract between self-sufficient individuals, but through the inevitable give-and-take of communal living...Anyone who cares about humans or their future will profit from this excellent book, which sheds at least as much light on our own lives as it does on those of other creatures.

    —Derek Bickerton, New York Times Book Review

Author

  • Frans B. M. de Waal is C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Psychology Department and Director of Living Links, part of the Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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