Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved (Google eBook)

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Princeton University Press, Jan 12, 2009 - Science - 232 pages
13 Reviews

"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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Review: Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved

User Review  - Colin Bendell - Goodreads

A slow and dense read but a fantastic primer that I would use if I were ever to teach a Normative Philosophy class. Throughout the book, de Waal presents 5 essays and rebuttals by other prominent ... Read full review

Review: Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved

User Review  - Adam Birt - Goodreads

The best arguments come in the rebuttals, particularly those of Robert Wright and Christine Korsgaard. Read full review

Contents

Appendix
25
Anthropomorphism and Anthropodenial
59
Appendix
69
Appendix
75
The Uses of Anthropomorphism
83
Morality and the Distinctiveness of Human Action
98
How to Get Here from There
120
Morality Reason and the Rights of Animals
140
The Tower of Morality
161
References
183
Contributors
197
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Frans de Waal is C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Department of Psychology, and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, both at Emory University. In 2007, "Time" magazine selected him as one of the 100 People Who Shape Our World. His books include "Our Inner Ape" (Riverhead) and "The Ape and the Sushi Master" (Basic Books), both "New York Times" Notable Books of the Year.

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