The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society

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Harmony Books, 2009 - Science - 291 pages
4 Reviews
"An important and timely message about the biological roots of human kindness."
—Desmond Morris, author ofThe Naked Ape

Are we our brothers' keepers? Do we have an instinct for compassion? Or are we, as is often assumed, only on earth to serve our own survival and interests? In this thought-provoking book, the acclaimed author ofOur Inner Apeexamines how empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans.

By studying social behaviors in animals, such as bonding, the herd instinct, the forming of trusting alliances, expressions of consolation, and conflict resolution, Frans de Waal demonstrates that animals–and humans–are "preprogrammed to reach out." He has found that chimpanzees care for mates that are wounded by leopards, elephants offer "reassuring rumbles" to youngsters in distress, and dolphins support sick companions near the water's surface to prevent them from drowning. From day one humans have innate sensitivities to faces, bodies, and voices; we've been designed to feel for one another.

De Waal's theory runs counter to the assumption that humans are inherently selfish, which can be seen in the fields of politics, law, and finance, and whichseems to be evidenced by the current greed-driven stock market collapse. But he cites the public's outrage at the U.S. government's lack of empathy in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a significant shift in perspective–one that helped Barack Obama become elected and ushered in what may well become an Age of Empathy. Through a better understanding of empathy's survival value in evolution, de Waal suggests, we can work together toward a more just society based on a more generous and accurate view of human nature.

Written in layman's prose with a wealth of anecdotes, wry humor, and incisive intelligence,The Age of Empathyis essential reading for our embattled times.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jensenmk82 - LibraryThing

De Waal shows that empathy in animals is well-established and is chiefly interested in exploring how it functions. From the average reader's point of view, Chapter 7 is the most interesting, where the ... Read full review

THE AGE OF EMPATHY: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

What other primates can teach us about human nature.Addressing the question of whether it is possible to "combine a thriving economy with a humane society," zoologist de Waal (Psychology/Emory Univ ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

FRANS DE WAAL is a Dutch-born biologist who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the world's best-known primatologists, de Waal is C. H. Candler professor of psychology and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, Time selected him as one of the World's 100 Most Influential People.

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