- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 15, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674356616
- ISBN-13: 978-0674356610
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,008,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
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In Good Natured Frans de Waal, ethologist and primatologist, asks us to reconsider human morality in light of moral aspects that can be identified in animals. Within the complex negotiations of human society, a moral action may involve thoughts and feelings of guilt, reciprocity, obligation, expectations, rules, or community concern. De Waal finds these aspects of morality prevalent in other animal societies, mostly primate, and suggests that the two philosophical camps supporting nature and nurture may have to be disbanded in order to adequately understand human morality. A theoretician, de Waal is meticulous in his research, cautious not to extrapolate too much from his findings, and logically sound in his arguments. He also writes with precision and a flair for the dramatic, carrying readers along with graceful ease and vivid examples.
From Publishers Weekly
Is morality a biological or cultural phenomenon? Can nonhuman animals be humane? Primatologist de Waal (Chimpanzee Politics) explores these questions in a provocative book and makes a strong case for biology. He is convinced that social tendencies come into existence via a genetic calculus rather than rational choice. He defends anthropomorphism, noting that it serves the same exploratory function as intuition in the sciences. He discusses aggression and altruism and offers abundant anecdotal evidence of moral behavior among primates and other animals?food sharing, protection, sympathy, guilt. De Waal argues that the remarkable trainability among certain species, e.g., sheepdogs and elephants, hints at a rule-based order among them. He takes issue with the animal rights movement; rights, he says, are normally accompanied by responsibilities, which cannot possibly apply to apes and other animals. Readers who enjoyed Why Elephants Weep (Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy) will welcome this volume. Illustrations.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It's very important for us to really look at where we come from and why we are what we are, and taking a look at our closest relatives is a good window into our minds. I found the analysis and the conclusions to be well formed and fairly presented. The evidence he gives for his conclusions is well documented and explained.
While I did have a few problems here and there, these did not detract from the overall readability and the pure enjoyment of the book. This was just a very enjoyable book that I would recommend to anyone, whether you have a deep interest in the topic or you're just looking for an interesting book to use up a few hours in the day.
The black and white pictures illustrate his points, but they are by no means the highlight of this book. De Waal's insights, which never read too much into specific behaviors, walk the fine line between objective scientific reporting and an acknowledgment of the kinship between all primates. Seeing primates through his expert eyes is an enlightening experience.
This is truly an extraordinary book. I recommend it to readers who have a keen interest in primatology, sociology, and/or the kinship between humans and other species.
I like de Waals style: the studies he talked about were fascinating and he really keeps your interest. I guess the only negative is that the book is a little disjointed in places. For example, in the chapter on sympathy there is a section on deception. In the end he makes his own speculation on morality stretching across human boundaries and what he makes of the implications for treatment of primates and other animals. It's definitely a great read for anyone interested in the evolution of morality and primatology.
De Waal contrasts "lower" primates and chimpanzees so that we can better understand the evolution of morality, and such distinctions as that between learned adjustment and true empathy. Chimps will mourn, console, deceive; the alpha male will intervene in disputes where the only objective can be restoration of harmony. As all animals, their adaptive potential exceeds the range of behavior observed in natural settings. For example, in the wild, females do not usually spend much time with other adult females, whereas in captivity they do. In captivity, they may use their friendships/alliances to control overly aggressive males, and even influence who becomes the alpha male. While morality has a genetic basis, even in monkeys there is a cultural component. In one experiment, aggressive rhesus adolescents learned to be more tolerant after living with more peaceful stump tailed macaques for 6 months.
The adaptive potential of morality is that it fosters group cohesion, which for many species is essential for defense against predators, or to find or protect resources. This is not to deny that one basis of morality is the selfish gene: by helping kin, you are helping some of your own genes to survive, so "altruistic genes" tend to perpetuate themselves.
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The Origins of Right and Wrong
in Humans and Other Animals
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