- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Delta (May 2, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385314280
- ISBN-13: 978-0385314282
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals Paperback – Unabridged, May 2, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
An examination of the inner lives of animals, arguing that they possess an emotional sensibility not unlike that of humans.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Fascinating...Compassionate...A book to be read more than once...A kind of nature lover's rendezvous with reality."
"In this impassioned volume [Masson and McCarthy] argue their case with intriguing examples culled from scientific literature...In addition to offering a fascinating array of animals, it convincingly argues that their emotional life is an area worthy of scientific exploration."
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We are treated to numerous examples of the full range of emotions that humans feel. Stories of elephants showing happiness at finding them, or gorillas able to express their feelings through sign language. Love in birds and justice in chimpanzees. Each example is very short with not much further explanation, but they do seem to be clear examples that illustrate beautifully the expression of emotions.
But this is the small downside as well, because this isn't really a scientific book explaining answers to theories, but is rather a treatise for the need of scientific research. I think for good reason it could be dangerous to assume that animals feel the same or similar emotions simply because we could be projecting our own feelings and emotions through our interpretation. Or simply put: anthropomorphism. The second to last chapter did just this as the authors theorized the possibility of animals worshiping the sun or, even worse, humans. When a lion eats young cubs, either their own or another litter's cubs, they theorized that the lioness "hates waste, or cleans up all messes her cubs make, as part of her love". Or even better that the mother lioness ate her dead cub because she wanted may have wanted "to feel closer to her dead offspring when it was a part of her again". Unfortunately, as the last few chapters of any book usually are, the chapter stands out and points directly at the very negative aspect of anthropomorphism and the negative ideas that can spawn from applying human feelings or logic on to animals.
Aside from the second to last chapter I think that Masson and McCarthy did a wonderful job in showing that there does need to be some sort of research done to further our understanding of animals. After all, why are humans so arrogant to believe that we are unique in feeling emotions? Why must we be the center of the universe and there be no intelligent life on earth except humans and that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe? We were certain that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, and that the bible should be accepted as literal truth. All of those assumptions were wrong, so why not the notion that animals do not have feelings be wrong? I would recommend if for nothing else but to read about the wonderful lives of so many different animals.
Dr. Masson also covered a wide variety of emotions that might exist in animals, including love, fear, altruism, anger, etc. He additionally gave an opinion on anthropomorphism, which I believe is extremely important when discussing the topic of animal emotions, which probably differ in varying degrees from our own.
I only have a couple of criticisms about the book. First of all, it is presented in a somewhat disorganized fashion. It seems like topic after topic is flung at the reader with no strong organization to the material. Also, the book never comes to some kind of conclusion about what science should do to research animal emotions. I believe there should have at least been some suggestion, in light of the fact that the author criticized science for not having focused on this subject enough.
All in all, the book is worth reading and pondering over. Perhaps it is appropriate for someone to start with the questions so that others are enticed into questing for answers.