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Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals Paperback – May 30, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Cognitive ethologist Bekoff (The Emotional Lives of Animals) and philosopher Pierce (Morality Play) explore the moral lives of such commonly studied animals as primates, wolves, household rodents, elephants, dolphins—and a few uncommon critters as well. Citing too few examples (though the authors say that the more we look, the more we'll see) and too many term definitions, this book presents studies of rats refusing to obtain food if it means hurting another rat; the care given by chimpanzees to a chimp stricken by cerebral palsy; and comfort offered to grieving elephants by members of the same herd. The authors contend that, in order to understand the moral compass by which animals live, we must first expand our definition of morality to include moral behavior unique to each species. Studies done by the authors, as well as experts in the fields of psychology, human social intelligence, zoology and other branches of relevant science excellently bolster their claim. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Do animals feel empathy for each other, treat one another fairly, cooperate toward common goals, and help each other out of trouble? In short, do animals demonstrate morality? Bekoff and Pierce answer with an emphatic “yes!” in this fusion of animal behavior, animal cognition, and philosophy. The authors discuss the sense of fair play and justice in nonhuman animals. Social animals form networks of relationships, and these relationships rely on trust, reciprocity, and flexibility—just as they do in humans. Calling these behaviors morality, the authors present evidence that morality is an adaptive strategy that has evolved in multiple animal groups. Basing their argument for animal morality on published research (listed in the generous bibliography) and anecdotal evidence, the authors group moral behaviors into three clusters: cooperation, empathy, and justice, each of which is discussed in turn. A final chapter is a synthesis of moral behavior and philosophy, suggesting areas for further study and discussion. The conversational tone and numerous illustrative examples make this an excellent introduction to a new science. --Nancy Bent --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
PS Please don't take anyone's word for Bekoff's expertise in this arena: look him up. His website is full of credentials.
The authors seek to convince us that when we see animals working together we aren't seeing "veneers of cooperation, fairness, and trust, but the real thing." "Wild Justice" is the name they give to the combination of behaviors they group under the names "cooperation," "empathy," and "justice." They adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on observations of animals (captive and wild), neurological studies, and philosophy. Of special interest to them is whether or not animals can be said to have moral agency and how our own observational bias comes into play via our expectations that animal morality look like human morality.
While I was ideologically prepared to accept their argument at the beginning of the book, I was unconvinced when I finished. I wish they had spent more time on the argument of moral agency and what it means to behave morally if one may not be making the decision to do so. Too many studies were presented as leading inevitably to the conclusion that an animal acting in a certain way was behaving morally -- it would have been much more convincing if Beckoff and Pierce had explored other theories that attempt to explain why the animals acted the way they did before simply drawing the conclusion that animals have moral lives.
As reading, this was relatively dry. Those expecting the more anecdote-driven style of, say, Jeffrey Masson, will be disappointed. This wasn't convincing enough to be an outstanding addition to the growing body of scientific/philosophical justifications for changing the way we relate to animals. Nor was it emotionally engaging in a way that will win hearts. However, if you have interest in the subject, it may provide a good place to start your research.
The authors spend way too much time precisely describing what it will talk about, definitions, etc. The kind of thing that is definitely required for a scientific journal, but boring in a book. Then the descriptions of the animal behavior are too short. The examples are used to push certain views/conclusions, as opposed to encouraging creative thinking and debate, and possible future experiments.
I was hoping for far more detailed descriptions and analysis of possible different explanations, as opposed to a statement of view with short descriptions intended to defend that viewpoint. It is clearly written by scientists and works hard to be taken seriously as a work of science. But this is not a peer-review scientific paper. Less of a sense of rigorous argument and more a sense of wonder would have made the book much more interesting.
For example, it discusses how rats sometimes refuse to push a lever to get food if they see another rat be shocked when the lever is pushed. This is very interesting, but instead of delving further into it, the book provides little more information then I just did.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Heartfelt thanks to Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce for writing this eye-opening book. Immediately passed it on to my two children. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Fairy Godmother
A first rate foray into uncharted territory. Long-overdue in a world of behaviorist dogma that has denied interiority to animals for a century and a half. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mike
This book is a worthy effort to philosophically consider the kinds of sensitivity, empathy, altruism or morality that animals display. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Brian Griffith
Bekoff consistently reminds the reader that these topics will always evade definitive definition because of dynamic and contextual multiplicity of factors that influence the ideas... Read morePublished 20 months ago by WoodWizard