Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved

F. B. M. De Waal, Author, Frans de Waal, Author, Stephen Macedo, Editor . Princeton Univ. $22.95 (209p) ISBN 978-0-691-12447-6

Celebrated primatologist de Waal expands on his earlier work in Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals to argue that human traits of fairness, reciprocity and altruism develop through natural selection. Based on his 2004 Tanner Lectures at Princeton, this book argues that our morality grows out of the social instincts we share with bonobos, chimpanzees and apes. De Waal criticizes what he calls the "veneer theory," which holds that human ethics is simply an overlay masking our "selfish and brutish nature." De Waal draws on his own work with primates to illustrate the evolution of morality. For example, chimpanzees are more favorably disposed to others who have performed a service for them (such as grooming) and more likely to share their food with these individuals. In three appendixes, de Waal ranges briefly over anthropomorphism, apes and a theory of mind, and animal rights. The volume also includes responses to de Waal by Robert Wright, Christine M. Korsgaard, Philip Kitcher and Peter Singer. Although E.O. Wilson and Robert Wright have long contended that altruism is a product of evolution, de Waal demonstrates through his empirical work with primates the evolutionary basis for ethics. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/17/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X