Sunday, April 29, 2012

Animal morality: a sense of fairness

This is a very brief excerpt (2 minutes) of a longer talk (17 minutes), which I'll embed below the fold. If you have the time, I recommend the whole thing. But this little excerpt will give you the general idea.

As we get better at studying other animals, we learn that morality - or the basics of it, at least - isn't limited to human beings. A sense of fairness isn't morality in itself, but it's an important part of it. And the longer video clip also shows examples of cooperation, empathy, and reciprocity.

The evidence seems clear that we evolved our basic moral instincts. There's no need for a god to tell us what to do. We can figure that out for ourselves, given those feelings which other animals also feel, to some extent.

For human beings, like other social animals, it's not a dog-eat-dog world. After all, we live together. We survive and thrive in groups, not as solitary individuals. For human beings - and for chimps - cooperation is even more important than competition.

It's ironic that chimpanzees seem to understand that better than many humans.

Anyway, I thought this was neat. Check below the fold, if you want to watch the whole 17-minute talk. (Note the end, where Frans de Waal says that "philosophers need to rethink their philosophy." I'll be posting something about that soon, if I can find the time.)

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