Sunday, August 10, 2008

Primates and Philosophers by de Waal et al.

This interesting work about morality, evolution and similarities between human and nonhuman primates consists of a lead essay by leading primatologist Frans de Waal, four commentary essays and then his response.

I liked the work because of the different perspectives and that it addressed the topics of anthropomorphization, animal rights, what can be considered a moral action and who is capable of moral action. Above all though, the emphasis on notion that human morality elaborates upon pre-existing tendencies was the most useful (not because it was new, but because reminders are useful).

I disliked that the initial essay, and some subsequent commentaries, were vague in parts. Perhaps this just reflects the current state of the topic, where there is little consensus (as if there every actually is) and so people are still arguing over the framing as well as the points.
I also thought Singer’s commentary was one of the clearest and some of his points were not sufficient addressed by de Waal.

I don’t know if there were space constraints due to a publisher’s wishes, but I thought the whole work could have been longer (there could have been another commentary or two and de Waal could have addressed more points in his response).

A decent work, but not a must read unless you’re interested in the topic.


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