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Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals

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To observe a dog's guilty look. to witness a gorilla's self-sacrifice for a wounded mate, to watch an elephant herd's communal effort on behalf of a stranded calf--to catch animals in certain acts is to wonder what moves them. Might there he a code of ethics in the animal kingdom? Must an animal be human to he humane? In this provocative book, a renowned scientist takes on To observe a dog's guilty look. to witness a gorilla's self-sacrifice for a wounded mate, to watch an elephant herd's communal effort on behalf of a stranded calf--to catch animals in certain acts is to wonder what moves them. Might there he a code of ethics in the animal kingdom? Must an animal be human to he humane? In this provocative book, a renowned scientist takes on those who have declared ethics uniquely human Making a compelling case for a morality grounded in biology, he shows how ethical behavior is as much a matter of evolution as any other trait, in humans and animals alike. World famous for his brilliant descriptions of Machiavellian power plays among chimpanzees-the nastier side of animal life--Frans de Waal here contends that animals have a nice side as well. Making his case through vivid anecdotes drawn from his work with apes and monkeys and holstered by the intriguing, voluminous data from his and others' ongoing research, de Waal shows us that many of the building blocks of morality are natural: they can he observed in other animals. Through his eyes, we see how not just primates but all kinds of animals, from marine mammals to dogs, respond to social rules, help each other, share food, resolve conflict to mutual satisfaction, even develop a crude sense of justice and fairness. Natural selection may be harsh, but it has produced highly successful species that survive through cooperation and mutual assistance. De Waal identifies this paradox as the key to an evolutionary account of morality, and demonstrates that human morality could never have developed without the foundation of fellow feeling our species shares with other animals. As his work makes clear, a morality grounded in biology leads to an entirely different conception of what it means to he human--and humane.


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To observe a dog's guilty look. to witness a gorilla's self-sacrifice for a wounded mate, to watch an elephant herd's communal effort on behalf of a stranded calf--to catch animals in certain acts is to wonder what moves them. Might there he a code of ethics in the animal kingdom? Must an animal be human to he humane? In this provocative book, a renowned scientist takes on To observe a dog's guilty look. to witness a gorilla's self-sacrifice for a wounded mate, to watch an elephant herd's communal effort on behalf of a stranded calf--to catch animals in certain acts is to wonder what moves them. Might there he a code of ethics in the animal kingdom? Must an animal be human to he humane? In this provocative book, a renowned scientist takes on those who have declared ethics uniquely human Making a compelling case for a morality grounded in biology, he shows how ethical behavior is as much a matter of evolution as any other trait, in humans and animals alike. World famous for his brilliant descriptions of Machiavellian power plays among chimpanzees-the nastier side of animal life--Frans de Waal here contends that animals have a nice side as well. Making his case through vivid anecdotes drawn from his work with apes and monkeys and holstered by the intriguing, voluminous data from his and others' ongoing research, de Waal shows us that many of the building blocks of morality are natural: they can he observed in other animals. Through his eyes, we see how not just primates but all kinds of animals, from marine mammals to dogs, respond to social rules, help each other, share food, resolve conflict to mutual satisfaction, even develop a crude sense of justice and fairness. Natural selection may be harsh, but it has produced highly successful species that survive through cooperation and mutual assistance. De Waal identifies this paradox as the key to an evolutionary account of morality, and demonstrates that human morality could never have developed without the foundation of fellow feeling our species shares with other animals. As his work makes clear, a morality grounded in biology leads to an entirely different conception of what it means to he human--and humane.

30 review for Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    My follow up to Moral Minds. It presents a lucid, straightforward account of how our moral faculties may have evolved from our pre-human ancestors. I've been thinking about why I find this subject fascinating, and one reason is that this research challenges a fundamental notion of human nature advanced by some religions, which is that the humans are inherently sinful, and it is only by the grace of God that our sinful natures can be restrained or redeemed. There is a secular version of this view My follow up to Moral Minds. It presents a lucid, straightforward account of how our moral faculties may have evolved from our pre-human ancestors. I've been thinking about why I find this subject fascinating, and one reason is that this research challenges a fundamental notion of human nature advanced by some religions, which is that the humans are inherently sinful, and it is only by the grace of God that our sinful natures can be restrained or redeemed. There is a secular version of this view as well, which holds that humans are beasts at heart whose basest instincts are held in check by a mere veneer of civilization. Take away our modern moral codes and laws and the beast quickly emerges. I find this to be a grim, depressing view of what it means to be human, one that has us constantly at war with our inner selves. It also makes no sense from an evolutionary perspective, since if civilization (or God) is all that keeps us from tearing each other apart, how could we (and our pre-human ancestors) have made it through the period before organized religions and systems of laws were developed? What would have held primitive human and pre-human groups together, and how would moral systems have ever emerged? The view advanced in this book is that our system of morals actually draws on deep-seated social instincts developed over millions of years of evolution culminating in the primates, and specifically us. Humans are, in fact, naturally "good" in the sense that we have all the basic elements to be moral citizens - such as the ability to empathize with others, the need and desire for close social bonds (with friends and mates), an acute sense of fairness, a willingness to share and help others with no conscious awareness of promoting the general good, the ability to feel shame in the face of the group's disapproval. Elements like these have served an evolutionary purpose by promoting group cohesion, stability, and success. It is therefore more accurate to say that our moral codes were built upon a framework of innate moral capacities than that we owe our sense of right and wrong to those same codes. The author, a biologist, backs this up with much research on primates, and especially chimpanzees, our closest relatives. There is evidence in chimpanzee communities of quite evolved capacities such as sympathy for others' distress, mourning the loss of a parent or child, and reciprocal altruism (doing favors for others with no immediate expectation of reward). There is no claim that chimpanzees have a moral code similar to ours, but it is possible to see how moral systems might have emerged from some of these basic elements. To be sure, there are always cheaters, and all societies deal with them through a system of punishment. They also reward good behavior by elevating the status of individuals who do good things - and all primates including humans are acutely conscious of status. There are also dysfunctional societies where what we think of as civilized legal systems have broken down, leaving anarchy. And yet, even in such dysfunctional environments (think Somalia), elements of our common moral heritage remain - parents love and care for their children, friends protect friends, tribe members look out for other tribe members - and crimes are generally directed at those perceived to be outside the group. What I like about this approach is that it gives us a rather more hopeful view of human nature. Yes, we need to fight against selfish and destructive impulses - but it's in our nature to want to do good for our family and friends. This general view also explains far better why the overall arc of human development has been towards a gradual reduction of everyday brutality and the emergence of international standards of conduct. The more we communicate across groups and cultures, the more we feel part of one large group, and the more our innate moral faculties seem to apply to everyone.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    "Good Natured" is easily among the top three nonfiction books I've read. From one perspective, it is an explanation of how human morality could be explained by evolutionary forces that would favor the reproduction of organisms who exhibited rudimentary moral behavior. From another perspective, the book is a counter-argument to the viewpoint that seemingly ethical or altruistic behavior in animals (perhaps including humans) are explained by the simple pairing of stimulus and response that happen "Good Natured" is easily among the top three nonfiction books I've read. From one perspective, it is an explanation of how human morality could be explained by evolutionary forces that would favor the reproduction of organisms who exhibited rudimentary moral behavior. From another perspective, the book is a counter-argument to the viewpoint that seemingly ethical or altruistic behavior in animals (perhaps including humans) are explained by the simple pairing of stimulus and response that happen to increase genetic fitness. In 1976, Richard Dawkins published his seminal book "The Selfish Gene," supporting the theory, colloquially stated, that an organism is merely a gene's way of reproducing itself. With this paradigm shift, biologists were able to explain a wide variety of seemingly altruistic or self-sacrificing behaviors - for instance why so many animals will increase their offspring's chances of survival by sacrificing their own. In short time, many had attributed all animal behaviors (including human), even those that were seemingly altruistic, to strategies to maximize reproduction. In one sense, this conclusion was correct; an animal that sacrifices it's own reproductive success will not pass on the genes that allowed that behavior. However, de Waal makes an important distinction between the evolutionary cause of a behavior's persistence and the psychological motivation for an organism acting as it does. Simply because genes causing/allowing mothers to care for their young have been favored by selection does not mean that a mother comforting her crying child is thinking about maximizing her genetic fitness when she does so. The mother's caring for her child is a genuine altruistic emotion, even if the behavior of caring has persisted or increased due to selection of genes causing/allowing it. De Waal's is a primatologist who has spent thousands of hours observing apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, humans) and monkeys (many varieties) and his writing is replete with examples from his own observations that bolster his theories. De Waal takes neither the position that non-human animals lack any sense of morality nor that they possess the abstract moral reasoning of which some humans are capable. While morality has taken the form of abstract reasoning among humans, de Waal argues that the roots of morality lie with emotion rather than reason. De Waal identifies a number of behaviors with concomitant emotions in animals that lead to a sort of proto-morality. One aspect of morality could be called "sympathy." Sympathy has its roots in the emotions that motivate mothers to care for their young - a behavior with obvious reproductive value. Helping relatives, as are found in extended families and tribes, also has clear reproductive value on a genetic level. At its most advanced levels, sympathy takes the form of empathy - an actual understanding of how another individual in a different situation might feel, think, and act. How did human ancestors get from basic instincts to care for their offspring to an actual understanding of how others of their species might experience a different situation? Two factors are necessary to make this jump. First, the species must be social and inter-dependent on other members of their own species for survival. Solitary animals do not exhibit any behavior that approximates morality. (This is why dogs care about pleasing their people and cats don't.) Second, members of the species must be able to distinguish among individuals of their species and remember past actions of each individual (which is really two requirements). With sociality and memory come rudimentary sharing among non-related individuals that will benefit both over the long run. For instance, bats, which die if they don't eat for more than two days, will share meals with non-related bats who were unsuccessful getting food on a particular night - provided that the recipients reciprocate in the future when the tables are turned. It works like a rudimentary insurance policy spreading risk among pairs of individuals. Animals with more developed memories actually begin to assign a "reputation" to others of their species. Chimpanzees remember which members of their group have shared food with them in the past and which have not and reward and punish those individuals, respectively, in the future. It works much like what humans call "fairness." Chimpanzees who take but don't share are shunned much as humans shun "cheaters." Chimpanzees also form specific alliances with others of their species. Smaller chimps will team up to prevent one of their group from being beaten by a larger, more dominant chimp. Again, chimps who try to take advantage of an alliance by reaping protection from others without protecting others when they are in trouble are shunned or worse. With the advantage that comes with alliances comes an evolutionary factor that could select for the mental capability to guess what others are thinking to generalize the expectations that others will have of one's behavior in an alliance. Another outgrowth of sociality and memory is a dominance hierarchy. Stronger individuals have a natural advantage in competing for scarce resources (and taking those resources away from others). One way to avoid an out-and-out fight every time resources are discovered is to remember which individuals have prevailed in past competitions and to give deference to such individuals provided that the dominant individual allows the subordinate enough of the resources to make it worth the subordinate not challenging the dominant in a desperate attempt at survival. Remember, even the dominant individual depends on the subordinates for his or her survival. And as alliances can turn the table on a strong chimp, alliances can also turn the tables on an otherwise dominant chimp. At their best, dominant chimps act as impartial arbitrators of disputes between other chimpanzees and can break up fights that are detrimental to the group. Chimps who always favor stronger or more dominant chimps in altercations (presumably to curry favor with the strongest allies) usually are overthrown in the dominance hierarchy. It's that concept of fairness coming into play again at a much more complex level. Chimpanzees even have their own complex system of making amends to bring a conflict to an end. In some of his most daring and successful experiments, de Waal showed that a species of monkey that is typically very hierarchical and aggressive can actually learn to be more tolerant and relaxed if members of the aggressive species are raised with slightly older members of the tolerant species. De Waal is consistently articulate; he identifies high-level trends in behavior among different species without ever making over-generalizations. And he always illustrates his theories with examples and counter-examples which may account for his ability to avoid "painting with a broad brush." As you can probably tell if you have continued reading to this point, I was completely floored by this book in the best possible way. I hope you get a chance to read it sometime.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    If you're going to read about animal intelligence - animal emotion - and onwards to animal ethics - oh, do start with Frans de Waal. He's so sensible. He's certainly not over-excitable (he's a trifle under-excited for me) and you can trust him. Explore further, but drop your anchor in Frans de Waal, that's my philosophy. And if you're like me, the fact that animals, yes, have ethics, which are built out of emotion, changes how you see the world. If you're going to read about animal intelligence - animal emotion - and onwards to animal ethics - oh, do start with Frans de Waal. He's so sensible. He's certainly not over-excitable (he's a trifle under-excited for me) and you can trust him. Explore further, but drop your anchor in Frans de Waal, that's my philosophy. And if you're like me, the fact that animals, yes, have ethics, which are built out of emotion, changes how you see the world.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dev Scott Flores

    Good stuff!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This is my favorite primate-ish book to recommend to non primatologists. Easy read and fascinating way to envision more than science can tell us about how similar we are or are not to monkeys and apes. Some folks find it depressing to imagine generosity and love as somehow biologically based, but I think its pretty darn interesting.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jrobertus

    5*. this is one of the most important books i have read. he is a primatologist who uses his observations to make brilliant insights into the nature of apes. he narrates about social behavior, conflict, altruism, and natural morality. a must read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Recommended in Government 72: Human Nature and Politics taught by Professor Roger Masters.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Lipinski

    This well-written and accessible science book offers evidence of morality and compassion in the animal kingdom.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    A look at primate behavior from the point of view of the origins of human morality. There's something deeply humane about the way De Waal writes and thinks about animals. A look at primate behavior from the point of view of the origins of human morality. There's something deeply humane about the way De Waal writes and thinks about animals.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kimi

    Pernahkah kalian bertanya-tanya dari mana asal-muasal moral? Apakah hanya manusia yang memiliki simpati dan empati? Apakah hewan-hewan lain tidak memilikinya? Jika hewan lain tidak memilikinya, lalu kenapa hewan seperti simpanse bisa sedih jika ada temannya yang mati? Kenapa mereka juga mau berbagi makanan dengan gerombolan kawanan mereka? Nah, de Waal mencoba menjelaskannya melalui buku ini. Dengan pengalamannya yang sudah puluhan tahun sebagai primatolog dan etolog — yang pekerjaannya sudah pas Pernahkah kalian bertanya-tanya dari mana asal-muasal moral? Apakah hanya manusia yang memiliki simpati dan empati? Apakah hewan-hewan lain tidak memilikinya? Jika hewan lain tidak memilikinya, lalu kenapa hewan seperti simpanse bisa sedih jika ada temannya yang mati? Kenapa mereka juga mau berbagi makanan dengan gerombolan kawanan mereka? Nah, de Waal mencoba menjelaskannya melalui buku ini. Dengan pengalamannya yang sudah puluhan tahun sebagai primatolog dan etolog — yang pekerjaannya sudah pasti mengamati perilaku hewan — de Waal menyajikan bukti-bukti bahwa perilaku moral juga bisa diamati di hewan, tidak hanya primata, tetapi juga anjing, gajah, lumba-lumba, dan lainnya. Intinya adalah bahwasanya moralitas itu universal di animal kingdom. Jadi, jika kita berpikir bahwa agama, budaya, atau hukum mengatur moral kita, tidak ada salahnya untuk berpikir ulang. Kita adalah manusia modern merupakan produk evolusi. Otak kita berkembang dari yang berpikir sederhana hingga bisa berpikir kompleks dan abstrak, seperti yang de Waal bilang: The human brain is a product of evolution. Despite its larger volume and greater complexity, it is fundamentally similar to the central nervous system of other mammals. Resensi lengkap ada di sini.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Youp

    Having read a few other books by Frans de Waal, I noticed a few patterns. First of all, the author frequently uses cross-references to his other works. Secondly, de Waal has a habit of straying from the premise of each book, wandering into the territory of intelligence and emotions in animals. This results in his books - at least those I've read thus far - feeling awfully familiar and even repetitive. Good Natured is an interesting book, although chaotic in structure, but I found it hard to stay Having read a few other books by Frans de Waal, I noticed a few patterns. First of all, the author frequently uses cross-references to his other works. Secondly, de Waal has a habit of straying from the premise of each book, wandering into the territory of intelligence and emotions in animals. This results in his books - at least those I've read thus far - feeling awfully familiar and even repetitive. Good Natured is an interesting book, although chaotic in structure, but I found it hard to stay interested when constantly coming across familiar anecdotes. For those unfamiliar with Frans de Waal, this is a fine book to start with.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Marchegiani

    Meraviglioso. Per gli amanti dell'ecologia questo libro è un must. Appassiona dalla prima all'ultima pagina. È anche ricco di molte foto scattate direttamente da lui nel suoi anni di ricerche con i primati. Scritto in maniera molto semplice, parla dei nostri antenati come pochi scrittori sanno fare. Consigliatissimo Meraviglioso. Per gli amanti dell'ecologia questo libro è un must. Appassiona dalla prima all'ultima pagina. È anche ricco di molte foto scattate direttamente da lui nel suoi anni di ricerche con i primati. Scritto in maniera molto semplice, parla dei nostri antenati come pochi scrittori sanno fare. Consigliatissimo

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nora Bromley

    Fascinating Excellent research and presentation. Very informative and enlightening focusing in ethics and morality. While I have read many books that were decades long studies, this one helped me see much deeper. Thank you!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cassy Flint

    To be honest I don't remember a whole lot about this book but I did enjoy it. Quite technical and philosophical, he draws on multiple case studies and tried to look into a range of taxa. I do think he's written better novels. To be honest I don't remember a whole lot about this book but I did enjoy it. Quite technical and philosophical, he draws on multiple case studies and tried to look into a range of taxa. I do think he's written better novels.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex Kahn

    Describes various examples of moral behavior in animals, predominantly chimpanzees and monkeys, and discusses the relationship with human morality.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Some years ago, my cousin and I watched snow monkeys at an outdoor enclosure at the Minneapolis Zoo. The enclosure had a small pond with a tree at its edge just the right height for the monkeys to jump into the pond from. A mother was taking a leisurely swim, an infant clinging to her back. From outside her range of vision, another monkey came running, scrambled up the tree and flew into the pond, splashing the mother and her baby. The mother turned and screamed at the other monkey who made hims Some years ago, my cousin and I watched snow monkeys at an outdoor enclosure at the Minneapolis Zoo. The enclosure had a small pond with a tree at its edge just the right height for the monkeys to jump into the pond from. A mother was taking a leisurely swim, an infant clinging to her back. From outside her range of vision, another monkey came running, scrambled up the tree and flew into the pond, splashing the mother and her baby. The mother turned and screamed at the other monkey who made himself scarce with all due haste. Did the mischievous monkey really plan a sneak attack on the mother? Did her annoyance perhaps amuse him while it sent him scurrying away? I wondered at the time. I still don't know with any certainty and realize it's easy to see human emotions and motivations in animals' actions. But seeing the offending monkey run for cover as quickly as he did amused me. Please read the rest of the review here.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Wiswell

    Very interesting research on various natures: wolf nature, ape nature, monkey nature, and thereby, human nature. How unique are we? What elements of our personalities and social structures exist elsewhere in the animal kingdom? Is there hope for a better human world in the models of more primitive ones? And just what defines non-human animal societies? The more intriguing aspects are how different species can change their own behavior and those of others through symbosis and integreation, showin Very interesting research on various natures: wolf nature, ape nature, monkey nature, and thereby, human nature. How unique are we? What elements of our personalities and social structures exist elsewhere in the animal kingdom? Is there hope for a better human world in the models of more primitive ones? And just what defines non-human animal societies? The more intriguing aspects are how different species can change their own behavior and those of others through symbosis and integreation, showing us change, mediation and peace aren’t wishful thinking, but features of the natural world. The emphasis on empirical research and analysis seriously helps the optimistic message. Exceptionally clearly written for science, too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Compelling and well-written examination of the origins of human morality, mostly though our close primate relatives but also looking at other species. I got this book for like $1 at this huge book sale and I'm so glad I did. It really changed my way of looking at the world. It really makes you believe (with reason!) that people are fundamentally good -- for the most part. Another book tempered that view for me: The Sociopath Next Door. So now I think most people are basically good but a small mi Compelling and well-written examination of the origins of human morality, mostly though our close primate relatives but also looking at other species. I got this book for like $1 at this huge book sale and I'm so glad I did. It really changed my way of looking at the world. It really makes you believe (with reason!) that people are fundamentally good -- for the most part. Another book tempered that view for me: The Sociopath Next Door. So now I think most people are basically good but a small minority are unredeemable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heather Fryling

    Pop culture generally depicts human nature as violent and self serving. Morality is an aberration, a thin veneer over our grasping animal urges. De Waal argues that it ain't necessarily so. If biology has made us what we are, then biology explains both our violence and our virtues. With stories that could only be gleaned from a lifetime observing apes and monkeys, he traces the origins of human morality back into the animal world. A convincing book, old but still relevant. Pop culture generally depicts human nature as violent and self serving. Morality is an aberration, a thin veneer over our grasping animal urges. De Waal argues that it ain't necessarily so. If biology has made us what we are, then biology explains both our violence and our virtues. With stories that could only be gleaned from a lifetime observing apes and monkeys, he traces the origins of human morality back into the animal world. A convincing book, old but still relevant.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Prof J

    A good friend of mine, a scary-smart sciency type who worked at the Yerkes Primate Research Center, sent me this book because she knew -- before I did -- that I don't actually believe in evolutionary theory when it comes to explaining human behavior. (I'm much more Marxist -- you're a bastard because of the unequal distribution of goods and your privileged position in the class struggle.) So this is proving to be an interesting, and challenging, read. A good friend of mine, a scary-smart sciency type who worked at the Yerkes Primate Research Center, sent me this book because she knew -- before I did -- that I don't actually believe in evolutionary theory when it comes to explaining human behavior. (I'm much more Marxist -- you're a bastard because of the unequal distribution of goods and your privileged position in the class struggle.) So this is proving to be an interesting, and challenging, read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    Fascinating look at various animals' survival mechanisms, primarily focusing on group dynamics. An especially close look at monkeys and apes that are closest to humans, as this opens the door to understanding our behaviors. Morality is examined. Fascinating look at various animals' survival mechanisms, primarily focusing on group dynamics. An especially close look at monkeys and apes that are closest to humans, as this opens the door to understanding our behaviors. Morality is examined.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    On some biological origins of morality.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    As noted in Sunday Sept 7th Arizona Republic Top Shelf column

  24. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    A brilliant look into the alternatives to Social Darwinism.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen

    Brilliant masterpiece on the origins of morality. A must read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Houle

    I'm interested in reading somehting by this guy afte hearing the Radiolab episode on Morality and how a lot of it seems to be a product of our genetics. I'm interested in reading somehting by this guy afte hearing the Radiolab episode on Morality and how a lot of it seems to be a product of our genetics.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Muñoz

  28. 5 out of 5

    Orenda

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

  30. 4 out of 5

    Warren Benedetto

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