Biology, Philosophy, Reviews

Do animals have moral intelligence?

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Last week the Boulder newspaper The Daily Camera published an interesting article about Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce’s provocative new book Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals. The review begins:

[The authors] waste no time in getting to the point: “(W)e argue that animals feel empathy for each other, treat one another fairly, cooperate toward common goals, and help each other out of trouble,” they write in the first sentence. “We argue, in short, that animals have morality.”

Advancing bioethicist’s arguments about the moral treatment of animals to posit animals themselves as moral agents, the author’s place moral behavior firmly within an evolutionary context demonstrating how a variety of species are in fact incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. The Daily Camera‘s Clay Evans continues:

Most of the species examined by the authors are notably “intelligent” and social. Hyenas, wolves, elephants and primates predominate, though other, “lesser” species like rats have their moments on stage. Bekoff is always a pleasant read, but the book’s tales of animal cooperation will bring a smile to many readers’ faces (or a tear to their eyes).…
For readers hardened into anthropocentric views, it will seem like nonsense easily attributed to wishful thinking. To others it will raise uncomfortable questions about the way we treat animals, as well as concepts of human uniqueness and “superiority.”
And who knows? Decades hence, Bekoff might prove a powerful prophet, and we’ll wonder how we could have ever treated cognizant, emotional, moral beings with such cruelty.

Read the rest if the review on the Daily Camera website.