Wild Justice

Wild Justice

The Moral Lives of Animals

Book - 2009
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Scientists have long counseled against interpreting animal behavior in terms of human emotions, warning that such anthropomorphizing limits our ability to understand animals as they really are. Yet what are we to make of a female gorilla in a German zoo who spent days mourning the death of her baby? Or a wild female elephant who cared for a younger one after she was injured by a rambunctious teenage male? Or a rat who refused to push a lever for food when he saw that doing so caused another rat to be shocked? Aren't these clear signs that animals have recognizable emotions and moral intelligence? With Wild Justice Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce unequivocally answer yes.

Marrying years of behavioral and cognitive research with compelling and moving anecdotes, Bekoff and Pierce reveal that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Underlying these behaviors is a complex and nuanced range of emotions, backed by a high degree of intelligence and surprising behavioral flexibility. Animals, in short, are incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. Ultimately, Bekoff and Pierce draw the astonishing conclusion that there is no moral gap between humans and other species: morality is an evolved trait that we unquestionably share with other social mammals.

Sure to be controversial, Wild Justice offers not just cutting-edge science, but a provocative call to rethink our relationship with--and our responsibilities toward--our fellow animals.

Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2009.
ISBN: 9780226041612
Branch Call Number: 591.5 B424w
Characteristics: xv, 188 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Pierce, Jessica 1965-

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Chapel_Hill_KenMc Dec 22, 2014

It's hard to deny the evidence, both experimental and anecdotal, for the possession of such supposedly human attributes as justice, moral behavior, and conscience in a wide variety of animals. Bekoff presents a decent overview here, though his style is unnecessarily ponderous for a book aimed primarily at a popular audience. His interdisciplinary approach brings together the work of ethologists, behavioral neuroscientists, and moral philosophers.

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ChocolateChips
Feb 21, 2011

This book has interesting ideas, but the discussion was a bit dry for my taste and I sometimes had trouble concentrating or keeping my eyes open. My problem might just be that I've more interest in the biology (especially the startling examples of animal behaviours) than the philosophical discussions that take up most of the book. Maybe the publishers should have advertised the book better so that it looks more like a philosophy book than a biology book. I also would have preferred a greater discussion of the book's implications on how we treat animals--the entire discussion on animal rights is confined to a pathetic paragraph or two. I appreciate that animal welfare was likely a can of worms that the authors didn't want to touch, but to me the implications on how we view other animals is the real crux of the issue.

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ChocolateChips
Feb 21, 2011

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ChocolateChips
Feb 21, 2011

Bekoff and Pierce cover examples of moral behaviour in non-human animals, including dogs, wolves, elephants, bats, mice, rats and cetaceans, and discuss how they describe three loose morality clusters: cooperation, empathy and justice (fairness). They also address underlying questions about animals' capacities for intelligence, moral emotion, empathy, rationality, reflective judgment, moral agency and conscience. Greater implications for animal rights are briefly touched upon.

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