From a blog I wrote early on in my reading of this book (I'll be writing more about the rest later on):
"Climbed to the Highest Point on the Tree and tFrom a blog I wrote early on in my reading of this book (I'll be writing more about the rest later on):
"Climbed to the Highest Point on the Tree and the Empathy Therein"
I'm reading a book right now that's quite impressive called Primates & Philosophers by the primatologist Frans de Waal which is mostly about the evolution of morality. The book is finished with a series of exchanges between philosophers (like Peter Singer for instance) so basically like a conversation in essay form about the subject of evolutionary ethics among other things. De Waal critiques what he calls "Veneer Theory" which posits that human morality exists as a thin layer on top of our amoral core. According to de Waal, and I agree, this model just doesn't add up when we look to the empirical evidence provided by evolution and the rich sources of information we currently have on animal behavior studies. Anyway, I suggest that people check it out. It argues very well for the idea that nature and culture, human nature and moral reasoning are not at odds but rather are so intertwined that the Veneer Theory (culture as a layer on top of biology) just breaks down and falls apart. It's really interesting and has some great descriptions of non-human primate behavior and non-primates (such as dolphins with their relevant presence of higher levels of cognition). One very moving and interesting story is an account of a bonobo attempting to care for an injured bird and help it fly again:
"Here is another story about Bonobo empathy: Betty Walsh, an animal caretaker, observed the following incident involving a 7 year old female Bonobo named Kuni at Twycross Zoo in England. One day, Kuni captured a starling. Out of fear that she might hurt the bird, the keeper urged Kuni to let it go. Kuni took the bird and gently set it on its feet, right side up. When it didn't move, Kuni tossed it in the air. However, it returned to sitting on the earth, probably because it was too stunned or terrified to fly. Kuni then picked it up, climbed to the highest point on the highest tree, wrapped her legs around the trunk so that she had both hands free and carefully unfolded the bird's wings and spread them wide open on her palm and then threw the bird into the air as hard as she could. Unfortunately, it was still too stunned to make it over the barrier, so it sat on the edge of the moat where Kuni guarded it for a long time from the juveniles until it finally flew away."
An excellent book to hand to those who deny the veracity of the continually enlarging body of evidence that supports biological evolution or think "inAn excellent book to hand to those who deny the veracity of the continually enlarging body of evidence that supports biological evolution or think "intelligently designed" evolution is a well-supported idea, and even to those who say they believe that evolution is real yet don't quite understand why (a category which I've found many people fall under).
Shermer is well-positioned to write towards the beliefs of the religious who think that evolutionary theory is bogus since he was once one them: Shermer was a evangelical Christian for a few years before rejecting the whole thing....more
The grouping/historical period of the Presocratics remains very interesting to me still even years after first reading this book in the fall of 2003.The grouping/historical period of the Presocratics remains very interesting to me still even years after first reading this book in the fall of 2003. I feel this way partly because they were some of the earliest philosophers known to history but also because many of their ideas were remarkably ahead of their time and happen to line up with methodological naturalism (AKA the foundation of natural science). They're generally known for positing the material source of the universe. Some thought fire, some thought water, some thought soil, etc.
Thales and his successor Democritus were the earliest atomists that I'm aware of. I find it fascinating that human beings so long ago--with so little at their disposal in terms of tools of scientific discovery--could hypothesize that everything is composed of atoms.
These are fascinating people and ideas to read about and mostly so when placed firmly in their historical context.
A few personal favorites are Thales, Heraclitus, Empedocles and Democritus.
A great premise, a strong start and a strong finish but the middle chapters seemed a bit haphazardly thrown together or something. Or maybe the subjecA great premise, a strong start and a strong finish but the middle chapters seemed a bit haphazardly thrown together or something. Or maybe the subjects were just not wowing me at the moment for whatever reason. Still thinking about how to review this book...updates pending......more