Flint's Reviews > Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are

Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal
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's review
Jun 21, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: science, nonfiction, animals
Recommended for: literate apes
Read in December, 2007

Better than Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. Diamond only mentioned bonobos in passing; while Frans de Waal discusses them as much as he discusses chimpanzees while only mentions gorillas, ourang-outang, baboons and various monkeys in passing. Frans de Waal's willingness to explore bonobo sexuality make Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee" seem prudish.

Studying the behavior of our closest species relatives provide a lot of insight into human social behavior.

Politically, Frans de Waal is a liberal social democrat and in the latter portions of that speculates more on modern human society that view becomes more apparent. It's not that I disagree so much with his motivations; but that it seems to not be particularly informed about actual social struggle. If anything, I think his primate studies imply even more radical conclusions the Dutch welfare state's mitigation of capitalist competition.

Frans de Waal writes plainly with many amusing personal anecdotes about both his life and more often about the primates that he has known. This nicely complements the results for more formal and rigorous studies.

I was very amused about the story of capuchin monkeys who went on strike because of unfair pay.

Monkeys show affinity for tough union tactics: Study finds they'll go on strike if treated unfairly
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Clif I liked The Inner Ape, but would like to defend The Third Chimpanzee as a far more wide-ranging and ambitious book, covering lots of territory (particularly language/communication) that The Inner Ape doesn't go into deeply and asking more of the reader's intellect.

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