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Primati e filosofi: Evoluzione e moralità

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  936 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Negli ultimi anni gli studi sul comportamento animale hanno straordinariamente ampliato le nostre conoscenze. Per esempio, abbiamo scoperto che le scimmie sono molto più vicine agli esseri umani di quanto non pensassimo per quanto riguarda i rapporti sociali e le strutture di potere, la consapevolezza di sé e la coscienza, la sessualità, la cultura e persino la giustizia e ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published 2008 by Garzanti (first published 2006)
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3.83  · 
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 ·  936 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Bob Nichols
De Waal sets up his ethical argument by describing what he calls veneer theory: humans are basically bad (self-oriented), and civilized behavior is superficial and fragile. De Waal’s theory in contrast is that we are by nature good. Drawing from his work with primates, he anchors moral behavior in our natural inclinations and desires. (1) To this De Waal adds a cognitive layer, empathy, which enables us to “adopt the other’s viewpoint,” leading us to assist others by following golden rule-like p ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in ethics, evolution, animal behavior, psychology, philosophy
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 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
Jul 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Dawkins and others have fallen into the trap that somehow Biological Evolution leads to Social Darwinism. In the same vein, these biologists claim that morality is a construct unique to humans and we use it to counter our selfish animal tendencies. Animals less sophisticated than humans allegedly allow natural selection to take out the weak. Not only is the quote "Survival of the Fittest" mis-attributed to Darwin, but so is the concept of such brutal views of natural selection.

De Waal i
Jim Razinha
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoker, but then de Waal tends to do that. I finished this a couple of days ago and still don't know if I can do this review justice, but... The basis of this is his criticism (and dismissal) of the Hobbesian view that morality is a layer (a veneer) overlaying the baser, brutish animal that humans really are. This Veneer Theory, as dubbed by de Waal, has advocates and opponents (de Waal being one) and his leading essay here outlined his positions as to why the veneerists are ...more
Alfredo González
I consider this book more appropriate for scholars than the lay person. I just finished reading a book about the same subject: The Quest of a Moral Compass by Keenan Malik, and the author does not mention primates nor any other animal, his quest took a different path altogether, he looked in the Bible, in Religion and Philosophy, no wonder he could not find any morality there, anyone that reads the history of the Popes gets the message very clear, they were not guided by morality.
My feeling is t
Kent Winward
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
de Waal and other philosophers arguing over how morality in humans evolved, but the human monkeys mostly split philosophical hairs while agreeing in generalities. Great stuff if you are a primate that digs that kind of discussion.
Garry Alexander
Primates and Philosophers is offering us to analyse the origins of morality, but focuses on one of the subject: whether human morality goes deep into our evolutionary past or is new with the arrival of our evolving brains and cultures. The answer depends on how morality is defined.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book that deals with the question of whether morality is inherent in primates. The author cites humans, bonobos, and dolphins as capable of moral behavior. Chimpanzees, on the other hand, have no sense of morality, and one particularly rascal female chimp at his primate research center will see visitors, go get a mouthful of water from a spigot, then spray the visitors from her mouth. Clearly no morality there. On the other hand, I once wrote a story on two dolphins in Haw ...more
Colin Bendell
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow and dense read but a fantastic primer that I would use if I were ever to teach a Normative Philosophy class.

Throughout the book, de Waal presents 5 essays and rebuttals by other prominent thinkers. This creates a nice balance to the analysis of morality - specifically traits we think are very unique such as altruism and empathy. In general the conclusion is that we are not as unique in terms of moral characteristics as we like to think and more importantly how we define morality is mostl
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When one of Kim Stanley Robinson’s characters in Green Earth talks about humans being from the savanna, that sounds familiar because of I’ve read quite a lot of Frans De Waal, probably the most prominent primatologist alive. His Chimpanzee Politics (1982) was revolutionary for the field. To me, the biological outlook proved to be a revelation and still is something that’s liberating when talking about ethics, behavior and society. At the same time he proves time and time again that the gap betwe ...more
Juliusz Gonera
The book starts with a short but informative and well referenced summary of important results in the field of animal cognition (empathy, reciprocity, consolation in chimps and capuchins). The main issue considered is the continuity between animal behaviour and human morality. As it turns out experiments show strong similarities between animal and human moral behaviour, which is of course to be expected.

Unfortunately what follows is a most inconsequential philosophical discussion by Wright, Korsg
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Foppe by: Lodi Nauta
Are human beings capable of good behavior 'out of the box', or do we require a lengthy 'education' on the importance of behaving in socially acceptable ways before engaging in such behavior? And related to, and in some sense underlying this question: why we are here? What is life's purpose? Are we alive simply because (as The Selfish Gene seems to teach us) our genes needed a medium to allow them to reproduce? Are we no more than utility optimizers, who are constantly calculating how to act in o ...more
Doctor Moss
In this book, Frans de Waal takes on what he calls the "Veneer Theory" of morality. Veneer theory, which de Waal most identifies with T.H. Huxley, treats morality as a separate layer of human behavior and conscious experience that sits over and controls a lower animal layer. After de Waal's argument, several moral philosophers critique de Waal's claims, and de Waal responds in the book's final chapter.

Veneer theory resonates with some traditional theories of morality. Both social contract theory
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before people proceed to criticize de Waal for any part of his work, I think it's important to remember that he is primarily an ethologist and biologist (also a professor of psychology), but he is not a philosopher. De Waal makes the case for "temporarily taking morality out of the hands of philosophers and into the hands of biologists." He achieves this purpose well and, for that, this book deserves praise.

This book was largely regurgitative and lacked much-needed evidence in Part I. I really
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Are we born with morality? or the morality is learned and passed down as part of cultures?
This is a very interesting question discussing in this book. de Waal brought up why Veneer theory (he is against; "a cultural overlay, a thin veneer hiding an otherwise selfish and brutish nature".
The idea of the veneer theory goes back to Thomas Henry Huxley) is not fitting in his ideas.

3 levels of morality.
1. moral sentiment: also exists in other primates.
2. Social pressure: less systematic in other pr
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-audio-books
This is a University Press collection of essays. The topic is "How did morality evolve and are humans the only species who possess morality?". The first essay is written by Frans de Waal and states his views on the topic and on the place of anthropomorphism in scientific approach to the related research. This is followed by essays of other scientists who argue with de Waal's position on anthropomorhism and defend the niceties of their own point of view. A rather long introduction at the beginnin ...more
Alexandru Stanciu
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
What is the source of our goodness? Is goodness against our bare nature, merely a veneer laid over a bad natural core? Or is it, on the contrary, a deeply rooted trait of our nature, a by-product of evolution through natural selection? Frans De Waal opens with arguments based on his studies of the social behavior of primates such as chimpanzees and bonobos. Then a bunch of philosophers, such as Peter Singer and Robert Wright, helps clarifying this issue of morality and its evolution. The dialect ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a bit of a weird read. The premise of the book is making a case for the evolution of morality. However, a huge part of it is dedicated to a biological and philosophical discussion about anthropomorphism, and whether or not certain biologists are 'veneer theorists'. Furthermore, having read a few books by Frans de Waal, much of the material is awfully familiar, as if the same book has been written a couple of times by the same author. Nevertheless, as a standalone work it's enjoyable and ...more
Qussay Najjar
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taking the ethics and morality studies from the hands of philosophers into biologists.
The book argues around multiple cores, mostly about whether animals have evolved enough moral system to be humanized, intentionally ethical and has planning strategic, or animals behavior is governed by instinctive impulses away from mindful actions.
What’s great about this book is that it’s including multiple scholar’s opinions against De Waal’s “Veneer Theory” which is the argument that morality is only a thin
Sebastien Martineau
I really enjoyed his book "Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?" and plan to read his other books but this one is probably not his best. De Waal is really knowledgeable when it comes to animal behaviors but when it comes to making philosophical arguments he is pretty disappointing. Nonetheless I still enjoyed the book. I think the responses to his arguments from the philosophers were by far the best part of the book.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Buy, Borrow or Burn: Buy! As always, de Waal is a master of his trade and writes another fascinating account of primate life that applies to us still on a daily basis.

One Word: Expertise.

Style/Structure: Excellent writing that is made for any level of reader and those looking to enter into a new subject.
Daniel Hageman
While I pedantically don't like the title of this book (failing to distinguish the evolution of moral agency from morality itself), it's a great recommendation for those who advocate an overly speciest view of moral agency. It's also nice to have comments included from so many relevant names in the field, including but not limited to both Singer and Wright.
Forrest Crock
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about the debate of the evolution of our morality and how much we share with our closest living relatives. There are several different interpretations of the evidence presented in a very constructive manner.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
l really enjoyed reading Frans de Waal, who is not only a good scientis, he also has a rich philosophical vision.
Joseph Sverker
De Waal has a very interesting outset to explain human morals. The editor states in the beginning that De Waal is not interested to debate those who argue that morals has a divine origin. And it is obvious that the main focus in this book is to debutt what he has named the Veneer Theory. De Waal shows that there certainly are similarities between how the greater apes acts and how human acts. He is in a way able to explain altruism in a way that I find is lacking in for example Dawkins. He is arg ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book with enlightening cross-disciplinary dialogues, but I would have liked to have seen more attention to:

1) The primacy of affect in moral judgment, and its evolutionary continuity. Frans de Waal discusses only one study, involving fMRI scans of subjects contemplating "trolley problems". Many of De Waal's critics' objections to his thesis center on our species' ability to make cognitive moral judgments. I felt the book largely ignored the fact, attested to by a rich and expandin
Henrique Maia
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Primates and Philosophers, or how you should think of morality on the 21st century. This could as well be the title of this book. For, as de Waal states in the conclusion of this work "The debate with my colleagues made me think of Wilson’s (1975: 562) recommendation three decades ago that 'the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of philosophers and biologicized.'" (2006) So there you have. You can either go by the moralists who believe that morality is only a human ...more
Sarah (Gutierrez) Myers
This book contains a paper by Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal, arguing that morality is more genetically rooted and continuous between humans and other animals than has usually been held by what he considers the mainstream among people such as Thomas Huxley and Richard Dawkins (whom he calls "veneer theorists"--holding that morality is a cultural veneer laid on a fundamentally "selfish and brutish" nature). Frans de Waal's paper is followed by a series of critical responses by other philosophe ...more
Are we basically selfish and hard-wired for competition? Are our morals just a thin layer on an essentially amoral human nature? Or is morality and cooperative behaviour a natural trait, something that we need in order to survive as a social species? How about apes and other animals, do they have morals? De Waal discusses these and other questions in Primates and Philosophers. The book is based on a number of lectures he gave at Princeton, and then there are four philosophers reacting to his arg ...more
Angie Boyter
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it took me forever to finish it, I really enjoyed this book. Despite DeWaal's credentials as a preeminent primatologist, this is NOT an animal book but rather a philosophical work about human morality, not that animals and science do not feature heavily in it. I liked very much the fact that DeWaal includes responses from 4 other well-known thinkers in this area, who did a good job of explaining their views and how they are similar to or different from DeWaal's.
The narration in the aud
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Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
“It is said that man is wolf to man. I find this very unfair to wolves.” 10 likes
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