pets endangered by possible book avalanche
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Even if they proved nothing else, the essays by Wright, Korsgaard, and now Kitcher, prove that it would be a bad idea to go along with E.O. Wilson and exclude, even temporarily, philosophers from the study of morality. Scientists can become emotionally attached their research findings (and even their subjects), so it helps greatly to have less partial thinkers around to scrutinize the scientists' thinking and the language of their thoughts.
Korsgaard believed that a fuller analysis of morality was needed to show that morality does not grow out of primate social behaviors. Morality is too distinct from altruism to be seen as a step away from it in a process of gradual development. In his essay, Kitcher zeroes in on some vague language of de Waals's to follow Korsgaard in showing what a great distance there is between observed behaviors in apes, and moral behavior in humans. He asks what it can really mean to say that morality "stems from" chimp-syle altruism, or that the apes have the "building blocks" which we have stacked up to make morality. His basic argument is that there is a lot more to the acquisition of morality than de Waal indicates. Kitcher takes the single behavior of reciprocal altruism and, by showing that it can vary greatly in range, intensity, extent, and skill, makes a point that the mere labeling of a behavior as altruistic doesn't mean that it's right next door to morality. The apes have quite a limited use of altruism compared to humans (who also, of course, outdo the apes in the opposite of altruism!).
The ability of the human brain to house an "impartial spectator," first theorized by Adam Smith, is the most essential innovation necessary for morality, Kitcher says. This is a different thing than just the ability to sympathize. Kitcher thinks de Waal and others make too much of the ability to sympathize. Kitcher thus falls in with Korsgaard as one who sees a discontinuity between moral humans and socially advanced animals.
The Chinese philosopher is one who dreams with one eye open, who views life with love and sweet irony, who mixes his cynicism with a kindly tolerance, and who alternately wakes up from life's dream and then nods again, feeling more alive when he is dreaming than when he is awake.
Lin Yutang (1895-1976), The Importance of Living