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Part I: Morally Evolved (Pages 1 - 58) 
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Post Part I: Morally Evolved (Pages 1 - 58)
[align=center]Part I: Morally Evolved (Pages 1 - 58 )
Primate Social Instincts, Human Morality, and the Rise and Fall of "Veneer Theory"[/align]

Please use this thread for discussing Part I: Morally Evolved. :smile:



Fri May 15, 2009 11:41 pm
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Post What is de Waal really arguing against?
I find de Waal’s project interesting. He seems out to prove that we human’s are innately good, or perhaps better put, that we are as innately caring as we are innately selfish. I have never felt comfortable with the word “good” because it has so much baggage. For one thing, its usual antonym is “evil” and I have real problems with that word.

1. Is it better to think of this book as trying to prove that we are just as caring as we are selfish?

If so, is that what Hobbes had in mind? Or even Rawls?

There is an article about Hobbes and Rawls on Political Power that is an interesting read. The abstract says:

“I argue that Hobbes’ theory is an ideology fashioned in a chaotic social environment where self-preservation was precarious at best. His theory is based on his belief that there were only two alternatives for political order given the human condition as he saw it at the time, chaos or absolute power. This false dichotomy was one that Rawls and most other theorists did not accept. Hobbes' theory conflicts with Rawls' conception of rights, the purpose of government, and the nature of the person. Hobbes' theory is a form of ethical foundationalism and is what Rawls calls a comprehensive doctrine unacceptable in Rawls' political liberalism.”

2. If Hobbes and Rawls are working from different presumptions about the nature of the world, are they really arguing the same thing?


3. And if not, is de Waal really arguing against what they said or against the cultural presuppositions that gave rise to their various theories?


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Mon May 25, 2009 8:57 am
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Post Re: What is de Waal really arguing against?
MaryLupin wrote:
I find de Waal’s project interesting.

Quite.

MaryLupin wrote:
1. Is it better to think of this book as trying to prove that we are just as caring as we are selfish?

I don't know that it is a matter of caring or selfish per se. When you look at the social contract theory of Rousseau (perhaps the most widly recognized of social contract theorists), what he is saying that the more man is removed from his true (animal) nature the better he will fit into social organization. De Waal, thank God, refutes this. I think that Hobbes greatly influenced Rousseau's thinking but was always much more concerned with the breaking up of social order rather than a human's introduction into it. I want to read the essay you posted really bad, but I don't have the time.

MaryLupin wrote:
2.If Hobbes and Rawls are working from different presumptions about the nature of the world, are they really arguing the same thing?

Not have read the essay, I would hedge my bets and guess that they are both using different means to point towards the validity of...something. Essentially it is my opinion that nothing these thinkers produced should be disregarded "off-handedly." It may be more valuable to know exactly why they were wrong rather than why we may be right.

MaryLupin wrote:
3. And if not, is de Waal really arguing against what they said or against the cultural presuppositions that gave rise to their various theories?

I would think of de Waal as directly challenging Hobbes and Rousseau. But it is also important to rememeber that these names have been dead...for a while. They can't defend themselves and we shouldn't expect it of ourselves to be able to relate to the atmosphere of their times as little we can expect that they would be able to visualize our own.

Just a few quick thoughts, I'm still on vacation. :bananadance2:

:book:



Sun May 31, 2009 1:52 am
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Post VT versus moral continuum
Quote:
From Mary Lupin: 1. Is it better to think of this book as trying to prove that we are just as caring as we are selfish?


That is not the question that I think de Waal was trying to answer in this book. I think de Waal is trying to show, based on his studies of monkeys and apes, that human morality is not strictly a choice (and that humans have to work hard to make the right choice--veneer theory), but that present day human morality has its origins from the evolution of the socialization of the great apes in particular, who are able to show empathy, sympathy, compassion, helping, fairness, and group loyalty. These traits became embedded in our personalities during evolution and he believes that the exhibition of these traits is not superficial (a veneer).

Quote:
From Mary Lupin: 2. If Hobbes and Rawls are working from different presumptions about the nature of the world, are they really arguing the same thing?


Huxley was actually the original inventor of the veneer theory, and I guess you would have to say that he and Hobbes both believe humans to be antisocial creatures. Rawls believes that we became social only because there was benefit/protection in the community (selfish reasons you could argue). I think all three of these philosophers are arguing the same thing.

Quote:
From Mary Lupin: 3. And if not, is de Waal really arguing against what they said or against the cultural presuppositions that gave rise to their various theories?


I think de Waal is definitely arguing against what they said. Please see the Table on page 22 of the book.


Can we discuss the trolley conundrums sometime in this discussion? They were very unsettling for me.



Sun May 31, 2009 10:04 pm
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Post Marriage
On p 5 de Waal mentions a study by Taylor that found that men who are married have a 90% chance of living past 65yrs old while unmarried men have only a 65% chance. I wonder what the stats are for women. Does anyone know?



Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:28 pm
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Post Possible Contradiction?
It seems to me de Waal contradicts himself with respect to emotions and morality. He argues that morality is exhibited by individuals who can be disinterested and impartial. Those words seem to convey a lack of emotion to me. Those words seem to convey rational thought. However, earlier in the chapter, de Waal seems to lament the idea that other scientists equate morality with rationality and detachment. The following quotes might help you see what I'm saying. Let me know what you think.

On p 20 de Waal agrees with and cites Westermarck, who says,
Quote:
[moral emotions] differ from kindred non-moral emotions by their disinterestedness, apparent impartiality, and flavour of generality.

Yet on p 6 de Waal says,
Quote:
Unfortunately, the emphasis on individual autonomy and rationality and a corresponding neglect of emotions and attachment are not restricted to the humanities and social sciences.



Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:49 pm
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Post Disses Pinker
Was anyone else surprised that de Waal disagrees with Pinker on the idea of a language module? Pinker is pretty much perceived as the authority in linguistics and I was a little surprised! :eek:



Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:57 pm
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Post Cognitive Achievements
I like de Waal's argument on p 27 that our highest cognitive achievements may happen in the social domain. It is true that social intelligence is often overlooked for things like tool-use. I think that this is true of humans as well as the other great apes. Some of the most successful people are people who have great social skills. This page is good food for thought. I'd love to hear what thoughts you are munching on!



Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:03 pm
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Post Re: Possible Contradiction?
tarav wrote:
It seems to me de Waal contradicts himself with respect to emotions and morality. He argues that morality is exhibited by individuals who can be disinterested and impartial. Those words seem to convey a lack of emotion to me. Those words seem to convey rational thought. However, earlier in the chapter, de Waal seems to lament the idea that other scientists equate morality with rationality and detachment. The following quotes might help you see what I'm saying. Let me know what you think.

On p 20 de Waal agrees with and cites Westermarck, who says,
Quote:
[moral emotions] differ from kindred non-moral emotions by their disinterestedness, apparent impartiality, and flavour of generality.
Yet on p 6 de Waal says,
Quote:
Unfortunately, the emphasis on individual autonomy and rationality and a corresponding neglect of emotions and attachment are not restricted to the humanities and social sciences.


Tarav, the apparent contradiction may be resolved by seeing how autonomy differs from impartiality.

De Waal is critiquing a mainstream scientific view which equates isolated autonomy with rationality. He implies that autonomy ignores the moral dimension of empathy which we use to construct social identity. Autonomy is a flawed basis for rationality, which in the ape world is heteronomous.

He suggests we and the apes exercise rational morality through impartial and disinterested social judgements. By contrast, the modern model of rational autonomy has little room for social construction of identity and is foreign to ape psychology. No wonder universities hide their social hierarchies behind a veneer of autonomy! We are all actually apes, so it is interesting to test out our philosophies of morality against the ape systems which have evolved over millions of years.

Fairness is a main criterion for morality, so de Waal is right to distinguish moral from non-moral emotions by their quality of fairness, looking to criteria such as impartiality, disinterest and precedent. Apes see unfair behaviour as immoral, and look for opportunities to square the balance.

I would be interested to explore these themes against the moral systems of Adam Smith http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory ... Sentiments and David Hume http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Treatise_of_Human_Nature



Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:45 pm
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Post Does marriage make a difference in longevity in women?
tarav said:

Quote:
On p 5 de Waal mentions a study by Taylor that found that men who are married have a 90% chance of living past 65yrs old while unmarried men have only a 65% chance. I wonder what the stats are for women. Does anyone know?


I have read but can't quote the source (obviously not a randomized clinical study - most probably from Woman's Day magazine) that women who never marry live the longest of all women.



Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:00 pm
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Post 
Aah, Suzanne... I shall live to a ripe old age then! LOL



Sat Jun 13, 2009 5:14 pm
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Post Marriage and longevity
tarav,

I hope you have a wonderful long life. In the article that I read, I think they studied longevity in nuns and came to the conclusion that they lived longer than non-nuns, and this increased longevity may be related to not having the stresses (etc.) that alot of married women have.

However, maybe there is something else about nuns that causes them to live longer -- their faith and compassion, for instance.

I'm sure genetics is also a big factor. Luckily for me, my mother will be 92 in September and is in great health.



Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:17 pm
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Post 
I have read these studies also, that married men live longer than single men, but single women live longer than married women. The conclusion generally seems to be that marriage is better for men than women. But, there could be other reasons. Men do not live as long as women, therefore, married women will generally lose their spouse and be alone. Perhaps, it is this loneliness of missing their beloved lifelong companion that causes their health to deteriorate more rapidly.



Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:51 pm
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Post living longer married
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A study earlier this year led by Linda Waite, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, showed that happily married couples tend to live longer than unwed individuals. Married men were found to live, on average, 10 years longer than non-married men, and married women lived about four years longer than non-married woman.

http://www.livescience.com/health/06052 ... earch.html

I think the study above is interesting, men live 10 years to the woman's 4. Married or not, I think you will live longer if you are happy.



Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:33 pm
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Post Longevity
I say "Amen" to your last sentence, Suzanne. I think being happy and having good self esteem are key to enhancing the immune system and to living longer.



Tue Jun 16, 2009 7:43 pm
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