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Caring animals and the ways we wrong them
Fellow: Judith Benz-Schwarzburg
Abstract: Many nonhuman animals have the emotional capacities to form caring relationships that matter to them, and for their immediate welfare. Drawing from care ethics, we argue that these relationships also matter as objectively valuable states of affairs. They are part of what is good in this world. However, the value of care is precarious in human-animal interactions. Be it in farming, research, wildlife ‘management’, zoos, or pet-keeping, the prevention, disruption, manipulation, and instrumentalization of care in animals by humans is ubiquitous. We criticize a narrow conception of welfare that, in practice, tends to overlook non-experiential forms of harm that occur when we interfere with caring animals. Additionally, we point out wrongs against caring animals that are not just unaccounted for but denied by even an expansive welfare perspective: The instrumentalization of care and caring animals in systems of use can occur as a harmless wrong that an approach purely focused on welfare may, in fact, condone. We should therefore adopt an ethical perspective that goes beyond welfare in our dealings with caring animals.
Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Insights From Non-human Primates
Fellows: Judith M. Burkart, Rahel K. Brügger, Carel P. van Schaik
Abstract: The aim of this contribution is to explore the origins of moral behavior and its underlying moral preferences and intuitions from an evolutionary perspective. Such a perspective encompasses both the ultimate, adaptive function of morality in our own species, as well as the phylogenetic distribution of morality and its key elements across primates. First, with regard to the ultimate function, we argue that human moral preferences are best construed as adaptations to the affordances of the fundamentally interdependent hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our hominin ancestors. Second, with regard to the phylogenetic origin, we show that even though full-blown human morality is unique to humans, several of its key elements are not. Furthermore, a review of evidence from non-human primates regarding prosocial concern, conformity, and the potential presence of universal, biologically anchored and arbitrary cultural norms shows that these elements of morality are not distributed evenly across primate species. This suggests that they have evolved along separate evolutionary trajectories. In particular, the element of prosocial concern most likely evolved in the context of shared infant care, which can be found in humans and some New World monkeys. Strikingly, many if not all of the elements of morality found in non-human primates are only evident in individualistic or dyadic contexts, but not as third-party reactions by truly uninvolved bystanders. We discuss several potential explanations for the unique presence of a systematic third-party perspective in humans, but focus particularly on mentalizing ability and language. Whereas both play an important role in present day, full-blown human morality, it appears unlikely that they played a causal role for the original emergence of morality. Rather, we suggest that the most plausible scenario to date is that human morality emerged because our hominin ancestors, equipped on the one hand with large and powerful brains inherited from their ape-like ancestor, and on the other hand with strong prosocial concern as a result of cooperative breeding, could evolve into an ever more interdependent social niche.
Keywords: evolution, morality, hunter-gatherers, prosociality, normviolations, concern for reputation, cooperative breeding, non-human primates
Normatividad doxástica en animales no humanos
Fellow: Laura Danón
Abstract: In this paper I try to defend a notion of doxastic normativity which does not depend on meta-representational competences. Nevertheless, according to this notion, to have a belief is not only to have a mental state that might be erroneous, but also to be sensitive to such doxastic errors. Besides, I will try to show that this kind of doxastic normativity is not necessarily confined to human animals. In order to defend this last claim, I will try to identify a pattern of non-linguistic behaviors which indicates that a creature is sensitive to its doxastic errors, and offer some ethological evidence which suggests that there are non-human animals capable of such behaviors.
Keywords: Beliefs, normativity, animal minds
Fellow: Laura Danón
Abstract: Many philosophers think that human animals are the only normative creatures. In this paper, I will not provide reasons against such a claim, but I will engage in a related task: delineating and comparing two deflationary accounts of what non-human animal normativity could consist in. One of them is based on Hannah Ginsborg’s notion of primitive normativity and the other on my conjecture that some creatures may have first-order robust “ought-thoughts”, composed by secondary representations about how things should be or about how one should act. Once I have sketched both models, I will focus on identifying some cognitive differences between creatures merely having primitive normativity and those also having robust ought-thoughts. Finally, I will draw a few tentative remarks on the kind of empirical evidence that would suggest that an animal has one or another of these two kinds of normativity.
Keywords: Primitive Normativity, ought-thoughts, secondary representations, animal minds
Primates and Philosophers. How Morality Evolved
Fellow: Frans de Waal
Abstract: It's the animal in us," we often hear when we've been bad. But why not when we're good? Primates and philosophers tackles this question by exploring the biological foundations of one of humanity's most valued traits: morality. In this provocative book, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that modern-day evolutionary biology takes far too dim a view of the natural world, emphasizing our "selfish" genes. Science has thus exacerbated our reciprocal habits of blaming nature when we act badly and labeling the good things we do as "humane." Seeking the origin of human morality not in evolution but in human culture, science insists that we are moral by choice, not by nature. Citing remarkable evidence based on his extensive research of primate behavior, de Waal attacks "Veneer Theory," which posits morality as a thin overlay on an otherwise nasty nature. He explains how we evolved from a long line of animals that care for the weak and build cooperation with reciprocal transactions. Drawing on both Darwin and recent scientific advances, de Waal demonstrates a strong continuity between human and animal behavior. In the process, he also probes issues such as anthropomorphism and human responsibilities toward animals. Based on the Tanner Lectures that de Waal delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2004, Primates and philosophers includes responses by philosophers Peter Singer, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Philip Kitcher and science writer Robert Wright. They press de Waal to clarify the differences between humans and other animals, yielding a lively debate that will fascinate all those who wonder about the origins and reach of human goodness.
Keywords: morality, normativity, conflict resolution, community concern, fairness, inequity aversion, emotional control
Natural normativity: The ‘is’ and ‘ought’ of animal behavior
Fellow: Frans de Waal
Abstract: The evolution of behavior is sometimes considered irrelevant to the issue of human morality, since it lacks the normative character of morality (‘ought’), and consist entirely of descriptions of how things are or came about (‘is’). Evolved behavior, including that of other animals, is not entirely devoid of normativity, however. Defining normativity as adherence to an ideal or standard, there is ample evidence that animals treat their social relationships in this manner. In other words, they pursue social values. Here I review evidence that nonhuman primates actively try to preserve harmony within their social network by, e.g., reconciling after conflict, protesting against unequal divisions, and breaking up fights amongst others. In doing so, they correct deviations from an ideal state. They further show emotional self-control and anticipatory conflict resolution in order to prevent such deviations. Recognition of the goal-orientation and normative character of animal social behavior permits us to partially bridge the is/ought divide erected in relation to human moral behavior.
Keywords: morality, normativity, conflict resolution, community concern, fairness, inequity aversion, emotional control.
Animal Norms: An Investigation of Normativity in the Non-Human Social World
Fellow: Giuseppe Lorini
Abstract: A human being is not only a social and teleological animal, she/he is also a nomic animal, a creature that can act in light of rules. Starting from this new image of humankind, the author extends the investigation of normativity to other members of the animal kingdom, posing the question of whether other nomic animals exist outside the human species. Generally, the consensus tends toward the idea that non-human animals are incapable of acting in light of rules, as if this capacity were a specific characteristic of humanity excluded to all other species. The author instead assembles three impactful answers that counter this consensus, posited respectively by a legal expert, an ethologist, and a philosopher, responses that may pave the way for a new field of research: the ethology of normativity. In conclusion, the author points out how these new inquiries advance novel ideas of normativity that deserve investigating further, such as a “normativity without language,” and a “normativity without norms.”
Keywords: normativity, animal norms, nomic capacity, nomic animal, ethology of normativity, legal ethology, naïve normativity
Tactful animals: How the study of touch can inform the animal morality debate
Fellows: Susana Monsó
Abstract: In this paper, we argue that scientists working on the animal morality debate have been operating with a narrow view of morality that prematurely limits the variety of moral practices that animals may be capable of. We show how this bias can be partially corrected by paying more attention to the touch behaviours of animals. We argue that a careful examination of the ways in which animals engage in and navigate touch interactions can shed new light on current debates on animal morality, like the study of consolation behaviour, while also revealing further forms that animal morality may take and that have been neglected so far, like capacities of tolerance or trust. This defence is structured as an analysis of the three main functions of touch: the discriminative function, the affiliative function, and the vigilance function.
Keywords: nonhuman animals, animal morality, moral emotions, touch, affiliation, vulnerability
Animal moral psychologies
Fellows: Susana Monsó, Kristin Andrews
Abstract: Observations of animals engaging in apparently moral behavior have led academics and the public alike to ask whether morality is shared between humans and other animals. Some philosophers explicitly argue that morality is unique to humans, because moral agency requires capacities that are only demonstrated in our species. Other philosophers argue that some animals can participate in morality because they possess these capacities in a rudimentary form. Scientists have also joined the discussion, and their views are just as varied as the philosophers’. Some research programs examine whether animals countenance specific human norms, such as fairness. Other research programs investigate the cognitive and affective capacities thought to be necessary for morality. There are two sets of concerns that can be raised by these debates. They sometimes suffer from there being no agreed upon theory of morality and no clear account of whether there is a demarcation between moral and social behavior; that is, they lack a proper philosophical foundation. They also sometimes suffer from there being disagreement about the psychological capacities evident in animals. Of these two sets of concerns—the nature of the moral and the scope of psychological capacities—we aim to take on only the second. In this chapter we defend the claim that animals have three sets of capacities that, on some views, are taken as necessary and foundational for moral judgment and action. These are capacities of care, capacities of autonomy, and normative capacities. Care, we argue, is widely found among social animals. Autonomy and normativity are more recent topics of empirical investigation, so while there is less evidence of these capacities at this point in our developing scientific knowledge, the current data is strongly suggestive.
Keywords: nonhuman animals, moral psychology, care, autonomy, normativity.
Animal Morality: What It Means and Why It Matters
Fellow: Susana Monsó
Abstract: It has been argued that some animals are moral subjects, that is, beings who are capable of behaving on the basis of moral motivations (Rowlands 2011, 2012, 2017). In this paper, we do not challenge this claim. Instead, we presuppose its plausibility in order to explore what ethical consequences follow from it. Using the capabilities approach (Nussbaum 2004, 2007), we argue that beings who are moral subjects are entitled to enjoy positive opportunities for the fourishing of their moral capabilities, and that the thwarting of these capabilities entails a harm that cannot be fully explained in terms of hedonistic welfare. We explore the implications of this idea for the assessment of current practices involving animals.
Keywords: Nonhuman animals, Animal ethics, Animal morality, Moral emotions, Capabilities approach, Welfarism, Harm
Death is common, so is understanding it:
the concept of death in other species
Fellow: Susana Monsó
Abstract: Comparative thanatologists study the responses to the dead and the dying in nonhuman animals. Despite the wide variety of thanatological behaviours that have been documented in several different species, comparative thanatologists assume that the concept of death (CoD) is very difficult to acquire and will be a rare cognitive feat once we move past the human species. In this paper, we argue that this assumption is based on two forms of anthropocentrism: (1) an intellectual anthropocentrism, which leads to an over-intellectualisation of the CoD, and (2) an emotional anthropocentrism, which yields an excessive focus on grief as a reaction to death. Contrary to what these two forms of anthropocentrism suggest, we argue that the CoD requires relatively little cognitive complexity and that it can emerge independently from mourning behaviour. Moreover, if we turn towards the natural world, we can see that the minimal cognitive requirements for a CoD are in fact met by many nonhuman species and there are multiple learning pathways and opportunities for animals in the wild to develop a CoD.
This allows us to conclude that the CoD will be relatively easy to acquire and, so, we can expect it to be fairly common in nature.
On the Uniqueness of Human Normative Attitudes
Fellow: Marco F.H. Schmidt
Abstract: Humans are normative beings through and through. This capacity for normativity lies at the core of uniquely human forms of understanding and regulating socio-cultural group life. Plausibly, therefore, the hominin lineage evolved specialized social-cognitive, motivational, and affective abilities that helped create, transmit, preserve, and amend shared social practices. In turn, these shared normative attitudes and practices shaped subsequent human phylogeny, constituted new forms of group life, and hence structured human ontogeny, too. An essential aspect of human ontogeny is therefore its reciprocal nature regarding normativity. This chapter reviews recent evidence from developmental psychology suggesting that, from early on, human children take a normative attitude toward others’ conduct in social interactions, and thus a collectivistic and impersonal perspective on norms. The chapter discusses to what extent humans’ closest living primate relatives lack normative attitudes and therefore live in a non-normative socio-causal world structured by individual preferences, power relationships, and regularities.
Keywords: social-cognitive development, social norms, normativity, child development, developmental psychology, moral development, morality, comparative psychology, primates
The Evolution of Human Normativity. The Role of Prosociality and Reputation Management
Fellows: Carel P. van Schaik, Judith M. Burkart
Abstract: Normative behavior is a human universal that is intimately linked to morality. Morality is an adaptation to the specifically human subsistence niche of hunting and gathering, which is skill-intensive and therefore relies on transmission of opaque knowledge and involves critical interdependence, reliance on coordinated division of labor, and synchronized collective action. This lifestyle requires the presence of a variety of emotions that coevolved with it as the proximate mechanisms enabling this adaptive function. The high-urgency feel to many of these emotions reflects their functional importance: it serves to give them priority over other motivations. It is also what, to contemporary humans, makes them recognizable as moral. The key components of human morality are (1) prosocial emotions, and (2) an urge to conform. Together, they produce the urge to comply with moral norms. Normativity is thus an integral part of human morality. It evolved when two preferences came together. Strong informational conformity, needed to enable the transmission of opaque knowledge, was already present in the anthropoid primate ancestors of hominids and hominins. The added component evolved with the evolution of strong interdependence: a strong concern for one’s reputation and fear of punishment, and thus strongly prosocial emotions. Thus, the emergence of normativity in our ancestors does not require a special explanation: it was an automatic byproduct of the emergence of moral behavior in our ancestors.
Keywords: morality, prosociality, emotions, hunter-gatherer, informational conformity, normative conformity
Caring animals and care ethics
Fellows: Brite Wrage
Abstract: Are there nonhuman animals who behave morally? In this paper I answer this question in the affirmative by applying the framework of care ethics to the animal morality debate. According to care ethics, empathic care is the wellspring of morality in humans. While there have been several suggestive analyses of nonhuman animals as empathic, much of the literature within the animal morality debate has marginalized analyses from the perspective of care ethics. In this paper I examine care ethics to extract its core commitments to what is required for moral care: emotional motivation that enables the intentional meeting of another’s needs, and forward-looking responsibility in particular relationships. What is not required, I argue, are metarepresentational capacities or the ability to scrutinize one’s reasons for action, and thus being retrospectively accountable. This minimal account of moral care is illustrated by moral practices of parental care seen in many nonhuman animal species. In response to the worry that parental care in nonhuman animals lacks all evaluation and is therefore nonmoral I point to cultural differences in human parenting and to normativity in nonhuman animals.
Ubuntu in Elephant Communities
Fellows: Brite Wrage
Abstract: African (Bantu) philosophy conceptualizes morality through ubuntu, which emphasizes the role of community in producing moral agents. This community is characterized by practices that respond to and value interdependence, such as care, cooperation, and respect for elders and ancestral knowledge. While there have been attributions of morality to nonhuman animals in the interdisciplinary animal morality debate, this debate has focused on Western concepts. We argue that the ubuntu conception of morality as a communal practice applies to some nonhuman animals. African elephant communities are highly cooperative and structured around elders; they alloparent, protect their communities, mourn their dead, and pass on cultural knowledge between generations. Identifying these as important moral practices, ubuntu provides a theoretical framework to expand our ethical concern for elephants to their communities. In practice, this will deepen our understanding of the wrongness of atrocities like culling for population management or trophy hunting.
Keywords: African philosophy, animal ethics, animal rights, elephant conservation, animal morality