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The law of parsimony prevails. Missing premises allow any conclusion

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Flack and de Waal (2000) present evidence for behaviour in non-human primates that functions to share food, terminate fights and reconcile opponents. Consolation and punishment are also suggested. These functions are assumed to be the motivation for the behaviour. Animals indeed have expectations about signal meaning and the likely immediate consequences of their behaviour. This does not mean they understand genetic fitness, peacekeeping or justice, even if these functions are achieved. Instrumental aggression is used to achieve a goal, not to punish wrong doers. More elaborate motivation would indeed require empathy, sympathy, community solutions and morality. Although more parsimonious explanations for the behaviour described are rejected as not necessarily being true, less parsimonious explanations are not necessarily true either, no matter how appealing.
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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-3013, USA.

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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