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Morality based on cognition in primates

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Traditional evolutionary biology views animal behaviour as based on instincts that leave no room for deliberated morality. In their informative essay, Jessica Flack and Frans de Waal (2000) provide convincing evidence that monkeys and, even more so, apes often cognitively perceive the physical and emotional needs of others and that they try to help others, e.g. by consolation or sharing food. We mainly discuss aspects neglected by Flack and de Waal, such as how (im)morality can be clearly defined and whether it evolves genetically or culturally.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: University of Bielefeld, Department of Economics, PF 100 131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany.

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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