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Ways beyond appearances

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While I admire the reviewed discoveries on the social techniques by which monkeys and apes cope with the conflicts within their communities, I am worried about some of the high-level interpretations given by the authors. In my view the processes reviewed are not ‘building blocks of morality’ but objects of human moral judgements. Their interpretation as ‘shared solutions’ is not supported by a demonstrated ability of nonhuman primates to identify their own acts with those of the other group members. There is no evidence of a ‘concerted effort by community members to find shared solutions’ rather than individual learning of these solutions. The postulate of a ‘community concern’ implies a concept of community which is not supported by evidence. Applying terms coined for humans to other species is useful only if one eventually justifies it by appropriate experimentation. Possible methods are suggested.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Grundrebentr. 119, CH-8932 Mettmenstetten, Switzerland.

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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