Monkey business


The Believer has an interview with primatologist Franz de Waal:

De Waal’s research is no friend to human vanity. In the grand tradition of Galileo and Darwin, de Waal provokes those who seek to draw a clear line between human beings and everything else. But his message is an optimistic one. If human morality has deep roots in our evolutionary past, then we can expect it to be more resilient, less susceptible to the contingencies of history. Seeing morality in this light also undermines the view of human beings as inherently selfish–a view that de Waal terms “veneer theory.” Morality, according to veneer theory, is merely a recent cultural invention, a thin veneer that masks our “true” selfish animal nature. De Waal’s criticisms of this theory (which we discuss at some length below) are the topic of his most recent book, Primates and Philosophers. The book is based on lectures de Waal presented at Princeton University, and features responses to his work from four renowned philosophers and authors.

(Via Light Reading)