|Path Home: Empathy, Altruism and Agape | Presenters or Itinerary
The possibility that animals have empathy and sympathy has thus far received little attention due to two major factors. One is that several prominent evolutionary biologists have opted to follow T. H. Huxleys dualism. Huxley pushed morality outside the evolutionary realm: his nature red in tooth and claw view had no place for kindness. Kindness could come into being only secondarily, as a cultural innovation of the human species. Darwin himself had a much more balanced view, and was familiar with moral philosophers such as Adam Smith and David Hume. The second hampering influence has been an excessive fear of anthropomorphism leading to ignorance of the possibility of feelings and thoughts in animals.
Both of these influences are entirely on the theoretical level, that is, they have little to do with the presence or absence of observed instances. In my own work with nonhuman primates, I have found many cases of one individual coming to anothers rescue in a fight, putting an arm around a previous victim of attack, or other emotional responses to the distress of others. The entire communication system of nonhuman primates seems emotionally mediated: we are familiar with the prominent role of emotions in human facial expressions, but when it comes to apes - which have a similar range of expressions - emotions remain a taboo topic.
In this presentation I will review evidence for empathy and sympathy in nonhuman primates, present data on consolation behavior, discuss the meaning of facial communication, and explore the relation to theory-of-mind and self-awareness research, and ultimately the implications for both the development and evolution of human morality.
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