Another piece on Pinker’s defense of scientism



Filed under: Epistemology, Science, , ,

The Successful Personality

Does thisimply that we should nurture this type of personality, either via childrearing or medication?

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Notes on Dale Peterson’s “The Moral Lives of Animals”

The Moral Lives of Animals – Dale Peterson

What follows are straight notes. Not much editorializing. In general I am not impressed with the book’s scholarship, but as a set of examples of behaviors that appear to be morally relevant it’s a good resource and worth having on a bookshelf if you are not familiar with the field.

Table of Contents

I. Part I: where does morality come from? Concepts.
a. Chapter One: Words
b. Chapter Two: Orientations
c. Chapter Three: Definitions
d. Chapter Four: Structures

II. Part II: what is morality? The rules.
a. Chapter Five: Authority
b. Chapter Six: violence
c. Chapter Seven: Sex
d. Chapter Eight: Possession
e. Chapter Nine: Communication

III. Part III: what is morality? The attachments.
a. Chapter Ten: Cooperation
b. Chapter Eleven: Kindness

IV. Part IV: where is morality going? The assessments.
a. Chapter Twelve: Duality
b. Chapter Thirteen: Flexibility
c. Chapter Fourteen: Peace

General Issues and/or Arguments:

• Moral behavior only requires emotions, not cognition; since animals have emotional responses, they are just as capable of morality as humans
• Peterson is not attempting to justify any kind of normative moral theory, but instead simply to describe the morality of non-human animals.
• Argues that animal morality is homologous to human morality, not analogous. P. 53
• The problem of other minds – how can we know what another mind is thinking? In most humans: language. In non-humans, the hidden motives leads to a simple logical error: since we can’t be told what the other creature is thinking or feeling, it must not be thinking or feeling anything at all.

o SEP Entry on Other Minds:
o Solipsism and the Problem of Other Minds:

• Darwinian narcissism: the refusal to recognize the humans have evolved similar emotional and cognitive structures to those evolved in non-human animals
• Dawkins’ claim that humans are the only animals to overcome their innate selfishness (from his The Selfish Gene)
• What does it mean to have a moral code?
• If animals do in fact have moral codes, then are animals open to moral judgments when they commit actions that would also be contrary to human morality? Why should we accept murder in the animal kingdom, but not in the human species?
• Authority, Violence, Sex, Possession, and Communication are subject to what Peterson calls “rules morality” – an act is moral if it follows certain rules.
• Cooperation and Kindness are subject to “morality of attachments.” Acts are moral if they are compassionate.
• Rejects the charge of speciesism against humans since the species barrier is a natural dividing line and thus an evolutionarily legitimate reason for thinking that one’s own species is more important than all others
• WSJ Review: . Charges that Peterson ignores findings in cognitive science that shows significant differences in the cognitive capacities of humans and non-humans.

Specific examples used in the book:

• How elephants define noses (p. 46)
• Deliberate Whales (Moby Dick) – whales that deliberately set out to attack humans (this is used throughout the book as representative of one possible attitude toward animals, but one that Peterson rejects)
• Cooperative spotted hyenas – 121-122. Matriarchal clan societies which are able to generate cooperation within the clan and sometimes against other hyena clans; daily life within the clan is frolicsome and friendly
• Scorekeeping impalas; impalas will groom one another by licking each other; if one impala delivers six tongue licks to another, then the action is reciprocated by the recipient with the same number of licks. This demonstrates reciprocity as well as enough intelligence to be able to count the number of licks. His point is that “…if scorekeeping is not done at all, the system would most likely collapse – that is, become evolutionarily unstable – because of cheaters.”
• Sympathetic Mice (injections of pain-causing substances in order to observe the sympathetic behavior of a partner mouse); 224-225. There appears to be some way of communicating pain from one mouse to another.
• Heroic Rats
• Rat laughter/chirping (p. 53-55). Rats emit a chirping sound inaudible to humans when they play with one another and when tickled by researchers. The investigators thought that this should be classified as laughter. The tickling appeared to stimulate the rats to play with each other. Also, when rats were deafened the intensity of their play would diminish, implying that the chirping/laughter was acting as some kind of incentive to play.
• Bonobos – story of Kuni on p. 220 about the ape helping a bird (a starling) recover from an injury.
• Deceitful Fireflies – predatory female Photuris fireflies send out fake sex availability signals to male Photinus fireflies in order to capture them.
• Foxes – when bred into domestication, foxes were able to learn the meaning of a person pointing to an object as well as to understand names; wild foxes cannot do that (p. 74, 98-99).
• Dangerous Elephants – p. 254-256.
• Suicide among elephants – p. 101. Elephants in captivity have been said to step on their trunks in order to cut off air supply.
• Infanticide in lions – p. 121. 27% of all infant mortality among Serengeti lions is through killing of infants by invading males. Peterson argues that this makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because now the remaining females have to mate once again, having lost their cubs, and they will mate with the invading males.
• Cannibalism in chimps – 109-111. Story of Passion and her two children, who became serial killers and cannibals against other members of the community. Two instances of Passion and her daughter killing children of Gilka, another female, with bites to the head. This would be followed by feeding on the corpse. This happened with other families as well.
• Deceit in chimps on 182-190. Several instances:

o Female who would scream during sex learned to suppress her screaming when it started to bring the attention of the alpha male. Afterward she would only scream when she was with him and suppress her screaming when she was with other males.
o Young chimp in Goodall’s care learned to stop screaming happily after receiving food because the screams would bring other chimps that would take away his bananas.

• Birds will sometimes cache food in order to plan for future lean times. There is an experiment involving western scrub jays on 166.
• Dogs signal a desire to play by the use of the “play bow” in which they lower the front legs while keeping the hind legs up and wagging their tail. Described also by Bekoff in his book Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (2009).The behavior also appears to be accompanied by self-handicapping, in which the dogs decrease their bite force and generally handicap themselves in order to avoid injuring the others.
• Rhesus monkeys that chose to forgo shocking another monkey even though it would mean getting food as a reward. 229.

Filed under: Animals, Ethology, Philosophy, , , , , , ,

Latest on Pinker’s defense of scientism

Here and here and here. Do the replies put science in its place?

Filed under: Philosophy, Science, , ,

Physical activity and cognitive improvements

Recent studies on intelligence: http://qz.com/116105/gym-workouts-and-sunbathing-do-more-for-your-brain-than-crosswords-and-mozart/

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