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The Moral Lives of Animals Summary and Reviews

The Moral Lives of Animals

by Dale Peterson

The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson X
The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson
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Book Summary

Wild elephants walking along a trail stop and spontaneously try to protect and assist a weak and dying fellow elephant. Laboratory rats, finding other rats caged nearby in distressing circumstances, proceed to rescue them. A chimpanzee in a zoo loses his own life trying to save an unrelated infant who has fallen into a watery moat.

The examples above and many others, argues Dale Peterson, show that our fellow creatures have powerful impulses toward cooperation, generosity, and fairness. Yet it is commonly held that we Homo sapiens are the only animals with a moral sense-that we are somehow above and apart from our fellow creatures.

This rigorous and stimulating book challenges that notion, and it shows the profound connections-the moral continuum-that link humans to many other species. Peterson shows how much animal behavior follows principles embodied in humanity's ancient moral codes, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament. Understanding the moral lives of animals offers new insight into our own.

Dale Peterson's biography Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and Boston Globe Best Book of 2006. His other publications include Visions of Caliban (with Jane Goodall) and Demonic Males (with Richard Wrangham). Peterson lectures in English at Tufts University.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Species range from fireflies to bonobos, but all illustrate moral behavior and all show us that we are not alone in possessing a moral code." - Booklist

"A thorough and sophisticated book, yet accessible and enjoyable even for those with little previous exposure to the topic." - Kirkus

"Cooperative hyenas, scorekeeping impalas, heroic rats—humans are not the only creatures with a code of ethics. Dale Peterson of Tufts University argues that animals across many species exhibit behaviors that reveal evolutionary continuity between us and them. The rules and values Homo sapiens shares with other species provide a basis for Peterson to speculate about the future of our relationship with our fellow fauna." - Scientific American

"Dale Peterson adds originality and astonishing clarity to a discussion that has engaged science and philosophy in sometimes heated debate.  This book is a delight to read. The Moral Lives of Animals will change the way many think of animals, and it will vindicate what others have always known intuitively. It deserves to be an instant bestseller." - Jane Goodall

"Instead of humanity having developed morality from scratch, by means of its superior intellect, things may well have started simpler. In our fellow primates, we already recognize many of the tendencies that gave rise to the moral emotions. Dale Peterson does an excellent and engaging job explaining how the one may have led to the other. In doing so, he places us closer to other animals than many a moral philosopher would ever admit." - Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy

"The Moral Lives of Animals is without question the most fascinating book I’ve read in many, many years—a marvelously written page-turner about an important subject which until now has received little if any attention. Well, all that has changed. I can think of no other work that so clearly depicts our place in the animal kingdom, showing as it does how the forces of society work on other species much as they do on ours. The large number of stories that make this point are riveting. Everything in the book is riveting. You will read it with your hair on end and your eyes wide, just like some of the animal subjects herein when faced with an intense situation. There’s a special place in the hearts of many of us for books that express the ‘one-ness’ of life on earth, and this book tops them all." - Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

"The Moral Lives of Animals is a breathtaking tour-de-force of enormous scope and deep importance. Filled with vivid and compelling stories, backed by numerous scientific studies, these pages should change the way we look at the workings of the hearts and minds of other species--as well as our own. Every literate human on earth should read it." - Sy Montgomery, author of The Good, Good Pig and Birdology

This information about The Moral Lives of Animals was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Dale Peterson

Dale Peterson's biography, Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) was a New York Times Notable Book and Boston Globe Best Book of 2006. His other publications include Visions of Caliban (with Jane Goodall), and Demonic Males (with Richard Wrangham). Peterson lectures in English at Tufts University near Boston.

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