This thread will be a repository for links to books on or related to ethics or morality. I certainly have not read all these titles, and listing them here does not imply endorsement of them. I add them here for informational purposes only. Please feel free to add any titles you may come across.
If you have nothing to add now, please select FOLLOW so that you can be informed of any new additions. I will start with these.
The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society
De Waal (Chimpanzee Politics), a renowned primatologist, culls an astounding volume of research that deflates the human assumption that animals lack the characteristics often referred to as humane. He cites recent animal behavior studies that challenge the primacy of human logic and put animals on a closer behavioral footing with humans. Based on the studies of mammals, from primates to mice, de Waal proposes that empathy is an instinctual behavior exhibited by both lab rats and elephants. But de Waal's aim isn't merely to show that apes are transactional creatures with a basic understanding of reciprocity—but to reveal that the idea that humans are naturally calculating, competitive and violent is grounded in a falsehood willfully and selfishly perpetuated. Throughout the book, de Waal illustrates how behaving more like our wild mammalian cousins may just save humanity. His contention, colored by philosophical musings and fascinating anecdotes of observed emotional connections between animals, argues persuasively that humans are not greedy or belligerent because animals are; such traits are far from organic or inevitable but patently manmade.
Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others
What accounts for our remarkable ability to get inside another person's head--to know what he or she is thinking and feeling? Marco Iacoboni, a leading neuroscientist, explains the groundbreaking research into mirror neurons, the "smart cells" in our brain that allow us to understand others. From imitation to morality, from political affiliations to consumer choices, mirror neurons are relevant to myriad aspects of social cognition. Mirroring People is the first book for the general reader on this revolutionary new science.
Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
In Good Natured Frans de Waal, ethologist and primatologist, asks us to reconsider human morality in light of moral aspects that can be identified in animals. Within the complex negotiations of human society, a moral action may involve thoughts and feelings of guilt, reciprocity, obligation, expectations, rules, or community concern. De Waal finds these aspects of morality prevalent in other animal societies, mostly primate, and suggests that the two philosophical camps supporting nature and nurture may have to be disbanded in order to adequately understand human morality. A theoretician, de Waal is meticulous in his research, cautious not to extrapolate too much from his findings, and logically sound in his arguments. He also writes with precision and a flair for the dramatic, carrying readers along with graceful ease and vivid examples.
I just finished reading this book. It is basically a really long essay followed by some appendices. These are then followed by critiques from other scientists about the intitial essay. Pretty decent concept for de Waal to allow his ideas to be contested in his own book. De Waal strikes me as a competent, thorough, and thoughtful scientist. I'm not really qualified to critique his research, but in my opinion, this is a book worth reading. I am attaching a scan of the TOC and the Introduction. - Dallas
Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved
Celebrated primatologist de Waal expands on his earlier work in Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals to argue that human traits of fairness, reciprocity and altruism develop through natural selection. Based on his 2004 Tanner Lectures at Princeton, this book argues that our morality grows out of the social instincts we share with bonobos, chimpanzees and apes. De Waal criticizes what he calls the "veneer theory," which holds that human ethics is simply an overlay masking our "selfish and brutish nature." De Waal draws on his own work with primates to illustrate the evolution of morality. For example, chimpanzees are more favorably disposed to others who have performed a service for them (such as grooming) and more likely to share their food with these individuals. In three appendixes, de Waal ranges briefly over anthropomorphism, apes and a theory of mind, and animal rights. The volume also includes responses to de Waal by Robert Wright, Christine M. Korsgaard, Philip Kitcher and Peter Singer. Although E.O. Wilson and Robert Wright have long contended that altruism is a product of evolution, de Waal demonstrates through his empirical work with primates the evolutionary basis for ethics.
Book titles I've recently come across as citations in an article. I've not read these, so this is not an endorsement. Just passing the info along. - Dallas