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The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson

The Moral Lives of Animals (2011)

by Dale Peterson

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I struggled with this book and put it down several times. I like the idea of the subject, but I found it hard to get through. There were too many paragraphs that I had to stop and re-read to parse out what was being said. It reminded me of an ethics/philosophy course that I took in college ... and I hated that course. So maybe that unfortunate mental connection biased me against the book. ( )
  brewergirl | Oct 15, 2014 |
A fascinating and only-too-relevant idea, but mired in confusing discussions, controversial evo-psych descriptions of people, and a lack of organization.

It is interesting to learn about the concept of morality and altruism as seen in animals, but I will have to look elsewhere. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
While the subject matter was quite interesting, there were a lot of tangents and some of it was completely irrelevant to the core information being presented.

Do I really need to read about different positions seen in bonobo sexual behavior to contemplate morality? No. I'm not prudish and I welcome information that enhances my knowledge base, but some of it seemed absolutely unnecessary and merely served to distract from the underlying theme.

And using Moby Dick as a means of cohesion...not a good idea.

Still, some of the information was new to me, and overall I felt like I got something worthwhile out of this book. ( )
  ratastrophe | Mar 28, 2013 |
I had not realized that the impression of non-human animals as, essentially furry machines was an Enlightenment invention! I';d love to read more about that, including speculation as to why it happened.

This whole book was full of fascinating information, all woven into a coherent and compelling whole. After all, it seems only reasonable to me that we share commonality with other creatures; just like many creatures have livers and eyes, we also share brain constructs... and thus it makes complete sense to me that "lesser creatures" share emotions and rationality with us humans. He calls the refusal to do so "Dar5winian narcissism", which seems about right (though all animals, us included, do tend to focus more on our conspecific companions than those of other species).

I will want to read this again; it's a very rich book with many fascinating ideas that deserve more thought. Also, very well-written, with a good mix of data, anecdotes, and theory weaving it all together. Rather amazingly, given a number of the nonfiction books I've read recently, it it not repetitive; I did not wish, at the end, that an editor had told him to cut it back! Rather the reverse.

I think I should add that it is not a polemic at all. There's data; there's conclusions; there's theorizing based on these... but it's not "shrill" or single-mindedly trying to prove a point.

Highly recommended! ( )
  cissa | Jun 8, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Great book. Author was here recently. ( )
  vegetarian | Oct 14, 2011 |
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Examines the moral behavior observed in animals and argues that human beings are not the only species to live by the principles of cooperation, kindness, and empathy.

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