Morality and the Nature of Animals

  • Les Brown

Abstract

In rejecting the ‘state of nature’ as a ‘mere fiction’, an invention similar to that of the golden age of the poets when there was no war, no violence and injustice, no avarice, ambition, cruelty or selfishness, Hume proposed as certain that in the actual world justice derives from the concurrence of man’s ‘selfishness and limited generosity’ with an external situation of ‘the scanty provision nature has made for his wants’.1 His limited generosity notwithstanding, man was also a creature of sympathy, Hume observed. The objects of our sympathy are other human beings, for we sympathise with those who resemble us; indeed, ‘the minds of men are mirrors to one another’ (book 2, part 2, section 5, p. 365). Yet from a broad perspective of all life on earth — ‘a general survey of the universe’ — Hume also noted ‘the force of sympathy thro’ the whole animal creation, and the easy communication of sentiments from one thinking being to another’ (p. 363).

Keywords

Obesity Depression Cage Shipping Cyclone 

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Notes

  1. 10.
    J. Huxley, Man in the Modern World (London: Chatto and Windus, 1947) p. 1Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    T. Hobbes, Leviathan (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968) ch. 28, p.353. (First published 1651.)Google Scholar
  3. 29.
    N. Tinbergen, The Animal and its World (London: Allen and Unwin, 1973) vol. 2, p. 130.Google Scholar
  4. 42.
    T. Hancock, Essay on Instinct and its Physical and Moral Relations (London: Phillips, 1824) p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 43.
    C. Darwin, The Descent of Man (London: Watts, 1930) p. 85. Darwin was reporting the observation of Westropp, whom he called ‘a well-known ethologist’. This view attracted much attention in the last century. See The Animal World, vol.19, no. 220 (1 Jan. 1888).Google Scholar
  6. 44.
    L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution: A Comparative Study of Ethics (London: Chapman and Hall, 1906) p. 261.Google Scholar
  7. 50.
    N. Tinbergen, Animal Behaviour (Amsterdam: Time-Life International, 1960) p. 14. See also I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Love and Hate, p. 6, where the author claims that statements about the emotions referring to either individual or social bonds between or among animals are ‘fundamentally impossible for epistemological reasons’.Google Scholar
  8. 53.
    E. C. Tolman, Purposive Behavior in Animals and Man (New York: Century, 1932) p. 217.Google Scholar
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    R. Seyforth, ‘Vervet Monkey Alarm Calls: Semantic Communication in a Free-ranging Primate’, in Animal Behaviour, vol.28 (1980) p. 1070. The natural habitat was in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro, Kenya.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 60.
    T. A. Sebeok (ed.), How Animals Communicate (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1977). On the possible hereditary basis of language see P. Lieberman, ‘The Phylogeny of Language’, in the above.Google Scholar
  11. 65.
    Samuel Johnson, The Idler and the Adventurer, ed. W. J. Bate et al. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1963) p. 75. From The Idler, no.24 (30 Sept. 1758).Google Scholar
  12. 66.
    E. O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1975) p. 4. Wilson saw some hope for sociology and the other social sciences, as well as the humanities, for they are simply ‘the last branches of biology to be included in the modern synthesis’.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Leslie Melville Brown 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Les Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesAustralia

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