The Ethics of Captivity

Though conditions of captivity vary considerably for humans and for other animals, two of the central philosophical issues that emerge in discussions of human imprisonment prove instructive in thinking through the ethical issues raised by captivity for non-humans — autonomy and dignity. When captives have their physical and immediate psychological needs met and are free from suffering, so they are not being harmed in those ways, we can we still ask if there something wrong with holding them captive.

Continue reading The Ethics of Captivity

Human Language—Human Consciousness

The apparent differences between humans and apes are not biologically fixed, but they are biologically and culturally instantiated. Differences in maternal care patterns, which human and bonobo infants experience from the moment of birth forward, are responsible for the many of the behavioral distinctions that later emerge between the species. They are culturally instantiated and are open to change at any time. From these caregiver patterns emerge the different styles of human/ape consciousness.

Continue reading Human Language—Human Consciousness

A Trans-Species Perspective on Nature

A trans-species perspective is an all-encompassing stance towards nature that embraces the continuity and comparability of all species’ lives. It shapes the way we view ourselves in relation to other animals and involves changing our current model of those relationships from one of separation and condescension to one of communalism and respect. Given the mass extinctions, global destruction of habitat, environmental degradation, and continued mass exploitation of other animals, nothing short of a shift in human psychological perspective is needed to turn things around.

Continue reading A Trans-Species Perspective on Nature

Morals without God?

I was born in Den Bosch, the city after which Hieronymus Bosch named himself.1 This obviously does not make me an expert on the Dutch painter, but having grown up with his statue on the market square, I have always been fond of his imagery, his symbolism, and how it relates to humanity’s place in

Continue reading Morals without God?

The Challenge of Comparisons in Primatology

I have been studying the same group of monkeys, known as northern muriquis, in a small forest in southeastern Brazil for nearly 28 years. When I began my research they were called Brachyteles arachnoides. Subsequently, and within the lifetimes of many of the individuals in my original study group, they were reclassified as a new

Continue reading The Challenge of Comparisons in Primatology

How Humans Became Such Other-Regarding Apes

I am an anthropologist and primate sociobiologist who seeks to understand, step by Darwinian step, how apes could have evolved to imagine and care about what the lives of others might be like. I believe that such questing for inter-subjective engagement laid the foundations for significant later developments such as language and cumulative culture. My

Continue reading How Humans Became Such Other-Regarding Apes