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Edited by Frans de Waal

Morality is often defined in opposition to the natural "instincts," or as a tool to keep those instincts in check. New findings in neuroscience, social psychology, animal behavior, and anthropology have brought us back to the original Darwinian position that moral behavior is continuous with the social behavior of animals, and most likely evolved to enhance the cooperativeness of society. In this view, morality is part of human nature rather than its opposite. This interdisciplinary volume debates the origin and working of human morality within the context of science as well as religion and philosophy. Experts from widely different backgrounds speculate how morality may have evolved, how it develops in the child, and what science can tell us about its working and origin. They also discuss how to deal with the age-old facts-versus-values debate, also known as the naturalistic fallacy. The implications of this exchange are enormous, as they may transform cherished views on if and why we are the only moral species.

These articles are also published in Behaviour, Volume 151, Nos. 2/3 (February 2014).

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Frans De Waal

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Frans B.M. de Waal

Abstract

The evolution of behavior is sometimes considered irrelevant to the issue of human morality, since it lacks the normative character of morality (‘ought’), and consist entirely of descriptions of how things are or came about (‘is’). Evolved behavior, including that of other animals, is not entirely devoid of normativity, however. Defining normativity as adherence to an ideal or standard, there is ample evidence that animals treat their social relationships in this manner. In other words, they pursue social values. Here I review evidence that nonhuman primates actively try to preserve harmony within their social network by, e.g., reconciling after conflict, protesting against unequal divisions, and breaking up fights amongst others. In doing so, they correct deviations from an ideal state. They further show emotional self-control and anticipatory conflict resolution in order to prevent such deviations. Recognition of the goal-orientation and normative character of animal social behavior permits us to partially bridge the is/ought divide erected in relation to human moral behavior.

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Frans B.M. de Waal

The evolution of behavior is sometimes considered irrelevant to the issue of human morality, since it lacks the normative character of morality (‘ought’), and consist entirely of descriptions of how things are or came about (‘is’). Evolved behavior, including that of other animals, is not entirely devoid of normativity, however. Defining normativity as adherence to an ideal or standard, there is ample evidence that animals treat their social relationships in this manner. In other words, they pursue social values. Here I review evidence that nonhuman primates actively try to preserve harmony within their social network by, e.g., reconciling after conflict, protesting against unequal divisions, and breaking up fights amongst others. In doing so, they correct deviations from an ideal state. They further show emotional self-control and anticipatory conflict resolution in order to prevent such deviations. Recognition of the goal-orientation and normative character of animal social behavior permits us to partially bridge the is/ought divide erected in relation to human moral behavior.

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Frans B.M. De Waal

Abstract

Ten bonobos (Pan paniscus), housed in three separate subgroups at the San Diego Zoological Garden, were observed for 288 hours over a four-month period. The colony included one adult male, two adult females, two adolescent males, four juveniles, and one infant. Data on 5,135 sequences of social behavior were collected either as spoken accounts or as video recordings. In addition, high-quality sound recordings were obtained for spectrographic analysis. The data were subjected to a quantitative analysis of probabilities of association between 44 communicative behavior patterns and 40 different context types. The paper treats each communicative behavior pattern separately, providing a) its frequency, b) the most common inter-individual directions of performance, c) characteristic contexts, d) a description, e) a commentary on its possible functions, and 1) a comparison with the behavior of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). The study shows that, while the behavioral repertoires of the two Pan species are fundamentally similar, interesting differences exist in their vocal repertoires, sexual behavior, and agonistic behavior. The bonobo's voice has a higher pitch, and many of its vocalizations are structurally different from homologous chimpanzee vocalizations. The greatest difference concerns the long-distance hooting calls of the two species. The bonobo's sexual behavior is much more elaborate than the chimpanzee's, including ventro-ventral copulation, and "GG-rubbing" between adult females. Sexual forms of contact seem to serve many of the reassurance and reconciliation functions fulfilled by nongenital contact forms in the chimpanzee. Finally, the bonobo's agonistic behavior is less elaborate and appears more controlled than the chimpanzee's.

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Zanna Clay and Frans B.M. de Waal

Abstract

Sexual contacts are thought to play an important role in regulating social tension in bonobos (Pan paniscus), and are especially common following aggressive conflicts, either between former opponents or involving bystanders. Nevertheless, research on the factors determining post-conflict sexual contacts, their effectiveness in reducing social tension and the nature of post-conflict sexual behaviour is scarce. Here, we collected data on post-conflict affiliative contacts in bonobos occurring between former opponents (reconciliation) and offered by bystanders towards victims (consolation) to investigate the role of sexual contacts in the regulation of aggressive conflicts compared to non-sexual affiliation behaviours. We tested whether post-conflict sexual contacts: (1) alleviate stress, (2) confer reproductive benefits, (3) mediate food-related conflict and (4) repair valuable social bonds. Thirty-six semi-free bonobos of all ages were observed at the Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, DR Congo, using standardized Post-Conflict/Matched Control methods. Consolation and reconciliation were both marked by significant increases in the occurrence of sexual behaviours. Reconciliation was almost exclusively characterized by sexual contacts, although consolation was also characterized by increases in non-sexual behaviours, such as embrace. Adults were more likely to engage in post-conflict sexual contacts than younger bonobos. Consistent with the stress-alleviation hypothesis, victims receiving sexual consolatory contact showed significantly lower rates of self-scratching, a marker of stress in primates, compared to receiving non-sexual contact. Post-conflict sexual contacts were not targeted towards valuable social partners and they did not confer obvious reproductive benefits; nor were they used to mediate food-related conflicts. Overall, results highlight the role of sex in regulating tension and social conflicts in bonobos.

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Zanna Clay and Frans B.M. de Waal

Sexual contacts are thought to play an important role in regulating social tension in bonobos (Pan paniscus), and are especially common following aggressive conflicts, either between former opponents or involving bystanders. Nevertheless, research on the factors determining post-conflict sexual contacts, their effectiveness in reducing social tension and the nature of post-conflict sexual behaviour is scarce. Here, we collected data on post-conflict affiliative contacts in bonobos occurring between former opponents (reconciliation) and offered by bystanders towards victims (consolation) to investigate the role of sexual contacts in the regulation of aggressive conflicts compared to non-sexual affiliation behaviours. We tested whether post-conflict sexual contacts: (1) alleviate stress, (2) confer reproductive benefits, (3) mediate food-related conflict and (4) repair valuable social bonds. Thirty-six semi-free bonobos of all ages were observed at the Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, DR Congo, using standardized Post-Conflict/Matched Control methods. Consolation and reconciliation were both marked by significant increases in the occurrence of sexual behaviours. Reconciliation was almost exclusively characterized by sexual contacts, although consolation was also characterized by increases in non-sexual behaviours, such as embrace. Adults were more likely to engage in post-conflict sexual contacts than younger bonobos. Consistent with the stress-alleviation hypothesis, victims receiving sexual consolatory contact showed significantly lower rates of self-scratching, a marker of stress in primates, compared to receiving non-sexual contact. Post-conflict sexual contacts were not targeted towards valuable social partners and they did not confer obvious reproductive benefits; nor were they used to mediate food-related conflicts. Overall, results highlight the role of sex in regulating tension and social conflicts in bonobos.