Primates and Philosophers…

…is the title of a new book by Frans de Waal, famed primatologist and Professor of Psychology at Emory.

De Waal essentially argues that traits of empathy and reciprocity, the foundation for survival, human morals and law, are evolved from animal behaviour in particular primate behaviour. As such his work supports Darwin while contradicting Thomas Huxley’s view of humans as essentially selfish and competitive.

An April 17, 2007 article in the New York Times pointed to the remarkable similarities between humans and chimp social behaviour as well as the surprising finding that Chimps beat humans on certain types of memory test conducted with computer screens.

The chimp in this shot, taken in my studios in the 70s, learned to mimic my actions with the camera after watching me for just a few minutes.

Chimp And Pentax-01

Links to Professor de Waal’s work can be found here, here and here and for a longer piece, published in 2006, titled The Animal Self, covering the advances in studying animal behaviour see this article by Charles Siebert in the New York Times.

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