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charmless, unbeautifully black natives?

Osborne's tragedy was that he became rich and famous for indulging a rage that made him, as time went on, an ever more marginal figure, howling from the sidelines at a world he couldn't be bothered to understand. As the world

changed and Osborne stayed the same, he could interpret its indifference to his "rage only as betrayal. In 1989, he listed in his notebook those who had most consistently betrayed him. The list included his ex-wives, Faber and Faber, the National Theatre, the Royal Court, the

press~.1awyers, accountants, his mother; and Albert Finney. Such targets make good magazine columns-he wrote a ' highly entertaining' one for The Spectator-and the paranoid grudges that powered his hatreds gave his autobiographies their manic energy. His caus-

tically unsentimental self-obsession is potent enough, in Heilpern's skillful telling, to give his fise and fall a kind ofsad grandeur. But the shadow of his colossal ego always loomed too large to allow him the clear vision that a great playwright needs. 0

Are We Born'Moral?'
Moral Minds:, How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense . of Right and Wrong by Marc D. Hauser. Ecco, 458 pp., $27.95 Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved by Frans de Waal, edited by Stephen Macedo and Josiah Ober. ,Princeton University Press, 209 pp., $22.95 According to a prominent tradition of Western thinking, morality is a thin overlay covering human savagery. H)illlan beings are bestial' hy nature and ethical codes are curbs on their .,b.rutish instincts that enable them to , live together in relative peace. Morality is a restraint on natural human behavior. At the same time it is believed to be uniquely' human. Only humans possess the intellectual powers that are needed, to repress natural impulses, and so only they can be moral." Though this view can be found in , many schools of thought, secnlar as well as religious, it is hard to spell out in any ,coherent fashion. If morality is a system of rules for the suppression of beastly behavior, where does it come from, and why have humans accepted it? How was it devised and imposed? Such questions are not easily answered, but when morality is assessed as it often is 'today according to some versions of Darwinian, theory, the notion that, it is a human construction' without roots in our animal nature faces difficulties that are in~oluble. If Darwinian theory is sound, morality in humans results at least in some part from evolutionary processes, and when they act as moral beings humans are displaying capacities they have in common with some other animals. R'Ither than suppressing their instincts, they are behaving naturally. To view morality as a fetter on animal instincts is to think of it in preDarwinian terms, but curiously SOme of the most ardent Darwinians have also seen it in this way. As a result of his indefatigable ,defense of Darwinian theory the British biologist T. H. Huxley was known as "Darwin's bulldog," but he held that moral life was a struggle to combat nature-a view that left morality hanging in mid-air, without , any evolutionary explanation, as a kind of human protest against the cosmOS.In our own time Richard Dawkins has reaffirmed the Huxleyan position, concluding his book The Selfish Gene' with the declaration: "We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicatms. ,,' A problem 'Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 201. and specifying what is permissible; and a necessary, part of being a moral "agent" -someone who acts mmally. is engaging in deliberation using prin'ciples that apply to everyone. different view prevailed among, the Greeks; for whom the core of ethics was the virtues. Rather than acting in conformity to principles, they , , believed, good human beings tend to ,live according to right action. And while deliberation might at times be necessary, morality was essentially a habit of good judgment and behavior. Acting well meant displaying courage or prudence, for example, rather than obeying rules or principles. The type of reasoning associated with this Greek view was mO,e casuistic, a case-by-case appmach in which the situations in which actions were taken were extremely important. Greek ethics was not, normallyrelativistic-Atistotle ' took for granted. that courage and pmdence are generically human vrrtues,but it did not aim to formulate universal rules. , , ' Westem' thinking contains both or , . . "' th'ese conceptIOns. I n one mora 1_ItY,Is modeled on law and has at its center a set of categorical demands, while in the other mora'lity is based on precepts for living the good life and has .more in common with medicine, hygiene, and the practical arts, such as building and gardening. These concep-' ',tio,ns have often been combined' in central Western traditions., Medieval Christian thinkus accepted that the virtues were an integral part of mmal "life, and adopted from the Greeks the view that prudence and fortitude, for example, were among them. Again, obeying legitimate moral rules has always been seen as virtuous. Yet there .~emains a basic difference between the "'v.iew that moral behavior means acting rin principles and the Greek idea that it means having good habits and dispositions, and it has been the former .view that has been accepted by most modern philosophers .. In Moral Minds, Marc Hauser, a psychologist at Harvard who has studied sociaL behavior and altruism among, monkeys, accepts ,the prevailing view that mmal behavior is fundamentally about conforming to prInciples, but argues ,that this view attaches, too much , , imponance to conscious processes of ' reasoning. Just.because we reason from explicit principles-handed down ITom-" . parents, teachers, lawyers, judges, or "religious leaders-to judgments of right and wwng doesn't mean that these principles are the source of our moral decisions. On the contrary, Hauser argues that moml judgments are mediated by an unconscious pmcess, a hidden moral grammar that evalThe New York Review

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'A typical instance of consolation in chimpanzees in which a juvenile puts an ann around a screaming adult male who. hasfust been defe~ted in a fight with his rival'; photograph by Frans de Waal fro.m Pnmates and Philosophers: How MOfahtyEvolved , .

uates the oUrown~ Viewin with refel , we share Hauser r< able to a actions ir his view I havior al , conscious thoughts ory but 1 that lie b awarene~ cepted, a consciou: accordinl is not de: employel whenjud ers give ( ing that make de cannot h, processe' based on sible to, I A rich Minds U1 valJcingl behavior aninborJ theyshal that is ac most fUl bates in Hauser r disciplin. nate mo example, Antonio damage theless" permissi justified level."H
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with this view is that it assumes a discontinuity between the biologies of humans and other animals that Darwin did not recognize. As Darwin ,wrote: ' Any 'animal whatever,. endowed with well-marked social instincts, , the parental and filial affections being here included, would inevitably acqui,e a mmal sense or conscience, as, soon as its intellectual powers had become as well . developed,or nearly as well devel. oped, as in man.' Darwin accepted that humans have a natural capacity for morality that has 'precursms in other animals. For exam, pIe, he argued that the social instincts that form the "prime principle" of , man's moral sense can be found in ,inonkeys, pelicans, and dogs, among other animals. Huxley rejected Darwin's view and, so it seems does Dawkins; in doing this they are in line with much modem philosophy in which there is a widespread resistance to any attempt to link moral behavior in humans with the behavior of other animal species. Kant believed that behaving morally means 'acTIng in accordance with principles that can be consciously articulated, and many philosophers have thought that because nonhuman animals lack the cognitive and linguistic abilities required for this 'Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man,
and Selection in Relation to Sex

. kind of autonomy they could not be ' moral beings. A different objection to the idea that morality is natural comes from relativists and postmodemists who argue that morality is a human con. struction whose content varies widely across different human groups, and', who often reject any idea of a fixed' or constant human nature. The idea that momlity is uniquely' human has many variations, but all of them rest on the assumption that hu-', mans are in some fund;unental way exempt from the evolutionary laws that govem other animals. Darwin's theory of natural selection does not entail any strong type of genetic determinism regarding human behavior, and attempts to apply evolutionary models to the development' of cultures have not been notably productive.' Even so, the assumption that human moral behavior has no roots in traits we share with our closer evolutionary kin ishard to square with any version of D,arwin's theory. It is difficult to resist the suspicion that this assumption is an inheritance ITom religion, and it is notable that much of the' debate surrounding evolution and ethics assumes a view of momlity derived from Western traditions of monotheism (to which Islam in this respect belongs). In these traditions the cme of morality is a set of rules, laying down duties, imposing prohibitions, 'For a discussion of the difficulties 'of evolutionary explanations of cultural phenomena, see Richard C. Lewontin, "The Wars Over Evolution," The New York Revi~w, October 20, 2005.

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'uates the causes and consequences of our own and others' actions. ' , Viewing human moral psychology with reference to an instinct or faculty 'we share with some other anirrials, Hauser rejects the idea that we must be able to articulate the reasons for our actions in order to be moral agents, In his view both moral judgment' and behavior are largely the product of unconscious processes-not the repressed thoughts and desires of Freudian the-" ory but the, vast areas of mental life that lie beyond the reach of conscious awareness. Though they are widely accepted, accounts of morality in which conscious deliberation is central are, according to Hauser, unreal. Hauser is not denying that moral reasoning is employed in ,many areas of life-as when judges reach opinions; or teach- ' ers give out grades. Rather', he is arguing that when people deliberate;and make decisions in, such contexts theY' cannot help relying, to some extent on processes of thought that need not be based on, and often are not fully-acces- -' 'sible to, conscious awareness. A rich, path breaking book, Moral 'Minds uses evidence from rapidly advancing research on animal and human behavior to suggest that humans have an inborn moral faculty, parts of which they share with other animals-a claim that is acutely relevant to some of the most fundamental contemporary debates in philosophy and public 'life. 'Hauser ranges widely over a variety of disciplines, supporting the idea of innate moral knowledge by citing,' for example, findings by the neuroscientist Antonio'Damasio that patients with damage to theIr frontal lobes neverthe1ess "distinguished between morally "b'l d f b'dd . d permlssl e an or 1 en actIOns an justified them at an advanced, adult leveL" He also invokes Frans de Waal's Chimpanzee 'Politics' to illustrate the capacity of nonhUIIian primates to make judgments about harm and con, sequences of the kind ihat are central lD mora 1 y. " kId "th .d 'f ac now e ges, e 1 ,ea a an mnate moral faculty Or sense ISnot new, and was common among the thO k f th S tf h E li ht lD ers a . e co IS n g enment, ,mcIuding DaVId I:Iume. For, Hume moralIty was, based'll the natu- , ral emotIon of sympathy or benevoI 'h'le' f " ffi' I ~nce ;: 1 JUSIce was an .ar I Cta vIrtue, a system of conventIons that has developed because benevolence IS r ' d d hr' di . Imlte an umans Ive lD can Oons ~f moderat~ scarCIty.. Once conventlOns of JustIce are established, human beings use their powers of reason in' , I' 'h b h . app ymg t em;, ut t ese conventIOns develop, as unmtended consequences of social interaction over time rather , 'I f than as a resu t of any process 0 reasODlng, and are mostly accepted as a tt f hab't "M kind' ',' ,ma er 0. 1. an . ISan lDventlve species," Hume wntes, and though the rules of justicto seem natural "if by , ,,'. natural we und~rstand wh~t lS com-, mon to any speCIes, or even If we' confine it to mean what is inseparable ,from the' species," they come into being "without the intervention' of thought or reflection," In Hume's view our judgments of right and wrong reflect the kind of species humans are, with dispositions for sympathy and pleasure and a capacity for approval and disapproval of --------' 'Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.
May 10, 2007

one another's character and actions. Using our moral sense involves employing these abilities, and in the case of the natural virtues-which include prudence and benevolence as well as qualities like self-esteem-includes' having the appropriate emotional responses in circumstances where these virtues may be required. Hume did not deny that acting prudently or benevo- ' lently requires thought and judgment; but it does not presuppose the applica-' ,tion of rules, ouly the intelligent use of , natural human capacities, ' Hauser links his account of a moral' faculty with both Noam Chomsky's ,theory of a universal human grammar and John Rawls's 'theory of justice as fairness. Chomsky's hypothesis that language use is governed by iimate' rules has made a major impact on lin- , guistics, psychology,' and cultural an-, thropology; but the content of these rules and the degree to which they vary between cultures are disputed, and the idea of a uuiversal grammar remains controversial. Linking the idea of innate morality to such an am-, .. hitious and contested theory of language acquisition 'burdens it with 'a considerable baggage that does not clarify the origins of moral judgment. ' More fundamentally,' thinking of 'the moral faculty as strictly analogous to a universal grammar reproduces the model of morality Hauser rightly finds inadequate. The core of Chomsky's theory is the Claim that there are universal rules of language use that are innately human. As Hauser ',puts it: ' The langua e faculty maintains a ' 't gf" I f :eposl airy 0 pnnclp es lor growmg a anguage, any anguage. Wh r . f t th ' ....' . en lDgUlStS er? re .ese pnnctples as the speaker s graml!'llr, they mean the rules or operaoons ~hat allow any normally developmg human to unconsclOu~ly ,generate and comprehend a 11Imtle~s ,range of well-formed sentences 10: their' native language. Whenlin-

morality and 'that his is "a pluralistic position, one that recognizes different moral systems, and sees adherence to , a single system as oppressive," Even so he is' insistent that huma,n manu capacities embody universal principles, While he rejects the view that "puts precise moral rules or norms in the newborn's head," he alsb rejects the idea that the human ,moral faculty, , lacks any rules:

pick out disw~te qualities of vice and virtue. So, for example, when we judge whether an action is benevolent,such as an act of generosity-Hume 'argues that we feel a pleasurable emo, tion regarding it, which reflects our sentinlents regarding the traits of character such actions express, These sentiments in turn, Hume believed, reflect the usefulness of the character traits to those who possess them and to society in generaL , We are born with abstract rules or No doubt there are' many-difficulties " principles, with nurture entering with this account, including those that' the picture to set the parameters 'arise when we try to clarify the idea and guide us toward the acquisiof usefulness. Yet Hume's view that tion of partiCular moral systems, ' morality is based in natural human caThis middle view is the one I pacities for sentiment and judgment is favor. It comes closest to the linmore plausible, it seems to me, than' guistic analogy. It makes the obviviews in which 'reasoning from princi" ous point that something about' ples is fundamental, because it fits 'the human brain allows us to ac-:' b'etter with an evoiutionary account of quire a system of moral norms. the origins of morality. As Hume ptit it And it makes the equally obvious in a chapter of his Treatise of Human point that dogs and cats that grow, ' Nature entitled "Of the Reason of Anup witli humans never acquire our ' , imals," "When any hypothesis.,. is admoral norms. vanc'd to explain a Iflental operation, Though he does riot aim to settle the ,which is common to men and beasts, _question definitively, Hauser suggests we must apply the same hypothesis to ,that the part of the iIloral faculty that' both.'" In Hume's account, as in reis unique to humans is that which they cent evolutionary accounts, human use "to create judgments of permissible, morality develops out of, and remains obligatory, and forbidden actions." dependent on, capacities and traits '" that humans share with their doser The problem with this argu~ent is' 'e~olutionary kin and there is no unnot its suggestion that the' human ,bridgeable discontinuity between the . moral faculty has uuique features," two. ,Applying principles remains a which can hardly be doubted. It is that distinctive feature of moral life" but it takes for granted that these have to one that reflects human conventions , do with creating and following rational -rules or principles. Here Hauser dif'Penguin, 1985; p, 226, The passage fers from Hume, who, believed that is cited by de Waal, Primates and Phi' losophers, pp, 65-66. when we employ our moral sense'we

,The Battle over, School Prayer


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guists referto universal grammar, .. they im; refemng to a theory about the set of all principles available "h hild f .. to eac c ,or acqulflng any specificJanguage. . Before the child is born, shedoesn't know which language she 'II t d h t WI mee; an s e may even mee two if she is born in a bilingual family. But she doesn't need to k' Wh t h d k ' now. a s e oes now, 10 an unconscious sense, is the set of' principles for all the world's land dr' guadgtehs- ea t antes, Iv~ngdoTnehs, an ose no ye conceIve. e environment feeds her the particI d tt 'f h f ular soun thPa bernst0 ,t e na tlvhe anguage, ere y urnmg on e specific principles of only one lan'f th ' guage, or two 1 e parents are 'bilingual. The problem of lan- , ' ... , . ' gua~e acq~'SI110nIS there!ore like settlDg SWItches. Each chIld starts out with all possible switches but ' ... ,' , . ' .,~-, "':Ith no parl1cular settmgs, the en- , ~Ironment the~ sets .them accord~,.. 109 to the chIld s native language., ' Just as a universal grammar contains linguistic universals embodied in rules of language use, so, it has been argued, there are moral universals, which are embodied in an inborn set of moral rules. Throughout Moral Minds, however, Hauser is emphatic that he does not accept a single set of rules about

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on sympathy "fall a long way short of morality." Christine Korsgaard presents a version of the same view when she dominant among contemporary .moral contends that morality only emerges philosophers, who he believes for th" along with a form of self-consciousness most part accept versions of the Veneer Theory. He argues that humans that allows agents to know the grounds or reasons for their beliefs and actions, are like their closest evolutionary kin in being moral by nature. For exam-a type of self-awareness only humans ple, he cites some fascinating evidence possess. Defending a modified version showing that monkeys, like humans, of de Waal's Veneer Theory, Robert Like the British philosophers have a marked aversion to inequity.6 Wright maintains that reciprocal altruof the Enlightenment, especially ism of the kind to which de Waal and Along with a wealth of rigorous reDavid Hume, Rawls believed in other students of animal behavior search de Waal includes some lovely a moral sense, a sense of justice anecdotes. He cites a report of a ferefer is not "true morality" because it that was designed' on the basis cannot be universalized. male bonobo who had captured a starof principles that "determine a Peter Singer uses his contribution to ling and been urged by her keeper to proper balance between competlet it go; she climbed to the highest' Primates and Philosophers to restate ing claims to the advantages of point of the highest tree in her enclo-' the argument for equal moral considsocial life." eration for animals for which ,he is sure, carefully' unfolded the, bird's However, pairing Hume and Rawls in justly celebrated.' In his substantive wings, arid spread them wide open be- this way blurs significant differences. fore trying to throw it out of the enmoral theory Singer is a utilitarian in For Hurne, following rules is a central closure. When the bird fell short, the the, tradition.of Hume and Jeremy part of morality only where justice is Bentham, but his belief that morality bonobo guarded it for a long period concerned, and even there he was against a curious juvenile bonobo. is based on impartial principles aligns him with Kant rather than Hume. As de Waal comments, the bonobo ready to make exceptions to the rules where such exceptions prornoie the Singer shares with Kant the view that displayed a capacity for empathy and general welfare. For example, he supthe test of right action is whether it evel,lexercised it aqoss species bound,ported the forcible recruitment of seaaries: slle had a notion of what was conforms to universal principles-a , good for the bird, and did her best to men by "press gangs" that was pracview in line with that defended by most achieve it. Of course there will be ticed under the authority of the British other contemporary philosophers, who crown .for centuries. In contrast, while many who reject this interpretation as " insist that morality is a human prerogahe made use of Hume's account of the tive. Singer's stand en animal rights is, anthropomorphism, and it is true that circumstances in which justic~ develwe should avoid projecting distincin effect, an application of this view to ops,Rawls viewed justice in Kantian tively human traits onto other species. other species. While he argues in favor terms as "the first virtue of social instiIt is wrong to describe a cat playing of extending the scope of moral con-, with a mouse in terms that invoke hututions" and viewed acting in conforcern beyond humans, he does so by inmity with its principles as an integral voking a conception of morality that is man sadism, or group hunting among part' of being a moral agent. While for anthropocentric. In each case we see 'lions as a type of warfare. Again,' Rawls (and Hauser) universal princithough they may have antecedents. in 'an a priori move of the sort against ples generate intuitions about which which de Waal has warned, which rethe b~haviorof other primates, torture actions are morally right or wrong prior and genocide remain peculiarly husponds to evidence of sympathy and to generating any emotions, for Hume man. Anthropomorphism should be reciprocity in other animals not by reavoided in these and other contexts. emotions precede our moral judgments. vising the received view of morality . By using the theories of Chomsky but by reasserting the parts of it that But the larger danger lies surely in and Rawls to model the moral faculty, exclude other species. what de Waal has termed anthropoHauser links his account with an unMany philosophers have accepted an denial-the a priori rejection of shared characteristics between humans derstanding of morality that in other understa)1ding of morality that is diffi~ and animals, "which leads to a willful cult to square with the findings of scirespects he rightly resists. Despite reblindness to the humanclike characterjecting the view that having the ability ence, and even to state coherently. Such is the view that Hauser and de Waal istics of animals, or the animal-like to articulate principles is an essential characteristics of ourselves." What part of acting morally, he endorses the have incisively criticized: while humans are fundamentally amoral or bad, belief, entrenched in Western religion justification can there be-apart from and reproduced in philosophy by Kant morality is uniquely human. Hauser's a religious faith in human uniqueness and Rawls, according to which moraland de Waal's research suggests some-for rejecting evidence that points to thing more like the Greek standpoint" ity means acting on rational principles .. the ,animal origins of human morality? In doing so he accepts an understandof a more practical, virtue-based moralPart of the resistance to de Waal's ar- ' ity, which accepted that humans are ing of what it is to be moral that is culture-specific, and one that has not moral by nature. ' gument seems to come from a sense always been accepted, even in WestAn evolutionary view is bqund to that it deflates moralitY. Many philern traditions. 'be more pluralistic than that of Greek osophers have argued that without philosophers such as Aristotle,howawareness of the principles it exOne of the.chief obstacles to a natuever. Aristotle's theory of morality was presses, altruistic or empathetic behavralistic view of ethics - meaning here ior is no more than a repertory of emo- - based on a metaphysical theory of not any view that conflates facts with hiology, according to which each kind tional. responses; but this presumes values but instead the belief that 'Of organism had a natural end-state what has yet to be shown, that acting or goal. Darwinian theories have no according to our natural sentiments morality must be explained according , to natural human capacities and traits place for teleological explanationscannot be fully moral.AII the commen-has been the belief that human natators in Primates and Philosophers-, that is to say, explanations that rely on ture is amoral or savage. A strong verascribing pnrposes to evolutionary an impressively well-focused collecsion of this view, which Frans de Waal, processes, tion of essays, the longest of which is 'drawn from the Tanner Lectures delivThese processes have no overall a professor of primate behavior at purpose or direction. If they have proEmqry University, has usefully deered by de Waal at Princeton's Center duced an innate moral faculty in huscribed as Veneer Theory, was in- . for Human Values in 2004-insist on the'essential role of self-consciousness: voked by Hobbes when he described a mans it is likely sometimes to conflict state of nature as a condition in which with other instincts and to leave many "genuine" morality requires something like Kantian autonomy-being responhomo homini lupus-"man is wolf to moral dilemmas unresolved. The hard- . est of these dilemmas will not resemman." As de Waal observes, this is sible for one's actions and capable of unfair to wolves, which are among the specifying the reasons on which they ble difficulties iillfammar, when there are based-that confines it to humans. most gregarious and cooperative of is doubt about the right application of animals, while it denies the factofnata rule. They will be cases where uniThe philo~opher Philip Kitcher mainural human sociability. versal human virtues or values point in tains that unless they indude a high level De Waal is one of the world's foreof rationality and self-consciousness, different directions-as when justice most authorities on nonhuman priexpressions of altruism that are based clashes with mercy, or the promotion mates, and his thoughtful contribution of general welfare collides with some to Prim,ates and Philosophers is enconception of justice. Evolutionary the- ' 'For a summary of evidence regarding riched by decades of close observaories may do much to illuminate the the sense of equity in nonhuman tion of their behavior. Using this eviorigins of morality, but they are unprimates see his "Monkey Fairness" in dence and research conducted by Primates and Philosophers, pp. 44-49. likely to help us solv.e these dilemmas. 0 The New York Review'

rather than rules of conduct hardwired in the human brain. In presupposing that the innate content of morality must be a set of principles-however abstract and culturally variable-Hauser departs from the account of the moral sense presented by Hurne. He,does so partly under the influence oJ John Rawls, He writes:

other primate scientists, he criticizes the understanding of morality pre-

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