Monkey Demands Equal Pay for Equal Work (fairness, compassion, morality)

Above is a look at an interesting and important experiment excerpted from Frans de Waal’s Ted Talk on Moral Behavior in Animals.

It is obvious from this clip that animals have at the very least a contextual conception of what is a fair return for their efforts. And it is also obvious that they have a sense of subjectivity and objectivity—note how after the unequal pay is noticed, the capuchin monkey tests the next rock before giving it to the researcher and finds that it is indeed a rock and that the fault is not at its end of the transaction—and use them to make sense of the world.

If you watch the whole video below (or at the link in the first paragraph), you will see that what we call morality is firmly rooted in fairness and compassion, that fairness and compassion are necessary for prolonged social interaction and therefore necessary for any species that exists as a social group. And that therefore morality had its beginnings long before we humans appeared on the scene.

This devastates two common beliefs about morality: 1. that it is arbitrated by some invisible sky being, 2. that there is no objective standard of morality, that it is relative and that actions can only be judged in the context of the cultures of the individuals engaged in those actions. Neither belief is true, and, as a species, we would be best served by discarding both of them totally.

Moral Behavior in Animals


About John MacKenzie

I'll mumble for ya. Poetry, plus most things quantifiable: science, neuroscience, memory, epistemology, baseball. And so on.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Consciousness, Epistemology, Neuroscience, Science, Things to think about and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Monkey Demands Equal Pay for Equal Work (fairness, compassion, morality)

  1. Pingback: Compassion, Intelligence and Evolution

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