UserpicCan Animals Be Moral?

My latest book - Can Animals Be Moral?  (Oxford University Press) - is apparently out and about. Here it is:

And the blurb from the OUP website:


From eye-witness accounts of elephants apparently mourning the death of family members to an experiment that showed that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food if doing so gave another monkey an electric shock, there is much evidence of animals displaying what seem to be moral feelings. But despite such suggestive evidence, philosophers steadfastly deny that animals can act morally, and for reasons that virtually everyone has found convincing. 

In Can Animals be Moral?, philosopher Mark Rowlands examines the reasoning of philosophers and scientists on this question--ranging from Aristotle and Kant to Hume and Darwin--and reveals that their arguments fall far short of compelling. The basic argument against moral behavior in animals is that humans have capabilities that animals lack. We can reflect on our motivations, formulate abstract principles that allow that allow us to judge right from wrong. For an actor to be moral, he or she must be able scrutinize their motivations and actions. No animal can do these things--no animal is moral. Rowland naturally agrees that humans possess a moral consciousness that no animal can rival, but he argues that it is not necessary for an individual to have the ability to reflect on his or her motives to be moral. Animals can't do all that we can do, but they can act on the basis of some moral reasons--basic moral reasons involving concern for others. And when they do this, they are doing just what we do when we act on the basis of these reasons: They are acting morally.


This book defends a very controversial thesis: animals can act morally.


"Mark Rowlands is one of the rarest creatures today: a genuine intellectual, a fearless interrogator, and a frighteningly capable person who can who can turn his attention to practically any subject and provide insightful commentary.... Can Animals Be Moral? is a brilliant book, superbly written with wit and panache--it will be remembered as a classic."--Andrew Linzey, Director, Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics 

"In his well-argued book that blends philosophical inquiry with empirical data, Mark Rowlands argues that animals can and sometimes do act for moral reasons. I couldn't agree more. People with varying interests will find this book to be a welcomed addition to their required reading list. Despite having been long interested in the moral lives of animals, I learned a lot from this wide-ranging book."--Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, Boulder, author (with Jessica Pierce) of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals 

"Rowlands carves out a space where animals can act for moral reasons without being as self-reflective (or self-congratulatory) as humans sometimes are. With clear-headed thinking, he maps out the terrain where ethics, philosophy of mind, and cognitive ethology meet. This book will be an indispensable to everyone concerned about justifying moral respect for animals."--Colin Allen, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University 

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