I just received a copy of a new book edited by Emory University professor Dr. Jonathan Crane called Beastly Morality: Animals as Ethical Agents (the Kindle edition can be found here). I have an essay in this book so I knew about its existence and I have been sort of impatiently awaiting its publication because as you can see from its table of contents, it is a fascinating and comprehensive forward-looking and wide-ranging read. Numerous different topics that center on nonhuman animal (animal) cognition, emotions, and moral behavior are discussed in many different species by scholars representing many different disciplines. The book's description lays out precisely what Beastly Morality is all about.
We have come to regard nonhuman animals as beings of concern, and we even grant them some legal protections. But until we understand animals as moral agents in and of themselves, they will be nothing more than distant recipients of our largesse. Featuring original essays by philosophers, ethicists, religionists, and ethologists, including Marc Bekoff, Frans de Waal, and Elisabetta Palagi, this collection demonstrates the ability of animals to operate morally, process ideas of good and bad, and think seriously about sociality and virtue.
Envisioning nonhuman animals as distinct moral agents marks a paradigm shift in animal studies, as well as philosophy itself. Drawing not only on ethics and religion but also on law, sociology, and cognitive science, the essays in this collection test long-held certainties about moral boundaries and behaviors and prove that nonhuman animals possess complex reasoning capacities, sophisticated empathic sociality, and dynamic and enduring self-conceptions. Envisioning nonhuman animals as distinct moral agents marks a paradigm shift in animal studies, as well as philosophy itself. Drawing not only on ethics and religion but also on law, sociology, and cognitive science, the essays in this collection test long-held certainties about moral boundaries and behaviors and prove that nonhuman animals possess complex reasoning capacities, sophisticated empathic sociality, and dynamic and enduring self-conceptions. Rather than claim animal morality is the same as human morality, this book builds an appreciation of the variety and character of animal sensitivities and perceptions across multiple disciplines, moving animal welfarism in promising new directions.
Having now read the essays in Beastly Morality my expectations have been more than surpassed. Not only are the essays accessible, but they also show how much we can learn about other animals if we pay attention to what we have learned about their cognitive/intellectual, emotional, and moral lives. Jane Goodall notes, "Beastly Morality is a wide-ranging, scholarly, and forward-looking book that will surely cause many people to think about animals in new and more respectful ways," and University of Notre Dame Professor Celia Deane-Drummond writes, "This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. It does not just bring together scholars from across the academy interested in questions about the animal but also shows the synergistic benefits of intense discussions among philosophers, ethologists, and experts from diverse religious traditions. The reader is caught up in wave after wave of arguments that will challenge current thinking on the status and significance of other animals. The depth and level of inquiry is impressive while still being accessible for the nonspecialist. This book is radical in the very best sense of the word, serious scholarship combined with far reaching ethical implications."
So, if you're looking for the latest information about animal cognition, emotions, and morality, this is the book for you. It would be perfect for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in biology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and religious studies, and those people working on legal issues concerning other animals will find a gold mine of information. Non-researchers as well will find much in Beastly Morality for fascinating discussions.
I'm sure that after reading this excellent book one's views of animals will change for the better, and this will also involve treating them with more respect and dignity when we recognize them as the fascinating beings who they truly are.
Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). (marcbekoff.com; @MarcBekoff)