ANIMAL PASSIONS AND BEASTLY VIRTUES: COGNITIVE ETHOLOGY AS THE UNIFYING SCIENCE FOR UNDERSTANDING THE SUBJECTIVE, EMOTIONAL, EMPATHIC, AND MORAL LIVES OF ANIMALS

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Abstract

Abstract. In this essay, my response to four papers that were presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in a session devoted to my research on animal behavior and cognitive ethology, I stress the importance of interdisciplinary research and collaboration for coming to terms with various aspects of animal behavior and animal cognition. I argue that we have much to learn from other animals concerning a set of “big” questions including who we are in the grand scheme of things, the role science (“science sense”) plays in our understanding of the world in which we live, what it means to “know” something, what some other ways of knowing are and how they compare to what we call “science,” and the use of anecdotes and anthropomorphism to inform studies of animal behavior. I ask, Are other minds really all that private and inaccessible? Can a nonhuman animal be called a person? What does the future hold if we continue to dismantle the only planet we live on and persecute the other animal beings with whom we are supposed to coexist? I argue that cognitive ethology is the unifying science for understanding the subjective, emotional, empathic, and moral lives of animals, because it is essential to know what animals do, think, and feel as they go about their daily routines in the company of their friends and when they are alone. It is also important to learn why both the similarities and differences between humans and other animals have evolved. The more we come to understand other animals, the more we will appreciate them as the amazing beings they are, and the more we will come to understand ourselves.

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