Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 891-904

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Moral ape philosophy

  • Jelle de BoerAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of AmsterdamDelft University of Technology Email author 


Our closest relative the chimpanzee seems to display proto-moral behavior. Some scholars emphasize the similarities between humans and chimpanzees, others some key differences. This paper aims is to formulate a set of intermediate conditions between a sometimes helpful chimpanzee and moral man. I specify these intermediate conditions as requirements for the chimpanzees, and for each requirement I take on a verificationist stance and ask what the empirical conditions that satisfy it would be. I ask what would plausibly count as the behavioral correlate of each requirement, when implemented. I take a philosophical look at morality using the chimpanzees as a prism. We will talk of propositional attitudes, rationality and reason in relation to the chimps. By means of the chimps I intend to arrive at a notion of objective morality as conceived from a first person point of view in terms of propositional attitudes and reasons.


Chimpanzees Morality Frans de Waal Creature construction