Animal Morality and Human Morality

  • Bert Musschenga
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 31)


Nowadays many people attribute a morality to various social animal species, morality that goes far beyond ‘morality’ in the sense of an analogous system for the regulation of social behaviour. They are convinced by the huge amount of observations and stories collected by students of animal behaviour, and presented to them in popularizing books by authors such as Marc Bekoff, Marc Hauser, and Frans de Waal. The definition of morality from which criteria for classifying a system for the regulation of social behaviour as a morality must be derived is discussed in Sect. 6.2. Section 6.3 categorizes the moral behaviour patterns of animals identified by animal behavioural scientists in four clusters. Section 6.4 deals with what capacities are needed for moral behaviour. Sections 6.5 and 6.6 consider when behaviour can be said to be rule governed. In Sect. 6.7, I examine whether animals can have moral motives. Section 6.8 goes into the occurrence of social disapproval as a criterion for norm violation. Section 6.9 discusses the relation between animal morality and human morality, and argues that animal morality regulates behaviour automatically and unconsciously. However, a large part also of human morality is non-reflective and functions in the same manner as animal morality. In contradistinction to animal morality, human morality makes use of both System I processes and System II processes and can be both non-reflective and reflective. Section 6.10 contains some reflections on the moral status of animals belonging to a species that has a morality. Section 6.11 offers some concluding remarks.


Moral Status Moral Agent Moral Norm Moral Behaviour Moral Rule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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