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Dogs: Man’s Ethical Ancestors?

Written by PETA | March 23, 2010

Dogs at play


Socrates and Aristotle, make way for Fido and Rover. According to a new theory of ethics, the social order of dogs, wolves, and coyotes may be the best source of insight into the roots of human morality.

After years of closely analyzing the ways in which dogs play with each other, Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce—whose new book Wild Justice is slated for a May release—concluded that dogs follow a rigid code that prevents their seemingly violent play from becoming a fight. By bowing to each other, showing signs of apology, and adapting their strength to the abilities of their playmates, dogs safely control themselves when they play, promoting fairness and preventing injuries. Bekoff and Pierce claim that the “moral intelligence” of dogs, “probably closely resembles that of our early human ancestors. And it may have been just this sense of right and wrong that allowed human societies to flourish and spread across the world.”

Dogs frequently risk their lives to save their canine friends and their human companions. Seriously—you think you trained your dog well? What does it mean that it’s really dogs who have trained us?

Written by Logan Scherer

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  • Edel says:

    Great comments Anna Brien and Hugo. I adore both Bekoff and Socrates! Check out this great link httpplato.stanford.eduentriescognitionanimal Note the Masserman 1964 study in which neither rats nor rhesus monkeys would harm each other even when they had much more at stake than humans did in the infamous Milgram experiment at Yale 1963.

  • Hugo says:

    To be fair to Socrates he did make the point himself regarding dogs as raw models for humans. In The Republic by Plato Book II he is quoted as saying “Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian besides the spirited nature need to have the qualities of a philosopher? I do not apprehend your meaning. The trait of which I am speaking I replied may be also seen in the dog and is remarkable in the animal. What trait? Why a dog whenever he sees a stranger is angry when an acquaintance he welcomes him although the one has never done him any harm nor the other any good. Did this never strike you as curious? The matter never struck me before but I quite recognize the truth of your remark. And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming your dog is a true philosopher. Why? Why because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance? Most assuredly. And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom which is philosophy?”

  • Jay says:

    The thought that dogs and cats my opinion horses also have fantastic ethics to follow came often in my mind.

  • Brien Comerford says:

    Humans should be eternally indebted to dogs and horses for all the assistance they have given us for centuries.

  • Anna says:

    I adore Marc Bekoff.I would recommend his other great books about animals to everyone.