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The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Societyby Frans de Waal
Synopses & Reviews
A pioneer in primate studies, Frans de Waal sees our better side in chimps, especially our capacity for empathy. In his research, Dr. de Waal has gathered ample evidence that our ability to identify with another's distress — a catalyst for compassion and charity — has deep roots in the origin of our species. It is a view independently reinforced by recent biomedical studies showing that our brains are built to feel another's pain.
—Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal
“It’s hard to feel the pain of the next guy. First, you have to notice that he exists…then realize that he has different thoughts than you…and different emotions…and that he needs help…and that you should help because you’d like the same done for you…and, wait, did I remember to lock the car?…and… Empathy is often viewed as requiring cognitive capacities for things like theory of mind, perspective taking and the golden rule, implying that empathy is pretty much limited to humans, and is a fairly fragile phenomenon in us. For decades, Frans de Waal has generated elegant data and thinking that show that this is wrong. In this superb book, he shows how we are not the only species with elements of those cognitive capacities, empathy is as much about affect as cognition, and our empathic humanity has roots far deeper than our human-ness.”
—Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and A Primate’s Memoir
The lessons of the economic meltdown, Hurricane Katrina, and other disasters may not be what you think: Biologically, humans are not selfish animals. For that matter, neither are animals, writes the engaging Frans de Waal, a psychology professor with proof positive that, like other creatures who hang out in herds, we've evolved to be empathetic. We don't just hear a scream, it chills us to the bone; when we see a smile, we answer with one of our own. THE AGE OF EMPATHY offers advice to cutthroat so-called realists: Listen to your inner ape.
—O, The Oprah Magazine
Freshly topical….a corrective to the idea that all animals—human and otherwise—are selfish and unfeeling to the core.
Without question, de Waal’s essential findings should become part of mainstream conversation. But we need to go further by joining them with a radical political analysis, one that spells out the cultural mechanisms that give rise to an empathy-deficient society. Only then can we reclaim the continuity of morality that emerges so eloquently from these pages.
—Gary Olson, The Baltimore Chronicle
De Waal, a renowned primatologist, knows the territory firsthand. He writes clearly and plays fair; he takes on the strongest arguments against him and is quick to acknowledge complexity. His book is popular science as it should be, far superior to the recent spate of “Darwin made me do it” books that purport to explain (or explain away) our behavior.
—Edward Dolnick, Bookforum
De Waal is an excellent tour guide, refreshingly literate outside his field, deft at stitching bits of philosophy and anthropology into the narrative. He is also pleasingly opinionated; he seems to have columnis
From an internationally renowned authority on primatology and psychology comes a fascinating investigation of empathy in both humans and animals.
"An important and timely message about the biological roots of human kindness."
About the Author
FRANS DE WAAL is a Dutch-born biologist who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the world's best-known primatologists, de Waal is C. H. Candler professor of psychology and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, Time selected him as one of the World's 100 Most Influential People.
Table of Contents
Biology, left and right — The other Darwinism — Bodies talking to bodies — Someone else's shoes — The elephant in the room — Fair is fair — Crooked timber.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General