11 April 2012

'The pillars of morality...

...are reciprocity (fairness) and empathy (compassion).'

There is little new in this presentation if you're already familiar with Frans de Waal's work but it's a nice introduction if you're not:

Men, in spite of all their morality, would never have been better than monsters, if nature had not given them pity to assist reason. Indeed, what is generosity, what clemency, what humanity, but pity applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to the human species in general?...It is this pity which hurries us without reflection to the assistance of those we see in distress; it is this pity which, in a state of nature, stands for laws, for manners, for virtue, with this advantage, that no one is tempted to disobey her sweet and gentle voice.
-- from On the Inequality of Man by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (and quoted by Timoth Pachirat in Every Twelve Seconds)

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