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Humanity in Animals

The Evolution of Empathy, Altruism, and Even the Soul

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Illustration Credit: Best Friend by Anna Magrudeer

Capt. Stansbury found on a salt lake in Utah an old and completely blind pelican, which was very fat, and must have been well fed for a long time by his companions.  […]  Mr. Blyth, as he informs me, saw Indian crows feeding two or three of their companions which were blind; and I have heard of an analogous case with the domestic cock. I have myself seen a dog, who never passed a cat who lay sick in a basket, and was a great friend of his, without giving her a few licks with his tongue, the surest sign of kind feeling in a dog. […] Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts, which in us would be called moral.”Thus wrote Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century.  If we observe that 150 years earlier, Descartes and Malebranche declared confidently that animals were nothing more than “unconscious automatons, possessing neither thought, nor sensitivity, nor mental life of any kind,” we can see how far we had come by Darwin’s time.Since then, studies have emerged that shed light on the wealth of animals’ mental lives.  As Jane Goodall, F …

Matthieu Ricard is a renowned Buddhist monk and international best-selling author. This excerpt was adapted from his new book, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. Copyright (c) 2015 by Matthieu Ricard. All rights reserved. 


This entry is tagged with:
AnimalsSoulCompassionAwarenessEmpathy

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