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“The Age of Empathy”

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder SocietyFrans de Waal brings out the humane side of mankind in our mammalian, four-legged cousins by arguing that the only way to save ourselves is to act more like the animals we cage, extort, and kill. Jeff Warren of the Globe & Mail says, “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 columnist aspirations of his own, and his frequent – usually thoughtful and balanced, occasionally facile – digressions on morality and U.S. politics read like boilerplate New York Times editorials.” While de Waal’s claims in “The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society” (Harmony) may be controversial, he is suggesting not that humans are inherently selfish, competitive, or greedy but that we propagate these notions willingly even when they are not supported by scientific evidence and research. Robert Lee Hotz of The Wall Street Journal has this to say about the book:

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 that our brains are built to feel another’s pain.

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