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Gregory Tague: An Ape Ethic and the Question of Personhood

Great apes are moral individuals by virtue of their land ethic as eco-system engineers. With their social values, great apes are the 'good' eco-engineers, not humans.

MARC BEKOFF: Gregory Tague’s book ‘An Ape Ethic and the Question of Personhood’… argues that great apes are moral individuals because they engage in a land ethic as ecosystem engineers to generate ecologically sustainable biomes for themselves and other species. Tague shows that we need to recognize apes as eco-engineers in order to save them and their habitats, and that in so doing, we will ultimately save earth’s biosphere… Dr. Tague is professor of English/interdisciplinary studies and founder and senior developer of The Evolutionary Studies Collaborative at St. Francis College…

In his book, Dr. Tague states: Some philosophers are still a bit reluctant to grant moral agency to non-human species, in spite of the evidence. This comes from a variety of misinformation: animals are not rational; they don’t really have full self- or other-awareness; they don’t have a “belief” system, etc. As opposed to looking at “animals” from the outside in, I try to look from the inside out. In this way, I view apes as “moral individuals.” I address the question of moral concerns and whether they reside only in a “rational” human sphere. In light of what we know, moral query is evident in children and animals.

So now I am suggesting that great apes are moral individuals by virtue of their land ethic as ecosystem engineers. With their social values, great apes are the “good” eco-engineers, not humans. A virtue ethicist might wonder how successful any human/top-down tactic has been in the battle for animal rights, e.g., either a neo-Kantian or consequentialist method. My tactic is different. Isn’t it time to look at “moral” behavior in the animal world from the inside out in line with thinking from eco-psychology and embodied cognition, from angles such as gestalt and Umwelt? Are apes fully aware of this? They don’t have to be. Look at the net effect of their social behavior, plant-based food resourcing, evolved birth intervals, and tool use. SOURCE…

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