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Empathy more common in animals than thought?

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From ScienceDaily:

A new study reveals that prairie voles console loved ones who are feeling stressed — and it appears that the infamous “love hormone,” oxytocin, is the underlying mechanism. Until now, consolation behavior has only been documented in a few nonhuman species with high levels of sociality and cognition, such as elephants, dolphins and dogs. More.

One difficulty with discussing such issues is anthropomorphism, that is, ascribing states of mind to animals that are probably unique to humans.

Animals doubtless have empathy; after all, tortoises can put upended tortoises back on their feet. But reason and moral sense are different from empathy, in that they require some level of abstraction.

Moral sense, for example, may compel the view that one ought to help even when one does not feel like it. One is not forced to help but rather feels it as a duty. And there may not be much oxytocin on offer.

See also: Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds

and

Animal minds: In search of the minimal self

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One Reply to “Empathy more common in animals than thought?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    .. as was thought by whom ? Empathy is empathy, News, imho.

    Free will doesn’t have to come into it. Indeed, even with the freely-given assent of their will, along with everything else they possess, physical and spiritual, Christians have to rely on divine grace. Jesus did hold up the street-dogs as exemplars of, at least, minimal empathy, in order to shame the rich man in the Parable of Lazarus.

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