Wild Sex

Sex among members of species other than ours is one of the topics that primatologist Franz de Waal addresses on Freakonomics.  The informative article has comments on a number of subjects, including animal rhythm, animals who won’t cooperate when rewards are unequal and, most of all, bonobo sex, which is plentiful, clearly “bi” and serves a lot of different purposes. 

In addition, thanks to the Neuroethics and Law blog, we have the link to de Waal’s site about elephant self-recognition.  Not many species recognize themselves in  mirrors.  Cats, for example, don’t.  That elephants do may reveal something about the evolution of social animals.

All this is worth reading, and is full of the sorts of useful details for philosophy classes.  It’s also handy for throwing cold water on convictions about what is natural.


8 thoughts on “Wild Sex

  1. Cool stuff! I put together an Intro syllabus that might be subtitled `Epistemology and Ethics Before and After Darwin’, and de Waal et al.’s Morally evolved plays a pretty prominent role in the ethics half, in part because the essays are all thoughtful but accessible.

  2. Moumena, please do let us know if the syllabus goes up on a public available site. It sounds really interesting.

  3. I’ll just post the draft: voilà.

    Because it’s not obvious, I’ll add that the last page is a `defense’ of the syllabus we’re required to write for the committee in the School of Liberal Arts that has to review the content of our Intro courses. And I’ll also add that I’m not happy with the prevalence of Dead White Guys. I wanted to put together an Intro syllabus that’s both (a) accessible and (b) at most 50% DWGs, but I couldn’t figure out how to do with without (c) spending the whole time on ethics/political philosophy. I certainly would enjoy (c), but it wouldn’t fly in an Intro course here.

  4. Noumena, the link doesn’t work. O dear. Could you try sending a link through “contact us”?

  5. Thanks, counterfnord!

    Noumena, that’s a great syllabus. I really like the tone and content of your remarks. You might think of putting in some of Descartes and Princess Elizabeth’s (or ‘Elisabeth’s’) correspondence. She’s great on the mind-body. There’s a nice selection of PrE from Margaret Wilson’s old Descartes Reader.

  6. Thanks!

    Princess Elisabeth would work nicely — if I had any interest in actually talking about dualism. But I’m really much more interested in Descartes’ method of enquiry than the conclusions he thinks you can get out of it. I’m actually considering pulling The Meditations out entirely or almost entirely, in favour of parts of the Discourse on Method and the first chapter of Penny Maddy’s Second philosophy (where she gives a nice overview of the Method of Doubt that dovetails with the very Dewey-esque critique of her second chapter).

    Actually, now that I think about it, maybe just the Discourse and the first two Meditations for the first Descartes week, and Maddy’s first chapter the second Descartes week. That would put another woman on the syllabus, and I wouldn’t have to talk about dualism or god. Hmmm …

  7. Noumena: Interesting idea. It’s an elegant solution.

    Could I nonetheless point out that Descartes on the mind-body is one historical reason why de Waal’s work appears to so many of us as surprising?

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