What could be more important these days than understanding compassion: How it works and when it fails, how to persuade people that being tuned to the needs of others is actually in everyone’s personal self-interest? Despite the reputation compassion has for seeming “softhearted,” its benefits are based on well-studied mathematics and neuroscience, as well as evolutionary biology. Society can’t survive without a sense of fairness. And a sense of empathy informs all great art.
Can apes apologize? Can monkeys mourn their dead? Darwinian feminist and biological anthropologist Amy Parish, a world expert on our closest living relatives—bonobos—will take us into the lives of (other) primates and explore how empathy and fairness work in monkeys and apes. She’ll show some striking examples, including the classic case of when a cucumber is enough—until someone else gets a grape. She’ll navigate the nature/nurture divide, addressing contentious topics like morality, shame, ethics—the roots of our capacity to show compassion. We may even get a chance to watch monkeys act as midwives.