by Greg Mayer
WEIT readers know that cats are a frequent subject of posts here, and that the origin of the moral sentiment is another, although not quite as frequent, subject. The two topics have occasionally joined hands, mostly in the person (?feline) of my cat Peyton (see here and here). Well, it turns out dogs can have a moral sense too. PZ Myers has a wonderful video of a dog in Chile going out into a busy highway to rescue another dog which has been hit by a car.
Actually, despite our well-known ailurophilia (digression: OED take note– you don’t have this word yet!) here at WEIT, we’ve long known that dogs have rudimentary moral sentiments, and Darwin included observations of his dogs (the second of which was named Bob) in his writings on the subject (see here, especially chap. 3, and here both links are to The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online). A sample (Descent, vol. 1, p. 77):
I have myself seen a dog, who never passed a great friend of his, a cat which lay sick in a basket, with-out giving her a few licks with his tongue, the surest sign of kind feeling in a dog.
Here’s a review on the subject Matthew did a couple of years ago, entitled “Are mammals moral?”, for the Times (the Times, not the New York Times).