Traditionally, discussions of moral participation – and in particular moral agency – have focused on fully formed human actors. There has been some interest in the development of morality in humans, as well as interest in cultural differences when it comes to moral practices, commitments, and actions. However, until relatively recently there has been little focus on the possibility that nonhuman animals have any role to play in morality, save being the object of moral concern. Moreover, when nonhuman cases are considered as evidence of moral agency or subjecthood, there has been a tendency to focus on higher-order moral behaviors (i.e., those same behaviors that inform our views about human moral agency). If we are to understand the evolution of moral psychology and moral practice, then this relative lack of attention to the practices of other animals and this persistent focus on the moral instead of the normative have been great oversights.
A biologically responsible way of examining the distribution of moral practice in other animals starts from considering the distribution of normative practice across species. Drawing on the work of psychologists and anthropologists, the normative foundations of morality across humans demonstrates that some animals—chimpanzees and cetaceans in particular—demonstrate many of the moral foundations that indicate the existence of a cognitive modality I call naïve normativity.