Edited by Benjamin James Fraser (Australian National University)
|Summary||This category includes work on two main questions: (1) Can morality be given an evolutionary explanation? (2) What implications for moral philosophy would such an explanation have?
Work addressing (1) must clearly specify the explanatory target. An important challenge here is to distinguish morality from related notions: altruism (biological and psychological), cooperation, prosocial emotions, and the capacity to follow norms more generally. Such work must also specify the relevant evolutionary mechanism(s). Options include kin selection, reciprocity, cultural group selection, sexual selection, costly signaling, and evolutionary constraint or accident. A useful broad distinction here is between adaptationist accounts, on which morality was selected for, and non-adaptationist accounts, on which morality is a by-product of some other trait(s).
Work addressing (2) can be divided into that which considers implications for normative ethics, and for metaethics. The former is widely claimed to fall foul of the is/ought gap and the naturalistic fallacy, but the latter is immune to such charges (whatever they ultimately amount to). Work of the latter sort can be roughly but usefully divided into vindicating and debunking accounts. On the former, an evolutionary explanation for morality is at least compatible with - and may even positively support - the existence of moral facts and our possession of moral knowledge. On the latter, such an explanation somehow undermines morality, by giving reason to doubt the existence of moral facts, or our reliability as moral judgment makers, or both.
|Key works||Ruse & Wilson 1986 made an early, flawed but still instructive attempt to link evolutionary biology with moral philosophy. More recently, Kitcher 2005 and Joyce 2006 have offered adaptationist accounts of the evolution of morality; see Prinz 2008 for a non-adaptationist account. Kahane 2011 provides a useful framework for considering the metaethical implications of an evolutionary explanation for morality. Joyce 2006 and Street 2006 are two prominent evolutionary debunkers of morality. For a vindicating account, see Copp 2008.|
|Introductions||Encyclopedia entries include Fitzpatrick 2008 and Schroeder 2002. For article-length overviews of the empirical and metaethical issues, see Allchin 2009 and Levy 2010, respectively. For a book-length treatment, see James 2011.|
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