The biological roots of morality

Biology and Philosophy 2 (3):235-252 (1987)
The question whether ethical behavior is biologically determined may refer either to thecapacity for ethics (e.i., the proclivity to judge human actions as either right or wrong), or to the moralnorms accepted by human beings for guiding their actions. My theses are: (1) that the capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature; and (2) that moral norms are products of cultural evolution, not of biological evolution.Humans exhibits ethical behavior by nature because their biological makeup determines the presence of the three necessary, and jointly sufficient, conditions for ethical behavior: (i) the ability to anticipate the consequences of one's own actions; (ii) the ability to make value judgements; and (iii) the ability to choose between alternative courses of action. Ethical behavior came about in evolution not because it is adaptive in itself, but as a necessary consequece of man's eminent intellectual abilities, which are an attribute directly promoted by natural selection.
Keywords Sociobiology  evolutionary ethics  ethical behavior  norms of morality  animal ethics
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DOI 10.1007/BF00128831
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Edward O. Wilson (2000). Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.

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