David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Biology and Philosophy 11 (1):21-31 (1996)
A familiar position regarding the evolution of ethics is that biology can explain the origin of morals but that in doing so it removes the possibility of their having objective justification. This position is set fourth in detail in the writings of Michael Ruse (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990a, 1990b) but it is also taken by many others, notably, Jeffrie Murphy (1982), Andrew Oldenquist (1990), and Allan Gibbard (1990), I argue the contrary view that biology provides a justification of the existence of morals which is objective in the sense of being independent of people's moral views and their particular desires and preferences. Ironically, my argument builds on the very premises which are supposed to undermine the objectivity of morals. But my argument stops short of claiming that biology can give us a basis for justifying some particular system of morals. Drawing on an analogy with social contract theory, I offer a general reason why this more ambitious project cannot be expected to succeed if the argument is pursued along the same lines. Finally, I give reasons why the possibility of objective justification for a particular morality cannot be ruled out in general on evolutionary grounds.
|Keywords||Morality evolution justification objectivity|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Allan Gibbard (1990). Wise Choices, Apt Feelings: A Theory of Normative Judgment. Harvard University Press.
Richard B. Brandt (1998). A Theory of the Good and the Right. Prometheus Books.
Michael Ruse (1986/1998). Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophy. Prometheus Books.
Robert Richards (1989). Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior. Journal of the History of Biology 22 (2):361-367.
Michael Ruse (1973). The Philosophy of Biology. London,Hutchinson.
Citations of this work BETA
David Copp (2008). Darwinian Skepticism About Moral Realism. Philosophical Issues 18 (1):186-206.
Victor Kumar & Richmond Campbell (2012). On the Normative Significance of Experimental Moral Psychology. Philosophical Psychology 25 (3):311-330.
Richard Joyce (2006). Metaethics and the Empirical Sciences. Philosophical Explorations 9 (1):133 – 148.
Mason Cash (2008). Thoughts and Oughts. Philosophical Explorations 11 (2):93 – 119.
John Lemos (1999). Bridging the Is/Ought Gap with Evolutionary Biology: Is This a Bridge Too Far? Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (4):559-577.
Similar books and articles
John Collier & Michael Stingl (2013). Evolutionary Moral Realism. Biological Theory 7 (3):218-226.
James A. Ryan (1997). Taking the 'Error' Out of Ruse's Error Theory. Biology and Philosophy 12 (3):385-397.
William F. Harms (2000). Adaptation and Moral Realism. Biology and Philosophy 15 (5):699-712.
Peter Woolcock (1993). Ruse's Darwinian Meta-Ethics: A Critique. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 8 (4):423-439.
Michael Ruse (2010). The Biological Sciences Can Act as a Ground for Ethics. In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell Pub.
John Collier & Michael Stingl (1993). Evolutionary Naturalism and the Objectivity of Morality. Biology and Philosophy 8 (1):47-60.
Peter G. Woolcock (2000). Objectivity and Illusion in Evolutionary Ethics: Comments on Waller. Biology and Philosophy 15 (1):39-60.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads34 ( #94,254 of 1,725,444 )
Recent downloads (6 months)3 ( #211,098 of 1,725,444 )
How can I increase my downloads?