How can the discoveries made in the biological sciences play a role in a discussion on the foundation of ethics? This book responds to this question by examining how evolutionism can explain and justify the existence of ethical normativity and the emergence of particular moral systems. Written by a team of philosophers and scientists, the essays collected in this volume deal with the limits of evolutionary explanations, the justifications of ethics, and methodological issues concerning evolutionary accounts of ethics, (...) among other topics. They offer deep insights into the origin and purpose of human moral capacities and of moral systems. (shrink)
Evolutionary ethics (EE) is a branch of philosophy that arouses both fascination and deep suspicion. It claims that Darwinian mechanisms and evolutionary data on animal sociality are relevant to ethical reflection. This field of study is often misunderstood and rarely fails to conjure up images of Social Darwinism as a vector for nasty ideologies and policies. However, it is worth resisting the temptation to reduce EE to Social Darwinism and developing an objective analysis of whether it is appropriate (...) to adopt an evolutionary approach in ethics. The purpose of this article is to ‘dedemonise’ EE while exploring its limits. I shall begin by presenting two ways of integrating a Darwinian way of thinking into the context of social and political sciences : Social Darwinism and what one could label ‘Pro-social Darwinism’. Next I will point out some of the fundamental errors on which Social Darwinism is grounded; this will help in understanding why contemporary evolutionary ethicists cannot possibly hold the views defended by this theory (unless they are inclined to intellectual dishonesty). On the contrary, EE seems more akin to a Pro-social Darwinian approach, except for the fact that it restricts its reflections to theoretical ethics. The second part of the paper (sections 3 to 7) provides a clear and detailed picture of EE as well as an analysis of its relevance at the different levels of ethics (descriptive, meta-, normative and practical). Special focus will be given to questions relating to the genesis of morals and the delicate shift from facts to norms. (shrink)
The development of modern evolutionary ethics began shortly after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. Early discussions were plagued by several problems. First, evolutionary ethical explanations were dependent on group-selection accounts of social behavior (especially the explanation of altruism). Second, they seem to violate the philosophical principle that “ought” statements cannot be derived from “is” statements alone (values cannot be derivedfrom facts alone). Third, evolutionary ethics appeared to be biologically deterministic, (...) deemed incompatible with the free will required for ethics to be possible. Fourth, social policies based on evolutionary theory (for example, eugenics in the early part of this century) seemed patently unethical. Sociobiology (which coalesced as a field of study with Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, 1975) addressed several of these problems and provided a rich framework and a new impetus for evolutionary ethics. The lingering problems were the philosophical is-ought barrier and biological determinism. After tracing the early and more recent development of evolutionary ethics, I argue that the remaining problems can be surmounted and an incipient evolutionary ethics can be defended. Thoroughgoing evolutionaryethics must await theoretical developments in neurobiology and cognitive science. (shrink)
Introduction: Evolution and mind -- The evolution of morality -- Setting the task -- The moral brain -- The first layer : kin selection -- The second layer : reciprocal altruism -- A third layer : indirect reciprocity -- A fourth layer : cultural group selection -- A fifth layer : the moral emotions -- Conclusion: From moral grammar to moral systems -- The evolution of moral religions -- Setting the task -- The evolution of the religious mind -- Conceptualizing (...) the almighty -- The moral function of gods -- Evolutionary religious ethics : Judaism -- Setting the task -- Constructing Yahweh -- TheTen Commandments : an evolutionary interpretation -- Conclusion: The evolved law -- Evolutionary religious ethics : Christianity -- Setting the task -- Constructing the Christ -- Setting the boundaries : Christian and/or Jew? -- The third race : Christians as in-group -- Putting on Christ : Christianity's signals of commitment -- Loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek -- Religion, violence, and the evolved mind -- Setting the task -- Devoted to destruction : sanctified violence and Judaism -- The blood of the Lamb -- A case study in the evolved psychology of religious violence : 9/11/01 -- Religion evolving -- Setting the task -- Varieties of religious expressions -- If there were no God -- Religion, ethics, and violence : an assessment -- Responding to religion, ethics, and violence : some proposals. (shrink)
In his recent The Temptation of Evolutionary Ethics, Paul Farber has given a negative assessment of the last one hundred years of attempts in Anglo-American philosophy, beginning with Darwin, to develop an evolutionary ethics. Farber identifies some version of the naturalistic fallacy as one of the central sources for the failures of evolutionary ethics. For this reason, and others, Farber urges that though it has its attraction, evolutionary ethics is a temptation to be resisted. In this (...) discussion I identify three major, historically relevant forms of the naturalistic fallacy, the (1) the deductive, (2) genetic, and (3) open question forms and argue that none of them pose an intrinsic problem for evolutionary ethics. I conclude that on this score at least there is no reason to resist temptation. (shrink)
In ''''A Defense of Evolutionary Ethics'''' (1986), Robert J. Richardsendeavors to explain how moral ''oughts'' can be derived from thescience of evolutionary biology without committing the dreadednaturalistic fallacy. First, Richards assumes that ''ought'' as usedin ethical discourse bears the same meaning as ''ought'' used anywherein science, indicating merely that certain results or behaviors arepredicted based on prior structured contexts. To this extent, themoral behavior of animals, what they ''ought'' to do, could arguablybe predicted by evolutionary biology as (...) effectively as, say,molecular behavior may be predicted by chemistry. But afteracknowledging that biological inferences to this limited senseof ''ought'' were never contested by Moore''s naturalistic fallacy,Richard proposes to add to evolutionary ethics a decision procedureto determine which members of a set of predicted behaviors arethose which truly ought to occur – in the genuinelyprescriptive sense intended by ethical discourse. But theprocedure which Richards fabricates for this purpose appealsto such alleged ''facts'' as cultural conventions and moral opinionpolling, hardly a secure foundation for the sort of scientific ethics promised by Richards at the outset. (shrink)
While strolling the streets of Amsterdam, Sidney Smith, the renowned editor of the Edinburgh Review, called the attention of his companion to two Dutch housewives who were leaning out of their windows and arguing with one another across the narrow alley that separated their houses. Smith remarked to his companion that the two women would never agree. His friend thought the seasoned editor had in mind the stubborn Dutch character. No, said Smith. Rather it was because they were arguing from (...) different premises. In recent articles, Stephen Ball (1988) and Bart Voorzanger (1987) have objected strongly to my defense of evolutionary ethics. In their reconstruction of my arguments, however, they have assigned to me premises different from those upon which my original defense stood. Their objections may demolish the arguments they have reconstructed, but fortunately my theory does not reside thereon. They have made Dutch objections. (shrink)
Natural selection and human nature -- The (earliest) roots of right -- The caveman's conscience -- Just deserts -- The science of virtue and vice -- Social harmony, the good, the bad, and the biologically ugly -- Hume's law -- Moore's naturalistic fallacy -- Rethinking Moore and Hume -- Evolutionary anti-realism : early efforts -- Contemporary evolutionary anti-realism -- Options for the evolutionary realist.
I offer a critical analysis of a view that has become a dominant aspect of recent thought on the relationship between evolution and morality, and propose an alternative. An ingredient in Michael Ruse's 'error theory' (Ruse 1995) is that belief in moral (prescriptive, universal, and nonsubjective) guidelines arose in humans because such belief results in the performance of adaptive cooperative behaviors. This statement relies on two particular connections: between ostensible and intentional types of altruism, and between intentional altruism and morality. (...) The latter connection is problematic because it makes morality redundant, its role having already been fulfilled by the psychological dispositions that constitute intentional altruism. Both behavioral ecology and moral psychology support this criticism, and neither human behavioral flexibility nor the self-regard / other-regard distinction can provide a defense of the error theory. I conclude that morality did not evolve to curb rampant selfishness; instead, the evolutionarily recent 'universal law' aspect of morality may function to update behavioral strategies which were adaptive in the paleolithic environment of our ancestors (to which our psychological dispositions are best adapted), by means of norms more appropriate to our novel social environment. (shrink)
Using concepts of evolutionary game theory, this paper presents a critique of ethical intuitionism, or non-naturalism, in its cognitivist and objectivist interpretation. While epistemological considerations suggest that human rational learning through experience provides no basis for objective moral knowledge, it is argued below that modern evolutionary theory explains why this is so, i.e., why biological organisms do not evolve so as to experience objective preferences and obligations. The difference between the modes of the cognition of objective and of (...) valuative environmental attributes is explained with reference to different modes of natural selection acting on the cognitive apparatus of the organism. The negative implications are pointed out which the observable diversity of intraspecific behavioural adaptations and of cultural values has for the cognitivist, objectivist foundation of ethics. Eventually a non-cognitivist alternative to ethical intuitionism is outlined in terms of empirical authority relations, with the ritualisation of dominance-submission patterns as the evolutionary origin of human charismatic authority. (shrink)
In this book, Weikart helps unlock the mystery of Hitler’s evil by vividly demonstrating the surprising conclusion that Hitler’s immorality flowed from a coherent ethic. Hitler was inspired by evolutionary ethics to pursue the utopian project of biologically improving the human race. This ethic underlay or influenced almost every major feature of Nazi policy: eugenics (i.e., measures to improve human heredity, including compulsory sterilization), euthanasia, racism, population expansion, offensive warfare, and racial extermination.
For millennia, philosophers have speculated about the origins of ethics. Recent research in evolutionary psychology and the neurosciences has shed light on that question. But this research also has normative significance. A standard way of arguing against a normative ethical theory is to show that in some circumstances the theory leads to judgments that are contrary to our common moral intuitions. If, however, these moral intuitions are the biological residue of our evolutionary history, it is not clear why (...) we should regard them as having any normative force. Research in the neurosciences should therefore lead us to reconsider the role of intuitions in normative ethics. (shrink)
From Charles Darwin to Edward Wilson, evolutionary biologists have attempted to construct systems of evolutionary ethics. These attempts have been roundly criticized, most often for having committed the naturalistic fallacy. In this essay, I review the history of previous efforts at formulating an evolutionary ethics, focusing on the proposals of Darwin and Wilson. I then advance and defend a proposal of my own. In the last part of the essay, I try to demonstrate that my revised version (...) of evolutionary ethics: (1) does not commit the naturalistic fallacy as it is usually understood; (2) does, admittedly, derive values from facts; but (3) does not commit any fallacy in doing so. (shrink)
It seems impossible that organisms selected to maximize their genetic legacy could also be moral agents in a world in which taking risks for strangers is sometimes morally laudable. Brian Zamulinski argues that it is possible if morality is an evolutionary by-product rather than an adaptation.Evolutionary Intuitionism presents a new evolutionary theory of human morality. Zamulinski explains the evolution of foundational attitudes, whose relationships to acts constitute moral facts. With foundational attitudes and the resulting moral facts in (...) place, he shows how they ground a plausible normative morality, give answers to meta-ethical questions, and provide an account of moral motivation. He explains the nature of moral intuitions and, thus, of our access to the moral facts. He shows that the theory makes confirmed empirical predictions, including the observable variation in moral views. The combination of intuitionism and evolutionary ethics enables Zamulinski to overcome the standard objections to both.Evolutionary Intuitionism is a unified theory of human morality that explains how an objective morality could develop naturally in a physical world like ours, among organisms like us. (shrink)
Abstract - Evolutionary, ecological and ethical studies are, at the same time, specific scientific disciplines and, from an historical point of view, structurally linked domains of research. In a context of environmental crisis, the need is increasingly emerging for a connecting epistemological framework able to express a common or convergent tendency of thought and practice aimed at building, among other things, an environmental policy management respectful of the planet’s biodiversity and its evolutionary potential. -/- Evolutionary biology, ecology (...) and ethics: at first glance, three different objects of research, three different worldviews and three different scientific communities. In reality, there are both structural and historical links between these disciplines. First, some topics are obviously common across the board. Second, the emerging need for environmental policy management has gradually but radically changed the relationship between these disciplines. Over the last decades in particular, there has emerged a need for an interconnecting meta-paradigm that integrates more strictly evolutionary studies, biodiversity studies and the ethical frameworks that are most appropriate for allowing a lasting co-evolution between natural and social systems. Today such a need is more than a mere luxury, it is an epistemological and practical necessity. -/- In short, the authors of this volume address some of the foundational themes that interconnect evolutionary studies, ecology and ethics. Here they have chosen to analyze a topic using one of these specific disciplines as a kind of epistemological platform with specific links to topics from one or both of the remaining disciplines. Michael Ruse’s chapter, for instance, elucidates some of the structural links between Darwinismand ethics. Ruse analyzes the Evolutionism vs. Creationism debate, emphasizing the risks run by scientists when they ideologize the scientific content of their studies. In the case of the contributions of Jean Gayon and Jean-Marc Drouin, which respectively deal with the disciplines of evolutionary biology and ecology, some central connections have been developed between these two disciplines, while reserving the option to consider in detail their topic in order to discover essential features ormeanings. Gayon analyzes the multilayered meanings of “chance” in evolutionary studies and the methodological implications that accompany such disparatemeanings. Froma similar analytical perspective, Drouin’s contribution focuses on the identification and critical evaluation of the different conceptions of time in ecology. Chance and time, factors of evolution in species and ecological systems, play a very important function in both disciplines, and these chapters help to capture their polysemous structure and development. Bryan Norton’s chapter, on adaptive environmental management, is set within an epistemological context where the Darwinian paradigm, ecological knowledge and ethical frameworks meet to give rise to practical, conservationist policies. In his contribution, Patrick Blandin pleads for the necessity of an eco-evolutionary ethics capable of fully encompassing humanity’s responsibility in the future determination of the biosphere’s evolutionary paths. Our value systems must recognize the predominant place that humanity has taken in the evolutionary history of the planet, and integrate the ethical ramifications of scientific advances in evolutionary and ecological studies. The chapter by J. Baird Callicott introduces us to a metaphorical ecological reversion with direct consequences for our moral conduct. If ecology showed that ecosystems are not organisms, recognizing organisms as a kind of ecosystem could be the basis for a new post-modern ecological ethics that lays the foundation for a better moral integration of humans with the environment. The contributions of Robin Attfield and Tom Regan delve into some of the classical issues in environmental ethics, situating them within a broader ecological and evolutionary context. Attfield’s chapter tackles the confrontation between individualistic and ecologically holistic perspectives, their different approaches to the issue of intrinsic value, and their tangled relation to monism and pluralism. Regan’s contribution ponders the criteria that allow individual beings, human and non-human, to own moral rights, the role of the struggle for existence in the relationship between species, and the logical difficulties involved in attributing intrinsic value to collective entities (species, ecosystems). Catherine Larrère’s chapter discusses the opposition between two environmental and ethical worldviews with very different philosophical centers of gravity: nature and technology. These opposing perspectives have direct consequences not only for the perception of the problems at hand and for what entities are deemed morally significant, but also for the proposed solutions. -/- To set out some foundational events in the history of evolutionary biology, ecology and environmental ethics is a first necessary step towards a clarification of their major epistemological orientations. On the basis of this inevitably nonexhaustive history, it will be possible to better position the work of the different contributors, and to build a meta-paradigm, i.e. a connecting epistemological framework resulting from one common or convergent tendency of thought and practice shared by different disciplines. (shrink)
This paper is about the problematic interface between evolutionary scientists’ talk about ethics and current work in philosophy and theology. The paper proceeds by taking four main figures from four different disciplines. The four disciplines are neurophysiology, cognitive psychology, primatology and game theory, and the four figures are Joshua Greene, Mark Hauser, Frans de Waal and Ken Binmore. The paper relates the views of each of these figures to recent work in philosophical and theological ethics.
In this article, we describe evolutionary psychology and its potential contribution to business ethics research. After summarizing evolutionary theory and natural selection, we specifically address the use of evolutionary concepts in psychology in order to offer alternative explanations of behavior relevant to business ethics, such as social exchange, cooperation, altruism, and reciprocity. Our position is that individuals, groups, and organizations all are affected by similar natural, evolutionary processes, such that evolutionary psychology is applicable at multiple (...) levels of analysis (e.g., individual and group). We introduce a variety of experiments and instruments employed by evolutionary psychologists to illustrate how ethics-relevant cultural norms and practices evolve and are regulated, and to raise the prospect that these experiments and instruments can be useful in future business ethics research. (shrink)
Introduction: historical and critical, by J. Huxley.--Prolegomena, written by T. H. Huxley as an introd. to Evolution and ethics.--Evolution and ethics, Romanes lecture delivered by T. H. Huxley in 1893.--Evolutionary ethics, Romanes lecture delivered by J. Huxley in 1943.--The vindication of Darwinism, by J. Huxley (1945)--Conclusion, by J. Huxley.
There has been much attention devoted in recent years to the question of whether our moral principles can be related to our biological nature. This collection of new essays focuses on the connection between biology, in particular evolutionary biology, and foundational questions in ethics. The book asks such questions as whether humans are innately selfish, and whether there are particular facets of human nature that bear directly on social practices. The volume is organised historically beginning with Aristotle and covering (...) such major figures as Hume and Darwin down to the present and the work of Harvard sociobiologist, E. O. Wilson. This is the first book to offer this historical perspective on the relation of biology and ethics, and has been written by some of the leading figures in the history and philosophy of science, whose work stands very much at the cutting edge of these disciplines. (shrink)
Evolutionary ethics has recently become popular again. Some of its representatives elaborate new attempts to derive ethics from evolutionary biology. The attempts, like previous ones, fail because they commit the naturalistic fallacy. Premises from evolutionary biology together with normative premises also do not justify ethical principles. Other representatives argue that evolutionary considerations imply that ethics cannot be justified at all. Their arguments presuppose an unacceptable form of foundationalism. In principle, evolutionary biology might explain some aspects (...) of morality, but in practice explanations are hard to come by. All this does not imply that evolutionary theory is irrelevant in normative settings. To the contrary, it may help us devise guidelines in environmental policy and health care policy. It is to be hoped that evolutionary ethicists will divert their research efforts to the elaboration of such guidelines. (shrink)
Evolutionary ethics has a long history, dating all the way back to Charles Darwin.1 Almost immediately after the publication of the Origin, an immense interest arose in the moral implications of Darwinism and whether the truth of Darwinism would undermine traditional ethics. Though the biological thesis was certainly exciting, nobody suspected that the impact of the Origin would be confined to the scientific arena. As one historian wrote, 'whether or not ancient populations of armadillos were transformed into the species (...) that currently inhabit the new world was certainly a topic about which zoologists could disagree. But it was in discussing the broader implications of the theory...that tempers flared and statements were made which could transform what otherwise would have been a quiet scholarly meeting into a social scandal' (Farber 1994, 22). Some resistance to the biological thesis of Darwinism sprung from the thought that it was incompatible with traditional morality and, since one of them had to go, many thought that Darwinism should be rejected. However, some people did realize that a secular ethics was possible so, even if Darwinism did undermine traditional religious beliefs, it need not have any effects on moral thought.2 Before I begin my discussion of evolutionary ethics from Darwin to Moore, I would like to make some more general remarks about its development.3 There are three key events during this history of evolutionary ethics. First, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species (Darwin 1859). Since one did not have a fully developed theory of evolution until 1859, there exists little work on evolutionary ethics until then.4 Shortly thereafter, Herbert Spencer (1898) penned the first systematic theory of evolutionary ethics, which was promptly attacked by T.H. Huxley (Huxley 1894). Second, at about the turn of the century, moral philosophers entered the fray and attempted to demonstrate logical errors in Spencer's work; such errors were alluded to but never fully brought to the fore by Huxley. These philosophers were the well known moralists from Cambridge: Henry Sidgwick (Sidgwick 1902, 1907) and G.E. Moore (Moore 1903), though their ideas hearkened back to David Hume (Hume 1960). These criticisms were so strong that the industry of evolutionary ethics was largely abandoned (though with some exceptions) for many years.5 Third, E.O. Wilson, a Harvard entomologist, published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975 (Wilson E.O. 1975), which sparked renewed interest in evolutionary ethics and offered new directions of investigation. These events suggest the following stages for the history of evolutionary ethics: development, criticism and abandonment, revival. In this paper, I shall focus on the first two stages, since those are the ones on which the philosophical merits have already been largely decided. The revival stage is still in progress and we shall eventually find out whether it was a success. (shrink)
It is argued that the opposition of nature and ethics ought to be overcome by the cooperation of scientific and ethical studies. Beyond that, theoretical, practical and specifically political reasons suggest a serious examination of the possibilities for an ethical orientation derived from evolutionary biology. So far, however, the conceptual connexion between evolutionary facts and ethical norms appears to be insufficiently understood. Given that, suggestive connexions offered by biological thinkers need critical examination, especially of their hidden historical conditions (...) and their potentially dangerous political implications. (shrink)
In this article (1) I extract from Brentano’s works (three) formal arguments against “genealogical explanations” of ethical claims. Such explanation can also be designated as “naturalism” (not his appellation); (2) I counter these arguments, by showing how genealogical explanations of even apodictic moral claims are logically possible (albeit only if certain unlikely, stringent conditions are met); (3) I show how Nietzsche’s ethics meets these stringent conditions, but evolutionary ethics does not. My more general thesis is that naturalism and intuitionism (...) in ethics need not be mutually incompatible. (shrink)
This paper examines three specific issues raised by The Ethical Project. First, I discuss the varieties of altruism and spell out the differences between the definitions proposed by Kitcher and the ways altruism is usually conceived in biology, philosophy, psychology, and economics literature. Second, with the example of Kitcher’s account, I take a critical look at evolutionary stories of the emergence of human ethical practices. Third, I point to the revolutionary implications of the Darwinian methodology when it is thoughtfully (...) applied to ethics. (shrink)
The naturalistic fallacy is mentionedfrequently by evolutionary psychologists as anerroneous way of thinking about the ethicalimplications of evolved behaviors. However,evolutionary psychologists are themselvesconfused about the naturalistic fallacy and useit inappropriately to forestall legitimateethical discussion. We briefly review what thenaturalistic fallacy is and why it is misusedby evolutionary psychologists. Then we attemptto show how the ethical implications of evolvedbehaviors can be discussed constructivelywithout impeding evolutionary psychologicalresearch. A key is to show how ethicalbehaviors, in addition to unethical behaviors,can (...) evolve by natural selection. (shrink)
One reason for the widespread resistance to evolutionary accounts of the origins of humanity is the fear that they undermine morality: if morality is based on nothing more than evolved dispositions, it would be shown to be illusory, many people suspect. This view is shared by some philosophers who take their work on the evolutionary origins of morality to undermine moral realism. If they are right, we are faced with an unpalatable choice: to reject morality on scientific grounds, (...) or to reject our best- confirmed scientific explanation of our origins in order to save morality. Fortunately, as I show, we have no reason to accept the deflationary claims of some evolutionary ethicists: morality, as we ordinarily understand it, is fully compatible with evolution. (shrink)
Contrary to widely held assumptions, an evolutionary metaethics need not be non-cognitivist. I define evolutionary metaethics as the claim that certain phenotypic traits expressing certain genes are both necessary and sufficient for explanation of all other phenotypic traits we consider morally significant. A review of the influential cognitivist Immanuel Kants metaethics shows that much of his ethical theory is independent of the anti-naturalist metaphysics of transcendental idealism which itself is incompatible with evolutionary metaethics. By matching those independent (...) aspects to an evolutionary metaethics a cognitivist Kantian evolutionary metaethical theory is a possibility for researchers to consider. (shrink)
Human propensities that are the products of Darwinian evolution may combine to generate a form of social behavior that is not itself a direct result of such pressure. This possibility may provide a satisfying explanation for the origin of socially transmitted rules such as the incest taboo. Similarly, the regulatory processes of development that generated adaptations to the environment in the circumstances in which they evolved can produce surprising and sometimes maladaptive consequences for the individual in modern conditions. These combinatorial (...) aspects of social and developmental dynamics leave a subtle but not wholly uninteresting role for evolutionary biology in explaining the origins of human morality. (shrink)
Evolutionary Naturalism is a collection of interconnected essays on the history and philosopy of evolutionary biology written by the influential Canadian philosopher, Michael Ruse. In this book, he argues that the time has arrived to take philosophy out of the hands of the academic theorists and to fully embrace the findings and consequences of the modern sciences. These clearly written essays cover a broad range of key topics in the philosophy of science. Michael Ruse discusses several issues in (...) the history of science including Darwinism, population biology, and the paleo-ontological theory of `punctuated equilibria'. In addition, he expounds an epistemological theory which argues that our knowledge of the external world is informed by the fact that we ar evolved beings, rather than objects of special creation. Ruse maintains that our evolved state must affect our knowledge and perception of the world in which we live. Evolutionary Naturalism also contains a fierce critique of ethical systems which are rendered as no more than biologically determined collective illusions. In Evolutionary Materialism Michael Ruse forges a path between the crude objectivity espoused by many working scientists and the relativism of post-modern critiques of science. Written in a clear and non-technical style, this book provides valuable material for all those interested in the relationship between science and philosophy in the modern world. (shrink)
Robert Richards has presented a detailed defense of evolutionary ethics, a revised version of Darwin's views and a major modification of E. O. Wilson's. He contends that humans have evolved to seek the community welfare by acting altruistically. And since the community welfare is the highest moral good, humans ought to act altruistically. Richards asks us to take his empirical premises on faith and aims to show how they can justify an ethical conclusion. He identifies two necessary conditions for (...) a naturalistic justification of morality (NJ): its premises (1) must be empirical and (2) concerned with morally relevant causal factors. I argue that these two conditions are insufficient. An NJ must also appeal to teleogical or teleonomic laws which identify proper effects and reliable causes of these effects. So I supplement biological faith with an NJ that I believe has a better chance of working since faith without works is dead. (shrink)
Introduction -- Defending a socio-biological account of morality -- Non-objectivist evolutionary ethics -- Recent objectivist approaches to evolutionary ethics -- Sketch of an Aristotelian evolutionary ethics -- Evolutionary biology and the moral status of animals -- Faith, reason, and evolutionary epistemology -- Psychological egoism and evolutionary biology -- Evolution and free will : darwinian non-naturalism defended -- Recent developments in philosophy of evolution.
Elliott Sober is one of the leading philosophers of science and is a former winner of the Lakatos Prize, the major award in the field. This new collection of essays will appeal to a readership that extends well beyond the frontiers of the philosophy of science. Sober shows how ideas in evolutionary biology bear in significant ways on traditional problems in philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and metaphysics. Amongst the topics addressed are psychological egoism, solipsism, and the interpretation (...) of belief and utterance, empiricism, Ockham's razor, causality, essentialism, and scientific laws. The collection will prove invaluable to a wide range of philosophers, primarily those working in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that any adequate evolutionary ethical theory needs to account for moral belief as well as for dispositions to behave altruistically. It also needs to be clear whether it is offering us an account of the motivating reasons behind human behaviour or whether it is giving justifying reasons for a particular set of behaviours or, if both, to distinguish them clearly. I also argue that, unless there are some objective moral truths, the evolutionary ethicist (...) cannot offer justifying reasons for a set of behaviours. I use these points to refute Waller's claims that the illusion of objectivity plays a dispensable role in Ruse's theory, that my critique of Ruse's Darwinian metaethics is built on a false dilemma, that there is nothing to be distressed about if morality is not objective, and that ethical beliefs are subject to a kind of causal explanation that undermines their objectivity in a way that scientific beliefs are not. (shrink)
This stimulating and wide-ranging book mounts a profound enquiry into some of the most pressing questions of our age, by examining the relationship between biological science and Christianity. The history of biological discovery is explored from the point of view of a leading philosopher and ethicist. What effect should modern biological theory and practice have on Christian understanding of ethics? How much of that theory and practice should Christians endorse? Can Christians, for example, agree that biological changes are not governed (...) by transcendent values, or that there are no clear or essential boundaries between species? To what extent can 'Nature' set our standards? Professor Clark takes a reasoned look at biological theory since Darwin and argues that an orthodox Christian philosophy is better able to accommodate the truth of such theory than is the sort of progressive, meliorist interpretation of Christian doctrine which is usually offered as the properly 'modern' option. (shrink)
This important book brings recent findings and theories in biology and psychology to bear on the fundamental question in ethics of what it means to behave morally. It explains how we acquire and put to work our capacities to act morally and how these capacities are reliable means to achieving true moral beliefs, proper moral motivations, and successful moral actions. By presenting a complete model of moral agency based on contemporary evolutionary theory, developmental biology and psychology, and social cognitive (...) theory, the book offers a unique perspective. It will be read with profit by a broad swathe of philosophers, as well as psychologists and biologists. (shrink)
Holmes Rolston challenges the sociobiological orthodoxy that would naturalize science, ethics, and religion. The book argues that genetic processes are not blind, selfish, and contingent, and that nature is therefore not value-free. The author examines the emergence of complex biodiversity through evolutionary history. Especially remarkable in this narrative is the genesis of human beings with their capacities for science, ethics, and religion. A major conceptual task of the book is to relate cultural genesis to natural genesis. There is also (...) a general account of how values are created and transmitted in both natural and human cultural history. The book is thoroughly up-to-date on current biological thought and is written by one of the most well-respected figures in the philosophy of biology and religion. (shrink)
Evolution and ethics. Prolegomena (1894).--Evolution and ethics (1893).--Science and morals (1886).--Capital, the mother of labour (1890).--Social diseases and worse remedies (1891): Preface. The struggle for existence in human society. Letters to the Times. Legal opinions. The articles of war of the Salvation Army.
The natural evolution of ethics is commonly understood in terms of the development from the selfish struggle to survive, via prudent cooperation, to altruism. However, cooperation that is prudent in the sense of serving basically selfish interests is not really altruistic. Besides, Christian ethics should not identify morality with absolutely disinterested altruism. Self-interest is only selfish when it is disproportionate or unfair; otherwise it is morally legitimate. Therefore the natural evolution of ethics is better understood as the gradual diversification of (...) the goods in which human beings have an interest. And evidently, whatever their origins, humans do have an interest in a range of goods, not just the preservation of their genes or their kin or themselves. Therefore the reductionist, Hobbesian assumptions about human motivation that game theory makes are empirically untrue of human behaviour in general, and so the range of cases to which it applies is accordingly narrow. Rather than using biology to interpret human motivation reductionistically, we should use zoology and anthropology to track the evolution of interest in diverse goods. The fact that eudaimonistic Christian ethics, as represented by Thomas Aquinas and Joseph Butler, has long recognised this diversity of human goods is one sign of its continuing explanatory power, and counts towards its truth. (shrink)
In his third and final investigation into the science of belief, bestselling author Michael Shermer tackles the evolution of morality and ethics A century and a half after Darwin first proposed an “evolutionary ethics,” science has begun to tackle the roots of morality. Just as evolutionary biologists study why we are hungry (to motivate us to eat) or why sex is enjoyable (to motivate us to procreate), they are now searching for the roots of human nature. In The (...) Science of Good and Evil , psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer explores how humans evolved from social primates to moral primates, how and why morality motivates the human animal, and how the foundation of moral principles can be built upon empirical evidence. Along the way he explains the im-plications of statistics for fate and free will fuzzy logic for the existence of pure good and pure evil and ecology for the development of early moral sentiments among the first humans. As he closes the divide between science and morality, Shermer draws on stories from the Yanamamo, infamously known as the “fierce people” of the tropical rain forest, to the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, to John Hinckley’s insanity defense. The Science of Good and Evil is ultimately a profound look at the moral animal, belief, and the scientific pursuit of truth. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunkers of morality hold this thesis: If S’s moral belief that P can be given an evolutionary explanation, then S’s moral belief that P is not knowledge. In this paper, I debunk a variety of arguments for this thesis. I first sketch a possible evolutionary explanation for some human moral beliefs. Next, I explain how, given a reliabilist approach to warrant, my account implies that humans possess moral knowledge. Finally, I examine the debunking arguments of Michael (...) Ruse, Sharon Street, and Richard Joyce. I draw on the account of moral knowledge sketched earlier to illustrate how these arguments fail. -/- . (shrink)
It is commonly suggested that evolutionary considerations generate an epistemological challenge for moral realism. At first approximation, the challenge for the moral realist is to explain our having many true moral beliefs, given that those beliefs are the products of evolutionary forces that would be indifferent to the moral truth. An important question surrounding this challenge is the extent to which it generalizes. In particular, it is of interest whether the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally (...) a challenge for mathematical realism. It is widely thought not to be. In this paper, I argue that the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally a challenge for mathematical realism. Along the way, I substantially clarify the Evolutionary Challenge, discuss its relation to more familiar epistemological challenges, and broach a number of foundational issues in metaphysics. The paper should be of interest to ethicists because it places pressure on anyone who rejects moral realism on the basis of the Evolutionary Challenge to reject mathematical realism as well. And the paper should be of interest to philosophers of mathematics because it presents a new epistemological challenge for mathematical realism that bears, I argue, no simple relation to Paul Benacerraf's familiar challenge. (shrink)
Judaism in the twentieth century began to return to its scriptural, communal roots after a centuries-long detour through Greek-influenced natural philosophy, a detour during which science and ethics were assumed to be partners and Jewish ethics drew heavily on natural philosophy and science. Twentieth-century philosophical ethics and science, particularly biological science, have developed in such a way as to make any continuation of that historical partnership problematic. This is not altogether regrettable because the problematizing of this long-standing partnership has driven (...) Jewish ethics back to its real roots: covenantal relationship, and moral wisdom and discernment. (shrink)
Consider the paradox of altruism: the existence of truly altruistic behaviors is difficult to reconcile with evolutionary theory if natural selection operates only on individuals, since in that case individuals should be unwilling to sacrifice their own fitness for the sake of others. Evolutionists have frequently turned to the hypothesis of group selection to explain the existence of altruism; but group selection cannot explain the evolution of morality, since morality is a one-group phenomenon and group selection is a many-group (...) phenomenon. After spelling out just what the problem is, this paper discusses several ways of solving it. (shrink)
The responsibilities of the manager have been examined through several lenses in the business ethics literature: Kantian (Bowie, 1999 ), contractarian (Donaldson and Dunfee, 1999 ), consequentialist (Friedman, 1970 ), and virtue ethics (Solomon, 1992 ), to name just four. This paper explores what the ethical responsibilities of the manager would look like if viewed through an evolutionary lens. Discussion is focused on the impact of evolutionary thinking on the process of moral reasoning, rather than on the sources (...) or the substance of morality. The conclusion is reached that the evolutionary lens supports the view that moral luck plays an important role in how we assign ethical responsibilities. (shrink)