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 SocialDarwinism as a vector for nasty ideologies and policies. However, it is worth resisting the temptation to reduce EE to SocialDarwinism 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 : SocialDarwinism and what one could label ‘Pro-socialDarwinism’. Next I will point out some of the fundamental errors on which SocialDarwinism 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)
This study intends to explore the effects of political, social and cultural values on consumers’ ethical beliefs regarding questionable consumption behaviors. The variables examined include status anxiety, socialDarwinism perception, perceived trust of people, and cultural orientation. Based on a field survey in Taiwan, the results showed that consumers with low ethical beliefs have higher perception of socialDarwinism and status anxiety than consumers possess neutral and high ethical beliefs. The result also showed that the (...) neutral ethics group had higher trust on people than the low ethics groups. Finally, the high ethics group expressed significantly higher perception of vertical collectivism than those consumers of the low and neutral ethics group. (shrink)
A collection of essays by Alexander Rosenberg, the distinguished philosopher of science. The essays cover three broad areas related to Darwinian thought and naturalism: the first deals with the solution of philosophical problems such as reductionism, the second with the development of social theories, and the third with the intersection of evolutionary biology with economics, political philosophy, and public policy. Specific papers deal with naturalistic epistemology, the limits of reductionism, the biological justification of ethics, the so-called 'trolley problem' in (...) moral philosophy, the political philosophy of biological endowments, and the Human Genome Project and its implications for policy. Rosenberg's important writings on a variety of issues are here organized into a coherent philosophical framework which promises to be a significant and controversial contribution to scholarship in many areas. (shrink)
The rob of knowledge workers in our society is an increasing focus of press and academic attention. Letiche suggests that knowledge workers often both work in and create "McDonaldized" simulacra, i.e. spaces for action that are less than real. He argues that the very concept of organizing is challenged by the tensions implicit in t h semi-ness of the semi-reality of subspaces. The arena for his argument is that of information technology. The language of his argument is that of identity, (...) self; logic and activity-terms more often found in European academic debate than in American management practice. Forgive Letiche's use of academic literant forms. This world of emergence and cyborgs and of warfare with cognitivist (social) Darwinism may be a bit alien to some readers, but the argument and message will not be. In the semi-real spaces of managing, creativity is bought only at a large cost to others and managers find themselves needing to determine when that price is worth paying. (shrink)
Utility and subjective probability are assessed from a normative social darwinist viewpoint. It is shown that utility is essentially equal to monetary reward and that probability must satisfy a reasonable frequency criterion.
Philosophical Darwinism is a species of naturalism. Among philosophers, naturalism is widely treated as the view that contemporary scientific theory is the source of solutions to philosophical problems. Thus, naturalists look to the theory of natural selection as the primary source in coming to solve philosophical problems raised by human affairs. For it combines more strongly than any other theory relevance to human affairs and scientific warrant. Other theories, especially in physics and chemistry, are more strongly confirmed, especially because (...) their more precise predictions can be tested in real time. But these theories have little to tell us about human conduct and institutions. On the other hand, actual and possible theories, in the social and behavioral sciences, may in the future have more tell us about humanity than Darwinian theory, but these theories do not as yet have anything like the degree of confirmation of Darwin’s theory. Since Darwinism has important consequences for human affairs, the naturalist must look to Darwin’s theory, above all others, in the search for philosophical understanding. (shrink)
Save for Anthropologists, few social scientists have been among the participants in the discussions about the appropriate structure of a ‘Universal Darwinism’. Yet evolutionary theorizing about cultural, social, and economic phenomena has a long tradition, going back well before Darwin. And over the past quarter century significant literatures have grown up concerned with the processes of change operating on science, technology, business organization and practice, and economic change more broadly, that are explicitly evolutionary in theoretical orientation. In (...) each of these fields of study, the broad proposition put forth by Darwin that change proceeds through a process involving variation, systematic selection, renewed variation... has proved both persuasive and powerful. On the other hand, the evolutionary processes involved in these areas differ in essential ways from those we now know are operative in the evolution of biological species. The objective of this essay is to highlight those differences, which a ‘Universal Darwinism’ needs to encompass, if it is to be broad enough to be a theory that is applicable to the evolution of human cultures as well as evolution in biology. (shrink)
The year is 1901. Two minor celebrities from opposite corners of the globe share an evening meal in Chicago. Both are politically left-leaning, both are evolutionists of a sort, both are concerned with the plight of the poor in the face of the escalation of the Industrial Revolution. The Russian man has been giving a series of lectures to the people of Chicago; he is staying at the American woman's settlement house-Hull House. They are Jane Addams, Chicago's activist social (...) worker and Petr Kropotkin, Russian nobleman by birth, anarchist in politics, and naturalist by inclination. Each awaits publication of their first full-length book concerning politics and moral development: Democracy and Social Ethics (1902) on .. (shrink)
The so-called evolutionary social scienccs are based on the belief that Darwinism can explain the living world and that it therefore should be able to explain other complex systems such as minds and societies. In fact, Darwinism cannot explain biological evolution. It does make an important contribution, but this is towards understanding adaptation, which is a major problem in biology but not in the social sciences. Darwinism has much less to offer to the social (...) sciences than to biology and the shortcomings it brings with it are much greater. (shrink)
Apology is due, not only for the delay but for the impatient tone of my article. One should not lose oneÂ’s temper, and doing so always makes for confused argument. My basic objections remain. But I certainly ought to have expressed them more clearly and temperately. This reply must, I think, concentrate simply on explaining the background of reasons why these objections matter. I shall have very little to say directly about MackieÂ’s argument, since it was chiefly just a very (...) fair and sympathetic exposition of Dawkins' views. Mackie himself drew only very modest conclusions from them, and avoided the excesses of psychological egoism, as of course he also does in his own book. But this still leaves two serious worries. In the first place I do not think that The Selfish Gene itself, on any natural interpretation, does avoid those excesses. In the second, even when modestly interpreted, I think it is far too one-sided a book to be picked out and used in isolation for the re-education of moral philosophy in the biological facts of life. (shrink)
When we think of theories that attempt to root capitalism in nature, the one that comes most readily to mind is SocialDarwinism. In this theory, nature - driven by Darwinian natural selection (the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest) - is interpreted to imply, when applied to human activities, that extreme competition will allow the most "fit" competitors to rise to the top and to survive in this "struggle for existence," and this process of (...) dog-eat-dog competition leads to both material and social progress. Not only has this theory been shown to be seriously flawed, the putative social implications of Darwinian natural selection do not accord with the findings of contemporary neoDarwinists who maintain, for example, that the behavior of monkeys and apes reveals a blend of competition and cooperation and, generally, a close connection to human moral behavior. Adam Smith provides a more helpful view of the connection between nature and capitalism. He maintains that nature's wisdom, as seen in its harmony and balance, is displayed in economics and human nature. Competitive free enterprise, as a vehicle for exchange, functions within a cooperative context and exhibits virtues and values such as mutual help and benefit, trust, harmony, and friendship. I shall show that neoDarwinists agree with Smith's view that nature supports a connection between competition and cooperation, and they maintain that moral activity, rather than destructive dog-eat-dog competition, is necessary to achieve the goals of natural selection. (shrink)
In this paper I provide an interpretative reading Spencer and Gillen. What is read depends in part on what one is looking for, on the purposes for which it is being read, and, what is there to be read depends partly on the audiences that the author has in. I provide a critique of social Darwinist and post-colonial readings of their work. I employ the concept of a motivating theme, which can be applied to segments of the text, which (...) share a common purpose. The themes reflect the ways in which different scholars — historians and anthropologists — have read into the text. I will consider three categories of motivating themes: general contextualisations, ethnographic descriptions, and explanations of data. My discussion of their explanatory approach is centred on their analysis of ritual performances. The accounts of the rituals are not just unanalysed ethnography but are ordered by relating ritual event to social organisation. The centrality of ritual to Aboriginal society has contributed to the lasting impact of their work. (shrink)
Was Joseph de Maistre a conservative thinker?; an actor who might at any time switch roles with his alleged British counterpart Edmund Burke in a show called “Reactions to the French Revolution”? Or was de Maistre (as Sir Isaiah Berlin saw him) a milestone on mankind’s rush to the “Age of Unreason” in general, and to the Nazi folly in particular? To answer this controversy, Professor Michael Shafir called on the witness’ stand an unexpected expert in conservatism and the folly (...) of revolutions: Romanian playwright Ion Luca Caragiale. Using as evidence before the court Caragiale’s famous farce “Master Leonida Facing Reaction”, this exercise in literary counterfactualism demonstrates, according to Shafir, the fig of reason and faith is too small to cover the wastelands of unreason and Social-Darwinist-like psychopathology. (shrink)
El trabajo analiza las razones para la acción. A partir de la distinción entre los enfoques de decisión racional y altruismo recíproco, el artículo examina sucesivamente ambos modelos, concluyendo con una breve observación sobre el poder de las profecías que se auto-cumplen. El texto argumenta que el enfoque de la decisión racional se basa en suposiciones erróneas sobre la naturaleza humana y, por consiguiente, conduce a predicciones igualmente equivocadas.
Recently the degree to which ?evolutionary economics? does or should involve Darwinian principles has come under debate. This essay builds on previous arguments that Darwinism has a potentially wide application to socioeconomic evolution, which does not involve biological reductionism. It is argued that at the core of Darwinism are presuppositions concerning causality and causal explanation. Contrary to widespread belief, these presuppositions do not downgrade or ignore human intentionality: they simply require that it too is in principle subject to (...) causal explanation. Neither are these presuppositions ?deterministic? or ?mechanistic?, at least by some prominent meanings of these terms. Furthermore, the presupposition of causal determination does not necessarily exclude or include stochastic or probabilistic determination. (shrink)
The sociobiology debate, in the final quarter of the twentieth century, featured many of the same issues disputed in the culture war in the humanities during this same time period. This is evident from a study of the writings of Edward O. Wilson, the best known of the sociobiologists, and from an examination of both the minutes of the meetings of the Sociobiology Study Group (SSG) and the writings of Stephen Jay Gould, the SSG's most prominent member. Many critics of (...) sociobiology, frequently radical scientists who were attached to the lineage of the New Left, argued for the same multicultural values promoted by radical humanities professors in this period. Conversely, liberal sociobiologists defended the universalist values of the liberals in the humanities. Those scholars whose work was important before the cultural revolution in the 1960s were usually committed to a liberal universalism that emphasized the similarity between people. Younger scholars, who took faculty positions in the 1970s and after, were more likely to owe an allegiance to an ethnos-centered social vision that valued identity politics. The struggle between these two agendas, more intellectual than generational, was at the core of the culture wars both in the humanities and in the sciences. The sociobiology debate should be viewed in this light. (shrink)
Recent studies now provide a relatively robust explanation of how moral behavior evolved, perhaps not just in humans. An analysis of current biology textbooks shows that they fail to address this critical topic fully. Here, I survey resources—books, images, and videos—that can guide educators in meeting the challenge of teaching the biology of morality.