Issues at the intersection of ethics, evolution and neuroscience

EurAmerica 40 (3):519-527 (2010)
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Abstract

It is becoming increasingly difficult for those who engage in ethical analysis to ignore evolution and neuroscience. The kind of creature that we are and that we have evolved to be matters when determining how we ought to live. There is still a need to aim for a reflective equilibrium that includes reflection over not straightforwardly empirical issues. It would, for example, be inaccurate to say that "good" just means "highly evolved." But it does turn out to be the case that many questions pivotal to ethical theorizing are straightforwardly empirical. And, to a large extent, ethics can be treated as a kind of applied science, one that aims to encourage personal and social flourishing. Of course just what counts as "flourishing" is a matter that will also require a healthy dose of reflective equilibrium. Be that as it may, the best philosophers of the 21st century do what the best philosophers of previous centuries did: they draw upon the resources available to them during the era in which they work. In this era that includes evolutionary biology and neuroscience.

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Timothy Joseph Lane
Academia Sinica

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