Is morality innate?

Thus declares Francis Hutcheson, expressing a view widespread during the Enlightenment, and throughout the history of philosophy. According to this tradition, we are by nature moral, and ourS concern for good and evil is as natural to us as our capacity to feel pleasure and pain. The link between morality and human nature has been a common theme since ancient times, and, with the rise of modern empirical moral psychology, it remains equally popular today. Evolutionary ethicists, ethologists, developmental psychologists, social neuroscientists, and even some cultural anthropologists tend to agree that morality is part of the bioprogram (e.g., Cosmides & Tooby, 1992; de Waal, 1996; Haidt & Joseph, 2004; Hauser, 2006; Ruse, 1991; Sober & Wilson, 1998; Turiel, 2002). Recently, researchers have begun to look for moral modules in the brain, and they have been increasingly tempted to speculate about the moral acquisition device, and innate faculty for norm acquisition akin to celebrated language acquisition device, promulgated by Chomsky (Dwyer, 1999; Mikhail, 2000; Hauser, this volume). All this talk of modules and mechanism may make some shudder, especially if they recall that eugenics emerged out of an effort to find the biological sources of evil. Yet the tendency to postulate an innate moral faculty is almost irresistible. For one thing, it makes us appear nobler as a species, and for another, it offers an explanation of the fact that people in every corner of the globe seem to have moral rules. Moral nativism is, in this respect, an optimistic doctrine—one that makes our great big world seem comfortingly smaller. I want to combat this alluring idea. I do not deny that morality is ecumenical, but I think it is not innate—at least that the current state of evidence is unpersuasive. Morality, like all human capacities, depends on having particular biological predispositions, but none of these, I submit, deserves to be called a moral faculty. Morality is a byproduct—accidental or invented—of faculties that evolved for other purposes..
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