The function of morality

Philosophical Studies 174 (5):1127-1144 (2017)

Nick Smyth
Fordham University
What is the function of morality? On this question, something approaching a consensus has recently emerged. Impressed by developments in evolutionary theory, many philosophers now tell us that the function of morality is to reduce social tensions, and to thereby enable a society to efficiently promote the well-being of its members. In this paper, I subject this consensus to rigorous scrutiny, arguing that the functional hypothesis in question is not well supported. In particular, I attack the supposed evidential relation between an evolutionary genealogy of morals and the functional hypothesis itself. I show that there are a great many functionally relevant discontinuities between our own culture and the culture within which morality allegedly emerged, and I argue that this seriously weakens the inference from morality’s evolutionary history to its present-day function.
Keywords Genealogy  Functions  Philosophy of Biology
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0746-8
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References found in this work BETA

The Emotional Construction of Morals.Jesse Prinz - 2009 - Analysis 69 (4):701-704.
How to Speak of the Colors.Mark Johnston - 1992 - Philosophical Studies 68 (3):221-263.

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