, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 117-125
Date: 07 Mar 2010

Evolutionary Psychology and Morality. Review Essay

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Evolution has since the publication of The origin of species (1859) been a source of inspiration, and a bone of contention, not only for biology but also for philosophy and the sciences of man. The moral consequences of Darwinism have been a concern for ethicists since Herbert Spencer elevated the survival of the fittest to a norm underwriting cultural and societal progress—hard for the individual perhaps, but good for mankind. In contrast, Thomas Huxley saw evolution as a story of cruelty and ruthless selfishness (“nature, red in tooth and claw”), that a human moral society should combat rather than imitate.

In the past 150 years several varieties of evolutionary ethics have been proposed. This review considers three books broadly concerned with meta-ethics. Meta-ethics is about the meaning of moral statements and the nature of moral judgments, about the specific characteristics of moral behaviour and moral attitudes, and about the nature of moral properties. If we want to ...