Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 699–712

Adaptation and Moral Realism

  • William F. Harms

DOI: 10.1023/A:1006661726993

Cite this article as:
Harms, W.F. Biology & Philosophy (2000) 15: 699. doi:10.1023/A:1006661726993


Conventional wisdom has it that evolution makes a sham of morality, even if morality is an adaptation. I disagree. I argue that our best current adaptationist theory of meaning offers objective truth conditionsfor signaling systems of all sorts. The objectivity is, however, relative to species – specifically to the adaptive history of the signaling system in question. While evolution may not provide the kind of species independent objective standards that (e.g.) Kantians desire, this should be enough for the practical work of justifying our confidence in the objectivity of moral standards. If you believe morality is an adaptation, you should be a moral realist.

evolutionary ethics moral realism naturalism teleosemantics 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • William F. Harms
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Applied EthicsUniversity of British ColumbiaCanada

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