Evolution and Ethics

Author: Thomas Henry Huxley
Publisher:
ISBN: 9781591021261
Format: PDF, ePub
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These two essays by the famous 19th-century champion of Darwin’s theory of evolution tackle a subject that is still a major focus of ethical debates today: the relation of science as a whole, and specifically evolutionary ideas, to ethics and morality. Written toward the end of Huxley’s career when he was already famous as a persuasive lecturer and a fascinating expositor of new ideas, these essays demonstrate his rhetorical gifts and talent for explaining the importance of science to a lay audience. "Evolution and Ethics," his last major talk delivered at Oxford in 1893, was written in response to the then fashionable "Social Darwinism" popularized by philosopher Herbert Spencer. Spencer and his followers had been labeling the poor, criminals, and other social undesirables as "unfit" and suggesting that society deal with them as harshly as nature deals with the physically unfit. Huxley found this approach both morally repugnant and a serious misapplication of Darwinian theory to the subject of ethics. Society progresses, Huxley maintained, through individuals who prove themselves to be ethically the best, not physically the most fit. Ethics is designed to curb our antisocial animal instincts and therefore must be detached from natural competition. In "Science and Morals," written some years earlier (1886), Huxley addresses three criticisms: namely, that he and his associates refuse to take seriously anything that (1) cannot be verified by the senses, that (2) is beyond the bounds of physical science, and that (3) cannot be subjected to laboratory experimentation and chemical analysis. To all of these criticisms Huxley replies that he takes very seriously a host of mental phenomena that do not, strictly speaking, fall within these narrow physical limits: the universal law of causation, or the esthetic pleasure of the arts, or the truths of mathematics, for example. He goes on to say that he repudiates the doctrine of Materialism as much as he does that of Spiritualism, and that he coined the term "Agnostic" to apply to his own particular philosophical viewpoint. He concludes with comments on the existence of God and free will, suggesting that science does not necessarily rule out either postulate. Students of ethics, the history of science, and the ongoing debates over evolution will welcome this new edition of two masterful essays by "Darwin’s Bulldog."

Ethics and the Sociology of Morals

Author: Emile Durkheim
Publisher:
ISBN:
Format: PDF, ePub, Mobi
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Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was one of the founders of modern sociology. Ethics and the Sociology of Morals (La science positive de la morale en Allemagne) laid the foundation for Durkheim's future work. More than a review of current thought, it was a proclamation that ethics needed to be liberated from its philosophical bondage and developed as a distinct branch of sociology. Written when Durkheim was charting the course of his own research, it provides a unique key to the interpretation of his earlier work and presents a number of points of Durkheim's ethical theory which are of considerable interest in light of current ethical theory. This volume makes available in English a crucial essay by a master of social thought.

The Evolution of Morality

Author: Richard Joyce
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262263252
Format: PDF
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Moral thinking pervades our practical lives, but where did this way of thinking come from, and what purpose does it serve? Is it to be explained by environmental pressures on our ancestors a million years ago, or is it a cultural invention of more recent origin? In The Evolution of Morality, Richard Joyce takes up these controversial questions, finding that the evidence supports an innate basis to human morality. As a moral philosopher, Joyce is interested in whether any implications follow from this hypothesis. Might the fact that the human brain has been biologically prepared by natural selection to engage in moral judgment serve in some sense to vindicate this way of thinking -- staving off the threat of moral skepticism, or even undergirding some version of moral realism? Or if morality has an adaptive explanation in genetic terms -- if it is, as Joyce writes, "just something that helped our ancestors make more babies" -- might such an explanation actually undermine morality's central role in our lives? He carefully examines both the evolutionary "vindication of morality" and the evolutionary "debunking of morality," considering the skeptical view more seriously than have others who have treated the subject.Interdisciplinary and combining the latest results from the empirical sciences with philosophical discussion, The Evolution of Morality is one of the few books in this area written from the perspective of moral philosophy. Concise and without technical jargon, the arguments are rigorous but accessible to readers from different academic backgrounds. Joyce discusses complex issues in plain language while advocating subtle and sometimes radical views. The Evolution of Morality lays the philosophical foundations for further research into the biological understanding of human morality.

The Ethical Primate

Author: Mary Midgley
Publisher: Psychology Press
ISBN: 9780415095303
Format: PDF, Kindle
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In The Ethical Primate, Mary Midgley, 'one of the sharpest critical pens in the West' according to the Times Literary Supplement, addresses the fundamental question of human freedom. Scientists and philosophers have found it difficult to understand how each human-being can be a living part of the natural world and still be free. Midgley explores their responses to this seeming paradox and argues that our evolutionary origin explains both why and how human freedom and morality have come about.

The Science of Good and Evil

Author: Michael Shermer
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 9781429996754
Format: PDF, ePub, Mobi
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From bestselling author Michael Shermer, an investigation of the evolution of morality that is "a paragon of popularized science and philosophy" The Sun (Baltimore) A century and a half after Darwin first proposed an "evolutionary ethics," science has begun to tackle the roots of morality. Just as evolutionary biologists study why we are hungry (to motivate us to eat) or why sex is enjoyable (to motivate us to procreate), they are now searching for the very nature of humanity. In The Science of Good and Evil, science historian Michael Shermer explores how humans evolved from social primates to moral primates; how and why morality motivates the human animal; and how the foundation of moral principles can be built upon empirical evidence. Along the way he explains the implications of scientific findings for fate and free will, the existence of pure good and pure evil, and the development of early moral sentiments among the first humans. As he closes the divide between science and morality, Shermer draws on stories from the Yanamamö, infamously known as the "fierce people" of the tropical rain forest, to the Stanford studies on jailers' behavior in prisons. The Science of Good and Evil is ultimately a profound look at the moral animal, belief, and the scientific pursuit of truth.

Eine Naturgeschichte der menschlichen Moral

Author: Michael Tomasello
Publisher: Suhrkamp Verlag
ISBN: 351874822X
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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Die Evolution des menschlichen Moralbewusstseins gehört zu den großen Rätseln der Wissenschaft. Es hat die Phantasie von Generationen von Forschern beflügelt, zahlreiche Theorien liegen auf dem Tisch, aber die Frage »Woher kommt die Moral?« ist nach wie vor offen. In Fortschreibung seiner faszinierenden Naturgeschichte des Menschen legt nun Michael Tomasello eine Antwort vor. Gestützt auf jahrzehntelange empirische Forschungen, rekonstruiert er die Entstehung des einzigartigen menschlichen Sinns für Werte und Normen als einen zweistufigen Prozess. Dieser beginnt vor einigen hunderttausend Jahren, als die frühen Menschen gemeinsame Sache machen mussten, um zu überleben; und er endet beim modernen, ultrakooperativen homo sapiens sapiens, der beides besitzt: Eine Moralität der zweiten Person, die unseren Umgang mit dem je einzelnen Gegenüber prägt, und eine gruppenbezogene »objektive« Moral, die sagt, was hier bei »uns« als gut oder gerecht gilt. In der Tradition von Mead, Kohlberg und Piaget zeigt Tomasello außerdem, wie sich die individuelle Moralentwicklung in einer bereits normengesättigten Welt vollzieht. Und so ist Eine Naturgeschichte der menschlichen Moral der derzeit wohl umfassendste Versuch zu verstehen, wie wir das geworden sind, was nur wir sind: genuin moralische Wesen.

Effektiver Altruismus

Author: Peter Singer
Publisher: Suhrkamp Verlag
ISBN: 3518745131
Format: PDF, ePub, Docs
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Wir alle haben schon gespendet. Doch geht es uns dabei wirklich um die Hilfe für andere? Oder wollen wir eher unser Gewissen beruhigen, ein wohliges Gefühl verspüren oder spendabel wirken? Millionäre lassen Kunstmuseen errichten, statt Verhungernden zu helfen, und Normalbürger geben Beträge, die nicht einmal die Bearbeitungsgebühren decken. Wer dagegen so viel Gutes wie möglich tun will, sollte besser auf seinen Verstand hören als auf seinen Bauch. Diese simple Idee ist Ausgangspunkt einer neuen sozialen Bewegung – des effektiven Altruismus. Peter Singer, einer ihrer Gründerväter, zeigt in seinem Buch, wie effektives Spenden möglich und warum es richtig ist. Gestützt auf harte Fakten und neue wissenschaftliche Methoden, können wir heute in vielen Fällen sagen, welcher gute Zweck der bessere ist. Gleiches gilt für die Wahl der Mittel: Auch hier orientieren sich effektive Altruisten daran, was den größten Nutzen verspricht. Um mehr spenden zu können, beschränken sich manche von ihnen auf das Allernötigste, andere geben gar freiwillig einen Teil ihrer selbst, etwa eine Niere. Effektive Altruisten sind aber weder Heilige noch Masochisten: Man darf sie sich als glückliche Menschen vorstellen. Singers Buch ist ein Aufruf zu einem in doppelter Hinsicht gelungenen Leben: Indem man für andere das Bestmögliche tut, gibt man dem eigenen Leben Sinn.