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An Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics

ISBN: 978-1-4051-9396-2
240 pages
December 2010, ©2010, Wiley-Blackwell
An Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics (1405193964) cover image


Offering the first general introductory text to this subject, the timely Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics reflects the most up-to-date research and current issues being debated in both psychology and philosophy. The book presents students to the areas of cognitive psychology, normative ethics, and metaethics.
  • The first general introduction to evolutionary ethics
  • Provides a comprehensive survey of work in three distinct areas of research: cognitive psychology, normative ethics, and metaethics
  • Presents the most up-to-date research available in both psychology and philosophy
  • Written in an engaging and accessible style for undergraduates and the interested general reader
  • Discusses the evolution of morality, broadening its relevance to those studying psychology
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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Philosopher and a Biologist Walk into a Bar ….

Part I: From “Selfish Genes” to Moral Beings: Moral Psychology after Darwin:.

1. Natural Selection and Human Nature.

1.1. The Basic Story.

1.2. Some Common Misunderstandings.

1.3. Mother Nature as Tinkerer.

1.4. Evolutionary Psychology and Human Nature.

1.5. An Evolved Mental Tool-Box.

1.6. Some (More) Common Misunderstandings.

1.7. Conclusion.

2. The (Earliest) Roots of Right.

2.1. Together We Stand?.

2.2. Inclusive Fitness and the “Gene’s-Eye” Point of View.

2.3. Love Thy Neighbor -- But Love Thy Family First.

2.4. False Positives and Core Systems.

2.5. A Quick Note on “Altruism”.

2.6. Reciprocal Altruism.

2.7. Conclusion.

3. The Caveman’s Conscience: The Evolution of Human Morality.

3.1. What Makes Moral Creatures Moral.

3.2. The Evolution of Morality.

3.3. Explaining the Nature of Moral Judgments.

3.4. Conclusion.

4. Just Deserts.

4.1. The Ultimatum Game.

4.2. The Public Goods Game.

4.3. Winners Don’t Punish.

4.4. The Benefits of Guilt.

4.5. A Lamb among Lions?.

4.6. An Explanation for All of Morality?.

4.7. Universal Morality or Universal Reason?.

4.8. Conclusion.

5. The Science of Virtue and Vice.

5.1. Distress Test.

5.2. Mind-Reading.

5.3. “Them’s the Rules”.

5.4. Moral Innateness and the Linguistic Analogy.

5.5. Switchboards, Biases, and Affective Resonances.

5.6. Non-Nativist Doubts.

5.7. Conclusion.

Part II: From “What Is” to “What Ought To Be”: Moral Philosophy after Darwin:.

6. Social Harmony: The Good, the Bad, and the Biologically Ugly.

6.1. From the Great Chain of Being, to the Tree of Life, to Morality.

6.2. Uprooting the Tree of Life.

7. Hume’s Law.

7.1. Deductively Valid Arguments.

7.2. You Can’t Get Out What You Don’t Put In.

7.3. “Of the Last Consequence”.

7.4. Blocking the Move from Might to Right.

7.5. Darwinism and Preserving the Human Species.

7.6. Conclusion.

8. Moore’s Naturalistic Fallacy.

8.1. The Open Question Test.

8.2. Failing the Open Question Test: Desiring to Desire.

8.3. Failing the Open Question Test: Spencer.

8.4. Failing the Open Question Test: Wilson.

8.5. Conclusion.

9. Rethinking Moore and Hume.

9.1. Some Preliminary Doubts about the Open Question Test.

9.2. What Things Mean vs. What Things Are.

9.3. Implications for Social Darwinism.

9.4. Forays across the Is/Ought Gap: Searle.

9.5. Forays across the Is/Ought Gap: Rachels.

9.6. Conclusion.

10. Evolutionary Anti-Realism: Early Efforts.

10.1. This Is Your Brain on God.

10.2. Preliminaries.

10.3. Wilson.

10.4. The Argument from Idiosyncrasy.

10.5. The Argument from Redundancy.

10.6. Causation, Justification, and . . . a Rotting Corpse.

10.7. Conclusion.

11. Contemporary Evolutionary Anti-Realism.

11.1. Napoleon Pills.

11.2. A Darwinian Dilemma.

11.3. Conclusion.

12. Options for the Evolutionary Realist.

12.1. Option 1: Learning Right from Wrong.

12.2. Option 2: Response Dependency.

12.3. Option 3: Virtue Ethics Naturalized.

12.4. Option 4: Moral Constructivism.

12.5. Objections to the Realist Options.

12.6. Conclusion.




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Author Information

Scott M. James is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He has published work on evolutionary ethics in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research and the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
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“Recommended for all undergraduate libraries in the sciences and humanities.”  (Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith, 1 March 2013)

"In the end, I think this is a valuable book mixing an analytic philosophical approach with some interesting biology. I personally found the book faltering only because it takes, perhaps unnecessarily, a very orthodox adaptationist stance. Evolutionary ethics should take the whole of evolutionary biology seriously into account, not only a biased version of it." (Metapsychology, 20 February 2012)

"Balanced and comprehensive, it should be the definitive text for many years". (Star News Online Blogs, 22 December 2010)

"In recent years evolutionary ethics has burgeoned in fascinating but sometimes confusing ways. James' judicious treatment of the field is well written, well organized, and well balanced. There is no better introductory text covering this ground."
Richard Joyce, University of Sydney

"This is a terrific introduction to a topic of growing interest. Balanced and comprehensive, it should be the definitive text for many years."
Michael Ruse, The Florida State University

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