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ERIC Number: EJ879811
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-May
Pages: 37
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0926-7220
Naturalising Ethics: The Implications of Darwinism for the Study of Moral Philosophy
Cartwright, John
Science & Education, v19 n4-5 p407-443 May 2010
The nature of moral values has occupied philosophers and educationalists for centuries and a variety of claims have been made about their origin and status. One tradition suggests they may be thoughts in the mind of God; another that they are eternal truths to be reached by rational reflection (much like the truths of mathematics) or alternatively through intuition; another that they are social conventions; and another (from the logical positivists) that they are not verifiable facts but simply the expression of emotional likes and dislikes. Standard introductory texts (e.g., Bowie 2004; Vardy and Grosch 1999) on the subject of ethics rarely mention Darwin or Darwinism (Mepham 2005 is a useful exception) possibly mindful of the fact that the relationship of evolutionary biology to moral questions has had a troublesome history. The effect of this has been that whole generations of moral philosophers have given the biological sciences a wide berth and consequently often remain poorly informed about recent advances in evolutionary thought and the neurosciences. On the other hand, scientists have developed interesting models of the evolution of the moral sentiments and are using new imaging techniques to explore the centres of the brain associated with emotion and motivation, but many have been fearful of committing the naturalistic fallacy and so have steered clear of extrapolating their findings to ethical questions. No one after all wants to be seen to be committing an elementary logical blunder. But in the last 20 years, evolutionary biologists have regained the confidence to explore the implications of evolution for the study of ethics (de Waal 1996; Wilson 1998; Wright 1994; Greene 2003). This paper is designed to encourage those entrusted with the teaching of ethics to be open to the potential of Darwinism as a source of ideas on the origins and status of ethical thought and behaviour. It is also hoped that it will illustrate for science educators the enormous explanatory power inherent in Darwinian thought.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A