Book ID: CBB465416379

The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory (2018)


Buchanan, Allen (Author)
Powell, Russell (Author)

Oxford University Press

Publication Date: 2018
Physical Details: 440
Language: English

In The Evolution of Moral Progress, Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell resurrect the project of explaining moral progress. They avoid the errors of earlier attempts by drawing on a wide range of disciplines including moral and political philosophy, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, history, and sociology. Their focus is on one especially important type of moral progress: gains in inclusivity. They develop a framework to explain progress in inclusivity to also illuminate moral regression--the return to exclusivist and "tribalistic" moral beliefs and attitudes. Buchanan and Powell argue those tribalistic moral responses are not hard-wired by evolution in human nature. Rather, human beings have an evolved "adaptively plastic" capacity for both inclusion and exclusion, depending on environmental conditions. Moral progress in the dimension of inclusivity is possible, but only to the extent that human beings can create environments conducive to extending moral standing to all human beings and even to some animals. Buchanan and Powell take biological evolution seriously, but with a critical eye, while simultaneously recognizing the crucial role of culture in creating environments in which moral progress can occur. The book avoids both biological and cultural determinism. Unlike earlier theories of moral progress, their theory provides a naturalistic account that is grounded in the best empirical work, and unlike earlier theories it does not present moral progress as inevitable or as occurring in definite stages; but rather it recognizes the highly contingent and fragile character of moral improvement.

Reviewed By

Review Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen (2019) Review of "The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory". Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (pp. 397-400). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Gontier, Thierry
Canfell, Karen
Spencer, Harnish G.
Oldroyd, Ben
Sober, Elliott R.
Wilson, David Sloan
Biology and Philosophy
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science
Quarterly Review of Biology
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Public Understanding of Science
Oxford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Princeton University Press
Rutgers University
Evolutionary psychology
Darwin, Charles Robert
Butler, Samuel
Dewey, John
Gould, Stephen Jay
Vignoli, Tito
Jung, Carl Gustav
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
Early modern
17th century

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