The limits of evolutionary explanations of morality and their implications for moral progress

Allen Buchanan, Russell Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Traditional conservative arguments against the possibility of moral progress relied on underevidenced assumptions about the limitations of human nature. Contemporary thinkers have attempted to fill this empirical gap in the conservative argument by appealing to evolutionary science. Such “evoconservative” arguments fail because they overstate the explanatory reach of evolutionary theory. We maintain that no adequate evolutionary explanation has been given for important features of human morality, namely cosmopolitan and other “inclusivist” moral commitments. We attribute these evolutionarily anomalous features to a capacity for open-ended normativity, which presents a serious obstacle to theorists who wish to draw substantive moral and political lessons from human evolutionary history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-67
Number of pages31
JournalEthics
Volume126
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

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