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Evolution of Morality

by Richard Joyce A Bradford Book
Pub Date:
Pbk 288 pages
AU$49.99 NZ$52.17
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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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.

Joyce's approach is refreshing, and he wears his learning lightly...[He] does an excellent job of bringing philosophy to the ordinary reader, using striking and quirky examples of different moral judgements...His bold, jargon-free approach means that this work is serious philosophy can nonetheless by understood by the non-philosophically trained layperson.

'Matthew Cobb, Times Literary Supplement
Richard Joyce is a Research Fellow in the Philosophy Program
at the Research School of the Social Sciences at the Australian
National University. He is the author of The Myth of Morality.