Evolution and Morality

Evolution and Morality: NOMOS LII

James E. Fleming
Sanford Levinson
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 409
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfxp4
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  • Book Info
    Evolution and Morality
    Book Description:

    Can theories of evolution explain the development of our capacity for moral judgment and the content of morality itself? If bad behavior punished by the criminal law is attributable to physical causes, rather than being intentional or voluntary as traditionally assumed, what are the implications for rethinking the criminal justice system? Is evolutionary theory and nature talk, at least as practiced to date, inherently conservative and resistant to progressive and feminist proposals for social changes to counter subordination and secure equality? In Evolution and Morality, a group of contributors from philosophy, law, political science, history, and genetics address many of the philosophical, legal, and political issues raised by such questions. This insightful interdisciplinary volume examines the possibilities of a naturalistic ethics, the implications of behavioral morality for reform of the criminal law, the prospects for a biopolitical science, and the relationship between nature, culture, and social engineering.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3782-8
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
    James E. Fleming and Sanford Levinson
  4. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PART I. NATURALISTIC ETHICS
    • 1 NATURALISTIC ETHICS WITHOUT FALLACIES
      (pp. 3-30)
      PHILIP KITCHER

      Naturalism about ethics is a notoriously problematic position, possibly the worst of all, except for its available rivals. Naturalists, when they are not viewed as being so crude as to be beneath notice, are typically charged with committing well-known fallacies. I shall outline a version of naturalism that will, I hope, escape the familiar accusations, and also challenge philosophical disdain.

      “Naturalism” means many things to many people, and it will be well to begin by explaining what I donothave in mind. Some writers have understood naturalism as a claim about the omnicompetence of their favorite science and have...

    • 2 THE TWO FACES OF MORALITY: HOW EVOLUTIONARY THEORY CAN BOTH VINDICATE AND DEBUNK MORALITY (WITH A SPECIAL NOD TO THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF LAW)
      (pp. 31-99)
      ROBIN BRADLEY KAR

      Charles Darwin was the first to propose that there might be an evolutionary explanation of the moral sentiments¹—which, on certain contemporary views, might plausibly include or even largely consist in an evolutionary explanation of our capacities for moral judgment as well. Although more than a century has passed since Darwin first made this proposal, we are far from settling on a complete and definitive account. Recent decades, however, have witnessed a sharp uptick in the amount of good work that is being done on the evolution of morality, and this work has become increasingly suggestive.² Progress is being made,...

    • 3 MISSING HERITABILITY: HIDDEN ENVIRONMENT IN GENETIC STUDIES OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR
      (pp. 100-112)
      JONATHAN BECKWITH and COREY A. MORRIS-SINGER

      Philip Kitcher argues that the sciences of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology are severely limited in their utility for understanding human nature and contributing to the ethical project. He argues for a much broader set of approaches that would necessarily lessen the importance of biology in this effort.¹ Nevertheless, some biologists have made the strong case for the relevance of the biological sciences to this project. For instance, E. O. Wilson proposed in his 1975 catalytic bookSociobiologythat “scientists and humanists should consider together the possibility that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands...

  6. PART II. LAW AND BEHAVIORAL MORALITY
    • 4 LAW AND BEHAVIORAL MORALITY
      (pp. 115-165)
      NITA A. FARAHANY

      Behavioral morality is a new brand of moral philosophy with the central tenet that bad behavior attributable to a physical cause is either less blameworthy than intentional behavior or not at all morally blameworthy. As evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, and moral philosophers meet on an inevitable collision course, a more alluring incarnation of behavioral morality has emerged. This movement turns to evolutionary science, genetics, and neuroscience to challenge the social institutions that regulate human behavior. The criminal justice system, as the first and most obvious of such institutions, has been the most vulnerable to its scrutinizing gaze.

      Scientific studies that...

    • 5 RETHINKING UNREASONABLENESS: A COMMENT ON NITA FARAHANY’S “LAW AND BEHAVIORAL MORALITY”
      (pp. 166-193)
      AMANDA C. PUSTILNIK

      In her stimulating essay, Professor Nita Farahany defines the new movement of “behavioral morality” and situates it within a taxonomy of movements that relate human biology to moral capacities and content. As Farahany’s taxonomy illustrates, there are numerous branches of inquiry that tread this field; yet, what may be genuinely novel in the work of behavioral moralists is their emphasis on relating the functions of and the activity within particular brain ensembles¹ to specific types of moral cognition and action. While she is skeptical that behavioral moralists’ work on explicating causation will—or should—affect legal determinations of actors’ culpability,...

    • 6 A CASE STUDY IN NEUROSCIENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY
      (pp. 194-211)
      WALTER SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG

      Several prominent criminal law theorists argue vigorously and persistently that responsibility and excuses (which are denials of responsibility) should not be based on causation. Moore, for example, opposes “the causal theory of excuses,” which claims that “when an agent is caused to act by a factor outside his control, he is excused.”¹ Similarly, Morse fights “the fundamental psycholegal error,” which is the claim that causation per se excuses.²

      The newest addition to this coalition is Farahany, who argues against “behavioral morality,” defined as the claim that “deviant behavior attributable to a physical cause is either less blameworthy than intentional behavior...

    • 7 SCIENCE FICTION: SOME UNEXAMINED ASSUMPTIONS OF NITA FARAHANY’S “LAW AND BEHAVIORAL MORALITY”
      (pp. 212-218)
      JENNIFER L. CULBERT

      Nita Farahany’s essay “Law and Behavioral Morality” takes up several distinct but related topics concerning the application of science, specifically neuroscience, to matters of criminal law. My response to “Law and Behavioral Morality” focuses on what I take to be, at least at first glance, one of its least controversial and most sensible conclusions: the suggestion that behavioral moralists focus their energies on scientifically validating and qualifying our legal notion of reasonableness.¹ This particular conclusion reveals the centrality of the problem of judgment for Farahany’s essay.

      According to Farahany, behavioral moralists argue for new explanatory causes of human behavior that...

  7. PART III. BIOPOLITICAL SCIENCE
    • 8 BIOPOLITICAL SCIENCE
      (pp. 221-265)
      LARRY ARNHART

      Political science could become a true science by becoming a biopolitical science of political animals. This science would be both Aristotelian and Darwinian. It would be Aristotelian in fulfilling Aristotle’s original understanding of political science as the biological study of the political life of human beings and other political animals. It would be Darwinian in employing Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory as well as modern advances in Darwinian biology to explain political behavior as shaped by genetic evolution, cultural evolution, and individual judgment.

      Some political scientists have complained about the deficiencies of their discipline in understanding politics. A small but growing...

    • 9 COMMENT ON LARRY ARNHART, “BIOPOLITICAL SCIENCE”
      (pp. 266-276)
      DANIEL LORD SMAIL

      On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, the faculty and students of Fordham University in the Bronx, where I was teaching at the time, came together for an evening forum to discuss the looming war. I have vivid memories of the atmosphere: walking through the gathering dusk to the inviting brightness of the hall; the nervous laughter; the frustrations, the anxieties and, yes, the sense of fellowship, regardless of one’s politics. The event had been organized by a colleague of mine in political science, and the issues raised are the familiar ones. All of the...

    • 10 ARNHART’S EXPLANATORY PLURALISM
      (pp. 277-290)
      RICHARD A. RICHARDS

      Larry Arnhart, in his “Biopolitical Science,” argues for a comprehensive, integrative approach to political science.¹ According to Arnhart, this “biopolitical” framework of a “science of political animals” moves through three main levels of “deep” political history—a universal political history of the human species; a cultural political history of groups; and individual political history—and incorporates multiple explanatory factors based on, in his terms, natural and social history, morality, judgment, emotion, religion, ambition, and liberal education. Arnhart illustrates this approach through his explanation of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 in terms of the natural history of the human species,...

  8. PART IV. NATURE, CONSERVATISM, AND PROGRESSIVISM
    • 11 AGAINST NATURE
      (pp. 293-346)
      ELIZABETH F. EMENS

      Progressive arguments on behalf of subordinated social groups often embrace social models of group identity. In other words, these arguments treat identity categories, based on race or sex or disability, as socially constructed. Relatedly, progressives tend to resist naturalizing models of group difference—what we might call “nature talk”—and to view claims that group identity is “natural” as conservative efforts to preserve the status quo.

      We can see this resistance and a concomitant embrace of social explanations in various contexts: for example, in the feminist response to the invocation by Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, of biological explanations...

    • 12 NATURE, CULTURE, AND SOCIAL ENGINEERING: REFLECTIONS ON EVOLUTION AND EQUALITY
      (pp. 347-392)
      LINDA C. McCLAIN

      In the United States, evidence of the success of legal feminism’s equality project is visible in the constitutional commitment to equal opportunity and prohibitions against legislating based on fixed notions about gender roles,¹ as well as in the move toward greater sex equality in family law and other areas of private law.² However, sex inequality persists, and substantive equality remains elusive.³ Social cooperation between women and men in various domains of society is assumed to be a fundamental and necessary building block of society, but it proves hard to secure on terms of equality.

      Why is sex equality so hard...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 393-399)