Volume 10, 2008
Charles W. Wright
Natural Selection and Moral Sentiment
Evolutionary Biology’s Challenge to Moral Philosophy
Evolutionary biologists have suggested that human moral judgment is best understood as an emotionally mediated phenomenon. With few exceptions, philosophers have scorned these proposals. Recent research in moral psychology and social neuroscience indicates, though, that moral judgment is produced by the coordinated activity of multiple regions of the brain, and consists of both cognitive and affective processes. Evidence also suggests that different dimensions of moral judgment – the affective and cognitive processes, for instance – possess distinct evolutionary histories. Moral philosophers will need to reconsider longstanding debates – such as those between Humeans and anti-Humeans, and between motivation internalists and externalists – in light of this evidence. Otherwise we run the risk of disciplinary irrelevance.