Titel: Morality’s Dark Past
Autor: Kim Sterelny
Abstract: Philip Kitcher’s The Ethical Project tries to vindicates ethics through an analysis of its evolutionary and cultural history, a history which in turn, he thinks, supports a particular conception of the role of moral thinking and normative practices in human social life. As Kitcher sees it, that role could hardly be more central: most of what makes human life human, and preferable to the fraught and impoverished societies of the great apes, depends on moral cognition. From this view of the role of the ethical project as a social technology, Kitcher derives an account of moral progress and even moral truth; a normative analogue of the idea that truth is the convergence of rational enquiry. To Kitcher’s history, I present an anti-history. Most of what is good about human social life depends on the expansion of our social emotions, not on our capacities to articulate and internalise explicit norms. Indeed, since the Holocene and the origins of complex society, normative thought and normative institutions have been more prominent as tools of exploitation and oppression than as mechanisms of a social peace that balances individual desire with collective co-operation. I argue that the vindication project fails in its own terms: even given Kitcher’s distinctive pragmatic concept of vindication, history debunks rather than vindicates moral cognition.
Titel: Evolutionary Foundations for a Theory of Moral Progress?
Autor: Kim Sterelny
Buchanan and Powell develop a concept of moral progress, and build a middle-range theory of how moral progress comes about. They argue on the basis of their view of the evolutionary origins of normative thought that further moral progress towards more inclusive moral and political systems is possible. In doing so they rebut a conservative reading of the evolution of normative thought: a reading that regards the hope for inclusive moral systems as utopian. Buchanan and Powell argue that this ‘evoconservative’ argument overlooks overwhelming evidence of the adaptive plasticity of normative thought. I agree with their rejection of that evoconservative position, but give an alternative account of the evolutionary foundations of normative cognition and its plasticity. But I also argue that there is a gap in their defence of their view of moral progress: it begs the question against exclusive, relational conceptions of the naturalistic foundations of normative obligations and rights. Their account is less fully naturalistic than they seem to suppose, for it lacks a developed account of the natural facts which make normative claims true, and it is not clear that there is an account to be given that would vindicate their inclusive liberal intuitions about the normswe should have.