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Products for grant RZ-249786-16

The Evolution of Moral Progress
Allen Buchanan, Duke University

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The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory (Book)
Title: The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory
Author: Allen Buchanan
Author: Russell Powell
Abstract: -Contributes to the contemporary literature on human rights by showing how the modern human rights movement exemplifies the most important gains in inclusivity, how fragile its achievements may be, and why it occurred when it did -Provides a thoroughly interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology and anthropology, history, sociology, and social moral epistemology -Explains a sophisticated theory of moral progress in clear, accessible language
Year: 2018
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: WorldCat listing
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Secondary URL Description: Publisher's listing
Access Model: Book
Publisher: New York City: Oxford University Press
Type: Multi-author monograph
ISBN: 9780190868413
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes

De-Moralization as Emancipation: The Evolution of Invalid Moral Norms (Article)
Title: De-Moralization as Emancipation: The Evolution of Invalid Moral Norms
Author: Allen Buchanan
Author: Russell Powell
Abstract: Liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment understood that surplus moral constraints, imposed by invalid moral norms, are a serious limitation on liberty. They also recognized that overcoming surplus moral constraints -- what we call proper de-moralization -- is an important dimension of moral progress. Contemporary philosophical theorists of liberty have largely neglected the threat that surplus moral constraints pose to liberty and the importance of proper de-moralization for human emancipation. This essay examines the phenomena of surplus moral constraints and proper de-moralization, utilizing insights from biological and cultural evolutionary thinking
Year: 2017
Primary URL Description:
Format: Journal

Evolving Measures of Moral Success (Article)
Title: Evolving Measures of Moral Success
Author: Russell Powell
Author: Allen Buchanan
Abstract: Abstract. For the vast majority of human natural history, moral progress and evolutionary success were inextricably intertwined. According to the received evolutionary account, morality arose and spread in early humans because it enhanced within-group cooperation in a Darwinian competition among groups over scarce and scattered resources. Moral psychology and culture was honed in the Pleistocene for these strategic cooperative functions, and the cost of moralities diverging from this adaptive role was evolutionarily and perhaps normatively prohibitive. During this harsh period of human history, the superiority of one morality over another might well have been gauged by how well it fulfilled these evolutionary functions. Recently, however, the premium of evolutionary success has given way to a truly normative project of human betterment. In this essay, we describe and explain the remarkable decoupling of human morality from its long-standing evolutionary roots, and in so doing expose the limitations of prominent evolutionary accounts of morality and moral progress. We then bring these evolutionary theoretic lessons to bear on the question of ethical pluralism. We show that the standard evolutionary argument for ethical pluralism fails because there is a yawning gap between a morality’s validity and its success in solving problems of social living. We go on to offer a richer evolutionary argument for ethical pluralism that appeals to two kinds of evolutionary moral constraints: the developmental dynamic of early plasticity paired with later rigidity in individual moral development, and path-dependency in the evolution of moral systems.
Year: 2019
Format: Journal
Format: Other
Publisher: Oxford University Press

The Moral Community Evolves (Article)
Title: The Moral Community Evolves
Author: Russell Powell
Author: Allen Buchanan
Abstract: Moral reasoning is modulated by emotions and other cognitive biases. How do these covert biasing mechanisms shape perceptions of more fundamental moral categories, such as moral standing and moral status (together, ‘MSS’), out of which specific moral attitudes and behaviors flow? In this paper, we explain the centrality of MSS to human evolution, and examine several evolved biases that distort MSS ascription. These include tendencies to deny moral standing, or to attribute lower moral status, to beings that elicit feelings of disgust or fear, as well as to those that are perceived as less similar, less attractive, less individualized, and less disposed toward reciprocal cooperation. These adaptive mechanisms may have served human groups well in the evolutionary past, but in the modern world they pose an obstacle to moral progress and play a key role in moral regression. We argue that these biases have also influenced philosophical and scientific research on animal minds. Our aim is to develop a richer, biocultural understanding of how conceptions of the moral community evolve.
Year: 2020
Format: Journal
Publisher: Oxford University Press