The subject of reconciling our evolutionary past with our sense of right and wrong is undergoing a resurgent wave of interest. The timely Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics offers the first general introductory text to this area, presenting students with three different areas of ongoing research related to evolution and morality: cognitive psychology, normative ethics, and metaethics.
Divided into two sections. Part I explores the cognitive psychological question of how – if at all – our moral sense evolved. Part II reviews both historical and recent efforts to derive moral norms and draws conclusions about the objectivity of morality from biological facts about our evolutionary past. Written in an engaging and accessible style, this audiobook presents an exciting study of the most up–to–date research and current issues being debated across both psychology and philosophy.
Scott M. James is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He has published work on evolutionary ethics in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research and the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
©2013 Scott M.James (P)2013 Audible Ltd
"In recent years evolutionary ethics has burgeoned in fascinating but sometimes confusing ways. James' judicious treatment of the field is well written, well organized, and well balanced. There is no better introductory text covering this ground." (Richard Joyce, University of Sydney)
"This is a terrific introduction to a topic of growing interest. Balanced and comprehensive, it should be the definitive text for many years." (Michael Ruse, The Florida State University)
This subject somewhat overlaps with that of another audible book, "Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation." The common subject would be how (and by what mechanisms) ethical standards and behaviors emerge from our human condition, alongside or apart from the classical religious explanations. How, also, do these propagate across society, across physical distances and over time?
This is a decent survey of the subject.
From time to time the explanations seemed to bog down and get a bit repetitive, as if the author assumed I didn't get the straightforward explanation the first time, and so rephrased the matter perhaps three ways. Some may benefit from this. However, these passages went quickly enough.
As to the narrator's performance, at first I was very put off by the lack of gravitas in her voice. I do not wish to be insulting, but right away I was stricken with the jarring image of a chirpy, cheery, over-dramatic gum-chewing "valley girl" type reading a scholarly work. Little bursts of energy seemed injected into sentences with no relevance to the content, as if the narrator was trying (too hard) to liven up a subject she perhaps thought in need of it. Fortunately, her voice seemed to slow down and mature a bit, fairly quickly into the work, though that sort of tone lingers, distractingly, throughout. Perhaps it was just out of fatigue, but it improved considerably, just after the introduction.
Letting the rest of the world go by
I didn't really like the first half of the book. It mostly covered evolutionary psychology topics from other books I already listened to such as Dawkins, Wilson, Pinker and de Waal. I didn't mind the authors take on the topic, but it was just mostly review for me.
The book came alive in the second half. The author jumped into some serious Philosophy discussion such as Hume's law coupled with the natural fallacy. They would say, the natural doesn't intersect with the moral (is doesn't give ought). But the author makes some good points about how evolution can bridge the two gap between the two. I didn't pretend to understand everything the author said, but it did open my eyes (ears, since I listened) to the possibility. The book talks a lot about something called the evolutionary anti-realist position. I didn't fully understand it while listening to it. I looked it up on google and now I know why I didn't understand it while listening. It's pretty complicated stuff for the non-philosopher student like me to fully understand.
A non-philosopher student like me can follow the narrative and get useful stuff from the book. I do recommend the book, but note it can be a tough read. It will probably whet your appetite for the next book that comes out on audbile on this same topic.
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