Morality: Beyond Intuition

By Peter Singer, in New Scientist

The Enlightenment philosopher David Hume pointed out long ago that no combination of statements about what "is" the case could ever allow one to deduce what "ought" to be. After all, in deductive arguments, the truth of the conclusion is already contained in the premises. But when scientists deal in morality, deducing an "ought" from an "is" is often precisely what they attempt to do.

Fortunately, a new generation of scientists has emerged who seek to shed light on morality without attempting to annex the entire field. They approach ethics from several directions. For example, primatologist Frans de Waal has observed the rudiments of ethical behaviour in non-human primates, which appear to understand reciprocity and may have an elementary sense of fairness. Psychologist Paul Bloom has found prototypes of our moral judgements in babies as young as 3 months. These examples provide powerful evidence for an innate component to our moral judgements.

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Posted:  by agomberg
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