Moralizing biology: The appeal and limits of the new compassionate view of nature

History of the Human Sciences 26 (3):82-106 (2013)
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Abstract
In recent years, a proliferation of books about empathy, cooperation and pro-social behaviours (Brooks, 2011a) has significantly influenced the discourse of the life-sciences and reversed consolidated views of nature as a place only for competition and aggression. In this article I describe the recent contribution of three disciplines – moral psychology (Jonathan Haidt), primatology (Frans de Waal) and the neuroscience of morality – to the present transformation of biology and evolution into direct sources of moral phenomena, a process here named the ‘moralization of biology’. I conclude by addressing the ambivalent status of this constellation of authors, for whom today ‘morality comes naturally’: I explore both the attractiveness of their message, and the problematic epistemological assumptions of their research programmes in the light of new discoveries in developmental and molecular biology
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Archival date: 2020-07-19
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