Morality and Politics

Anthony O'Hear

in Beyond Evolution

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780198250043
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598111 | DOI:
 Morality and Politics

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In morality, self‐consciousness and evolution can pull in different ways. While, as Humphrey has shown, evolution can explain the existence of self‐consciousness and empathy and socio‐biologists have shown how self‐interest can lead to the existence of reciprocal altruism and kin selection, this falls short of genuine morality, which seems to require the possibility of true altruism and self‐sacrifice. Following Sartre we must understand the importance of the reciprocal ’gaze’ of other members of our linguistic community in forming our identity as selves. Hayek has argued that a social evolutionary account, in which those traditional societal practices that are successful persist and flourish, ought to motivate us to favour a form of irrationalism over immediate individual rational reflection. Similarly, Orwell has argued for the powerful motivational effects of traditional and less transparently rational virtues such as patriotism and fidelity. Despite this, however, we ought not to adopt an unquestioning obedience to tradition or to the demands of immediate rationality, but rather, following Edmund Burke, remain both wary of extreme rationalism and aware of the benefits of tradition and of powerful allegiances to our particular countries and communities while continuing to employ rational reflection on our moral standards and practices where appropriate.

Keywords: Burke; irrationalism; Hayek; Humphrey; morality; Orwell; Rationality; self‐interest; sociobiology; tradition

Chapter.  33017 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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