Human Nature and the Nature of Morality

Dennis L. Krebs

in The Origins of Morality

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897261 | DOI:
Human Nature and the Nature of Morality

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This chapter evaluates the extent to which humans meet the criteria of four conceptions of what it means to be moral—conceptions that are defined in terms of good behavior, virtue, moral knowledge or wisdom, and honor and integrity. It is concluded that most people acquire the ability to fulfill all four requirements, but that they are naturally-disposed to do so only in optimal conditions, and that in other conditions, they are naturally-disposed to behave in immoral ways. A sophisticated sense of morality consists more in the flexibility necessary to solve moral problems than in the capacity to engage in highly sophisticated forms of moral reasoning. Cardinal moral principles exhort people to promote their own welfare in ways that promote the welfare of others. With respect to evolutionary ethics, there is no necessary inconsistency between behaving in accordance with utilitarian and deontological moral principles and propagating one’s genes.

Keywords: prosocial behavior; virtue; moral wisdom; honor; integrity; evolutionary ethics; philosophers of ethics; deontological; utilitarian; moral principles

Chapter.  8368 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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