Article

“First Principles of Morals”

Rick Armstrong

in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195368932
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195368932.013.0008

Series: Oxford Handbooks

“First Principles of Morals”

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

GO

Preview

This article explores the debate over evolutionary morality. While much evidence supports the scientific validity of evolution, it could not resolve was the origin of ethical behavior, thus hindering its popular acceptance as a theory of human and social development; this is one reason for the religious objection to evolution. The moral quandary galvanized many American novelists who were especially fascinated and disturbed by the implications of human evolution. Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Frank Norris, and Jack London wrote pessimistic stories of the consequences of human and social development. James and Wharton appropriated evolutionary ideas in order to reveal the way group dynamics force certain individuals to conform or perish, while Dreiser, Norris, and London examined directly the ethical limitations of human evolution. These narratives inevitably criticized the evolutionary worldview as too deterministic, reductive, and aggressive.

Keywords: evolution; human development; social development; naturalists; ethics

Article.  7273 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers) ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »