Nov 20 2010
Ian Ramsey Centre Annual Conference, 2011
The Evolution of Morality and the Morality of Evolution
St Anne’s College, Oxford
In 1876, the great utilitarian philosopher Henry Sigwick announced that the theory of evolution ‘has little bearing on ethics’. This opinion held sway among philosophers and biologists for almost 100 years, bolstered by the belief that the naturalistic fallacy had foreclosed on this question. From the 1970s, however, new work on kin selection, altruism, and co-operation reopened the debate. The same period witnessed growing interest from elements the philosophical community interested in exploring questions raised for moral philosophy by evolutionary psychology and ethology. Theologians, too, have been concerned to assess whether this burgeoning field has implications for traditional theological doctrines. As a consequence of these developments evolutionary ethics is now a lively interdisciplinary field that seeks to address both the explanation of moral behaviours and their justification. This conference seeks to explore these new developments concerning the evolution of morality and their broader ramifications.
In addition to the evolution of morality, this conference also seeks to explore what might be called ‘the morality of evolution’. While moral philosophers have only recently begun to take an interest in evolutionary theory, from the nineteenth century onwards evolution had been associated with various ideological movements, including what might loosely be termed ‘Social Darwinism’. Furthermore, critics of evolution have often claimed that it has undesirable moral consequences, linking it to racism, imperialism, rampant capitalism and eugenics. Papers offering accounts of the appropriation of evolutionary thinking for social programmes, or addressing the role of moral issues in anti-evolutionary rhetoric are also invited.
Confirmed Plenary Speakers include:
Edward J. Larson (Pepperdine University), Ronald L. Numbers (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Stephen J. Pope (Boston College), Michael Ruse (Florida State University).
Call for Papers
Papers are invited on topics directly relevant to the conference theme. Questions to be addressed include, but are not restricted to:
* Does evolutionary theory assist in the vindication of certain moral claims, or does it promote scepticism about them?
* Do we have evolved moral faculties, and do they ‘track’ real moral properties?
* Is the naturalistic fallacy at all relevant to these discussions?
* In what ways has evolutionary theory been associated with particular social, moral or political programmes, and are these claimed associations justified?
* What evidence is there for moral nativism?
* What bearing does recent empirical work have on our assumptions about the evolution of moral sensibilities?
* Does evolutionary ethics have the potential to render traditional philosophical metaethics redundant?
* What implications does evolutionary epistemology have for traditional religious doctrines and, in particular, theological anthropology.
* Does work in the field of evolutionary ethics bring with it certain moral or social responsibilities?
Parallel sessions will be of 30 minutes duration, 20 minutes for the paper, 10 minutes for discussion.
Those wishing to contribute a paper should submit the following details
- Full name
- Name of institution
- Title of paper
- An abstract of up to 200 words
by email to Ian Ramsey Centre firstname.lastname@example.org , with the subject line:
“IRC Evolution of Morality Conference Paper Proposal - (Your name)”
Closing Date for Abstract submissions: Monday, 31st January, 2011.
Notification of accepted papers will take place in late February 2011.