5 April 2012
The Evolution of Morality
De Waal, author of Good Natured, is one of the most foremost proponents of debate over the evolution of morality. He is a famous primatologist and ethologist who bases his opinions partially on Darwinism and partially on his own personal viewing of primates. According to De Waal, morality comes from two separate sources. De Waal’s theory of morality rests upon the observations of primate behaviors of empathy and sympathy, the selection of kin, reciprocal altruism with regards to fairness, and the simple ability to get along, in conjunction with the idea that one part of our human morality is biological and one part is a result of cultural development. If the idea of a moral code were to be described using only one source, the theory would fail almost immediately. In the human sector, de Waal suggests that our cultural norm is a result of the collaboration of two separate things. The first would be our biological makeup. He claims that all humans are born with some sort of moral ideas. These are, in some cases, fueled by the simple needs and desires that simply come with the territory of being an infant, adolescent, or adult. However, the simple existence of an awareness of what is right and what is wrong is in no way weighty enough to incur a full-fledged code of morals. In order for it to be a sense that is strong enough to sway human behavior it needs to be manipulated by another set of values. This is where cultural decision begins to play a part. Much of the human’s idea of a moral code is embedded in what society believes to be correct behavior. This can encompass many things whether it be how a community should function, how other humans would like to be treated, or the innate desire for friendship. The key point that de Waal is striving to make is that our human morality is consistently evolving with the times. Fairness, normality, and obligation are cultural ideas formed simply by the...
References: De Waal, Frans. Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996. Print.
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