Friday, January 28, 2011

Moral Minds by Marc Hauser

An impressive work that advances the idea of an innate moral grammar 'designed' by evolution and that is shaped in development by our environmental circumstances. Hauser presents numerous research findings related to human and animal morality, each time carefully parsing out valid inferences from fallacious conclusions due to potential confounds. Hauser presents different philosophical notions of how we moralize and argues for a “Rawlsian” creature, one that makes immediate moral appraisals because we seem to react before we think.
His arguments and analysis are much more sophisticated than I am likely implying (and this short review doesn't do the book justice). In fact, the final chunk of the book is such a good overview of current animal research and how it relates to different aspects of morality that it became a bit dry and detached from the main thesis of the book.
A bit of a challenge to finish, but this work is a wonderful repository of research on human and animal morality, and provides excellent analysis of the surrounding scientific and philosophical issues.
(The very astute blog follow might notice that I had planned to read this after Justice, after Rawls, over a year ago. Some things take time.)


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