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Title: Ethical realism and the biosciences
Author: Harper , Scott
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Ethical Realism and the Biosciences is an investigation into whether the ethical theory of realism can be justified on a naturalistic basis in light of modern biological discoveries. The author claims that ethical realism is the case for a core of human ethical precepts that are shared across all human cultures - the prohibitions on lying, stealing, cheating, harming, and murdering. This is based on the existence of moral facts that are motivated by moral emotions bequeathed to us by evolution, but justified through the use of reasoning about what we have reason to do to make the life of the community go well. Naturalistic ethical realism is buttressed by the fact that evolution not only selected for the moral emotions, but itself 'tracks' the flourishing of species. Sociobiology, ethology, neurology, biochemistry, and anthropology are all utilized in the canvas of how we actually make ethical decisions. T~is leads to a new theory of moral emotions and their effect in ethical action. An argument is presented for a culture-independent and person-independent, but species-dependent ethical realism. It is postulated t6 be built of moral modules that offer an explanation for moral disagreement around a realist core. This study contends that a defence of naturalistic ethical realism and the evolutionary psychology on which it is built makes four contributions to a Christian theology of sin. It defines a relationship between wrongdoing and sin, and posits that a naturalistic justification of wrong-doing lends apologetic heft to Christian doctrine. It gives support to the notion that we are responsible, and combats the threat of genetic determinism. The theory of emotional interaction in ethical decision-making on which it is built supports the importance of training in virtue. Finally, it provides an alternative basis for an etiological myth of original sin.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available