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evolutionary ethicsevolutionäre Ethik (ger.)

  • In the 19th century, the attempt to base ethical reasoning on the presumed facts about evolution. The movement is particularly associated with Spencer. The premise is that later elements in an evolutionary path are better than earlier ones; the application of this principle then requires seeing western society, laissez-faire capitalism, or some other object of approval, as more evolved than more ›primitive‹ social forms. Neither the principle nor the applications command much respect. The version of evolutionary ethics called ›social Darwinism‹ emphasizes the struggle for natural selection, and draws the conclusion that we should glorify and assist such struggle, usually by enhancing competitive and aggressive relations between people in society, or between societies themselves. More recently the relation between evolution and ethics has been re-thought in the light of biological discoveries concerning altruism and kin-selection. (Oxford Dict. of Philosophy 2008) 
    cultural studies
    I admit that I am here giving more prominence to a single illustration than is warranted by the space allotted to it in the book before us, but the case is one that reveals a serious difficulty in Evolutionary Ethics, where it has to deal with the more complex problems. As long as we remain within the sphere of unconscious instinctive-rational action, Might (stronger feeling) makes Right; but as Mind becomes conscious and reflective, the need of an inversion of the formula becomes apparent, for the Social Authority should weight that theory which seems to the most far-sighted to promise most for the welfare of coming generations.

    Coupland, W.C. (1884). [Rev. Schneider, H.H. (1883). Freud und Leid des Menschengeschlechts]. Mind 9, 602-606: 606.


    Evolutionary ethics

    Spencer, H. (1893). Evolutionary ethics. Athenæum Nr. 3432: 193-194.