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Biology and the Foundation of Ethics
  1. Andrew S Leggett
  1. Department of Philosophy, University of Reading

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    Edited by Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, 336 pages, £45.00, US$64.95 (hc); £15.95, US$19.95 (sc).

    Is evolutionary ethics going to be to the new millennium what virtue ethics has been to the eighties and early nineties? If the rash of books on the subject is anything to go by, the answer has to be “yes”. This is not, however, to claim that the subject is novel. Although many point to Edward Wilson's work in the seventies as heralding the dawn of a new focus in ethics, the claim that ethics can be grounded in our biological nature was fully explored by Aristotle and, as contributors to this collection attest, by many other philosophers and biologists in the intervening period.

    Despite the back-cover promise that “the book asks, for example, whether humans are innately selfish and whether there are particular facets of human nature that bear directly on social practices” …

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