meta-ethics or ethology

From: CMR <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2004 08:15:56 -0800


> > Some previous posts in the current thread have attacked this idea by,
> > for example, explaining ethics in terms of evolutionary theory or game
> > theory, but this is like explaining a statement about the properties
> > of sodium chloride in terms of the evolutionary or game theoretic
> > advantages of the study of chemistry. Yes, you can legitimately talk
> > about ethics or chemistry in these terms, but in so doing you are
> > talking meta-ethics or meta-chemistry, which I think is what Bruno
> > means by "level shift".
> >

Perhaps, but this view speaks to the rift between those that approach human
behavior as being different in kind from other animals and those that see it
as instead different in degree. The latter, myself included, find the study
of ethology (animal behavior) and animal ecology as directly applicable to
humans and in those very real fields of study, interpretiing behavior in
the context of fitness is standard procedure. So in that sense examining
human behavior in that same context can be seen as a legitimate extension of
ethology and/or animal ecology, as opposed to some form of meta-psychology,
..anthropology, ..sociology etc..

We share 98%+ of our genetic heritage with bonobo chimps. Many researchers
credit our cousins with primitive language capacity, tool usage, and even
self-awareness. I doubt, though, that many would find interpreting chimp
behavior in the context of fitness to be un-orthodox in anyway. Indeed it is
the norm.


<-- insert gratuitous quotation that implies my profundity
Received on Fri Jan 30 2004 - 12:18:20 PST

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