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Evolution, Ethics and

  1. Scott M. James

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee634

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

James, S. M. 2013. Evolution, Ethics and. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


The relationship between ethics and evolution is multifaceted. It has itself evolved substantially in the years since Darwin first published his ideas. For example, many tend to associate evolutionary ethics with social Darwinism (see below), according to which our moral norms and social policies should be based on those behavioral tendencies favored by natural selection. But social Darwinism has been abandoned. And yet the study of evolutionary ethics has never been more energized. The direction of that energy has shifted dramatically since the 1980s. This essay will explore the influence of evolutionary thought on ethics in three broad and overlapping areas: moral psychology, normative ethics, and metaethics.


  • cognitive development;
  • ethics;
  • Hume, David;
  • metaethics;
  • Moore, G.E;
  • normative ethics;
  • evolution;
  • game theory