Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 66 (3):523 - 537 (2010)

Erect posture and large brain are two of the most significant anatomical traits that distinguish us from nonhuman primates. But humans are also different from chimpanzees and other animals, and no less importantly, in their behavior, both as individuals and socially. Distinctive human behavioral attributes include tool-making and technology; abstract thinking, categorizing, and reasoning; symbolic (creative) language; self-awareness and death-awareness; science, literature, and art; legal codes, ethics and religion; complex social organization and political institutions. These traits may all be said to be components of human culture, a distinctively human mode of adaptation to the environment that is far more versatile and successful than the biological mode. Cultural adaptation is more effective than biological adaptation because its innovations are directed, rather than random mutations; because it can be transmitted "horizontally", rather than only "vertically", to descendants; and because cultural heredity is Lamarckian, rather than Mendelian, so that acquired characteristics can be inherited. I explore ethics as a distinctive human trait. The question whether ethical behavior is biologically determined may refer either to the capacity for ethics (i.e., the proclivity to judge human actions as either right or wrong), or to the moral norms accepted by human beings for guiding their actions. I will propose: (1) that the capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature; and (2) that moral norms are products of cultural evolution, not of biological evolution
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,337
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Biological Roots of Morality.Francisco J. Ayala - 1987 - Biology and Philosophy 2 (3):235-252.
Cultural Evolution.Matteo Mameli & Kim Sterelny - 2009 - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Marcuse, Human Nature, and the Foundations of Ethical Norms.Jeff Noonan - 2008 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (3):267-286.
Moral Transhumanism.Ingmar Persson & Julian Savulescu - 2010 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35 (6):656-669.


Added to PP index

Total views
29 ( #394,783 of 2,508,119 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,711 of 2,508,119 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes