Allen Buchanan (Duke University): The Evolution of Moral Progress

Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
301 Marx Hall

ABSTRACT: The idea of moral progress used to be a the heart of liberal thought; but it has all but disappeared from contemporary philosophical thinking.  This presentation previews a forthcoming book by Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell (OUP, May 2018) that resurrects the project of theorizing moral progress.  Drawing on the best available work in evolutionary psychology, biology, anthropology, sociology and history, as well as recent work in social moral epistemology, we develop a naturalistic theory of moral progress. We show that widely accepted accounts of the evolutionary origins of human morality do not constrain the possibilities for moral progress so tightly as “evoconservatives” have claimed.  Our naturalistic theory of moral progress also contains the resources for a theory of moral regression—something that may be especially valuable under current political conditions.

BIO: Allen Buchanan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law at Duke University and Distinguished Research Associate at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford. He works mainly in Political Philosophy, Philosophy of International Law, Bioethics, and Social Moral Epistemology. His latest books, both forthcoming from OUP in May 2018, are INSTITUTIONALIZING THE JUST WAR and THE EVOLUTION OF MORAL PROGRESS: A BIOCULTURAL THEORY, co-authored with Russell Powell.