Friday, July 23, 2010

The Nature of Morality

An interesting NYT op-ed by David Brooks on moral naturalism. The central question is where morality comes from. He reports the results of a recent gathering of moral naturalists. It is nice that we have stories like this in a newspaper. And the academic work mentioned in this piece is first rate.
A few insights:
1. the story of human morality begins back in the evolutionary past with primates, insects, and rats. Some interesting findings about social cooperation.
2. evolution had forged a firm foundation for a moral sense, which is like our sense of taste. Natural receptors help us recognize fairness and cruelty.
3. such a moral sense can be observed early in life.
4. moral behavior is not a function of moral knowledge but rather of sensitivity to other people’s needs.
Brooks finds useful to see people investigating morality in concrete and empirical ways. But he is concerned that apparently there is not place for the yearning for transcendence and the sacred in naturalism. He is right on that.
The complete article here.