Evolution, Human Behaviour and Morality: The Legacy of Westermarck, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Evolution, Human Behaviour and Morality

The Legacy of Westermarck, 1st Edition

Edited by Olli Lagerspetz, Jan Antfolk, Ylva Gustafsson, Camilla Kronqvist


238 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-08-24
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This book highlights the recent re-emergence of Edward Westermarck's work in modern approaches to morality and altruism, examining his importance as one of the founding fathers of anthropology and as a moral relativist, who identified our moral feelings with biologically-evolved retributive emotions.

Questioning the extent to which current debates on the relationship between biology and morality are similar to those in which Westermarck himself was involved, the authors ask what can be learnt from his arguments and from the criticism that he encountered. Drawing on Westermarck's manuscripts and papers as well as his published work, the authors show the importance of situating debates, whether modern or classical, in their correct methodological and philosophical context.

This volume is a rigorous assessment of the ways in which morality is connected with human biological nature. It plays close attention to the development of debates in this field and will appeal to scholars of sociology, anthropology and philosophy.


'This book is an important contribution to the revival of interest in Edward Westermarck, one of the greatest but most overlooked of the classical sociologists. Most discussions of Westermarck focus on his now celebrated theory of incest avoidance, but this volume goes beyond that to consider him as a forerunner of evolutionary psychology and his Darwinian understanding of the evolution of morality. In that regard it is especially welcome.' Stephen K. Sanderson, University of California, Riverside, USA

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Westermarck and Modern Evolutionary Approaches to Morality (Olli Lagerspetz)

Part 1: Westermarck and the Emergence of 20th Century Social Anthropology

2. Westermarck and the Emergence of 20th Century Social Anthropology: Three Main Challenges (Olli Lagerspetz)

3. Westermarck, Malinowski and the 'Wild Things': At the Interface between Anthropology, Sexology and Psychoanalysis (Juhani Ihanus)

4. The Sensitiveness of the Holy: Westermarck and Durkheim on Religion and Society (Olli Lagerspetz and Kirsti Suolinna)

5. Westermarck, the Evolutionists and the Question of Context (Olli Lagerspetz)

Part 2: Westermarck as a Precursor of Evolutionary Psychology

6. Westermarck as a Precursor of Evolutionary Psychology: The Nature and Nurture of Evolutionary Explanations (Jan Antfolk)

7. Itemising Westermarck's Hypothesis: The Assumptions Embedded in Westermarck's Explanation of Human Incest Avoidanc (Jan Antfolk and Arthur P. Wolf)

8. The Westermarck Thesis as a Thinking Tool for Sociobiology (Ullica Segerstrale)

Part 3: The Emotional Origins of Morality

9. The Emotional Origins of Morality: Methodological Issues (Camilla Kronqvist and Otto Pipatti)

10. The Evolution of Westermarck's Theory of Moral Emotions (Otto Pipatti)

11. Westermarck and Moore on the Source of Morality (Camilla Kronqvist)

12. Emotions and Moral Relativism: Prinz and Westermarck (Camilla Kronqvist)

Part 4: Evolutionary Psychology of Morality: Critical Perspectives

13. Critical Perspectives on Evolutionary Psychology and Morality (Ylva Gustafsson)

14. Why Altruism May Not be the Right Concept for Understanding Morality (Ylva Gustafsson)

15. Westermarck, Sympathy and Natural Selection (Hannes Nykänen)

16. Darwinian Conservatives and Westermarck's Ethics: A Political Dimension of the Late 20th Century Westermarckian Renaissance (Antti Lepistö)

About the Editors

Olli Lagerspetz is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. He is the author of Trust, Ethics and Human Reason and co-author of Edward Westermarck: Intellectual Networks, Philosophy and Social Anthropology.

Jan Antfolk is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at Åbo Akademi University, Finland.

Ylva Gustafsson is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Philosophy at Åbo Akademi University, Finland.

Camilla Kronqvist is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Philosophy at Åbo Akademi University, Finland.

About the Series

Philosophy and Method in the Social Sciences

Philosophy and Method in the Social Sciences
Engaging with the recent resurgence of interest in methodological and philosophical issues in the human and social sciences, this series provides an outlet for work that demonstrates both the intellectual import of philosophical and methodological debates within the social sciences and their direct relevance to questions of politics, ethics or policy. Philosophy and Method in the Social Sciences welcomes work from sociologists, geographers, philosophers, anthropologists, criminologists and political scientists with broad interest across academic disciplines, that scrutinises contemporary perspectives within the human and social sciences and explores their import for today's social questions.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General