1st Edition

Evolution, Human Behaviour and Morality The Legacy of Westermarck

    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    250 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

    1. Introduction: Westermarck and Modern Evolutionary Approaches to Morality

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

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

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

    4. The Sensitiveness of the Holy: Westermarck and Durkheim on Religion and Society

    5. Westermarck, the Evolutionists and the Question of Context

    Part 2: Westermarck as a Precursor of Evolutionary Psychology

    6. Westermarck as a Precursor of Evolutionary Psychology: The Nature and Nurture of Evolutionary Explanations

    7. Itemising Westermarck's Hypothesis: The Assumptions Embedded in Westermarck's Explanation of Human Incest Avoidanc

    8. The Westermarck Thesis as a Thinking Tool for Sociobiology

    Part 3: The Emotional Origins of Morality

    9. The Emotional Origins of Morality: Methodological Issues

    10. The Evolution of Westermarck's Theory of Moral Emotions

    11. Westermarck and Moore on the Source of Morality

    12. Emotions and Moral Relativism: Prinz and Westermarck

    Part 4: Evolutionary Psychology of Morality: Critical Perspectives

    13. Critical Perspectives on Evolutionary Psychology and Morality

    14. Why Altruism May Not be the Right Concept for Understanding Morality

    15. Westermarck, Sympathy and Natural Selection

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


    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.

    '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