Cover: A Natural History of Human Morality, from Harvard University PressCover: A Natural History of Human Morality in PAPERBACK

A Natural History of Human Morality

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$20.50 • £16.95 • €18.50

ISBN 9780674986824

Publication Date: 10/01/2018

Academic Trade

208 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

6 line illustrations

World

A Natural History of Human Morality offers the most detailed account to date of the evolution of human moral psychology. Based on extensive experimental data comparing great apes and human children, Michael Tomasello reconstructs how early humans gradually became an ultra-cooperative and, eventually, a moral species.

There were two key evolutionary steps, each founded on a new way that individuals could act together as a plural agent “we”. The first step occurred as ecological challenges forced early humans to forage together collaboratively or die. To coordinate these collaborative activities, humans evolved cognitive skills of joint intentionality, ensuring that both partners knew together the normative standards governing each role. To reduce risk, individuals could make an explicit joint commitment that “we” forage together and share the spoils together as equally deserving partners, based on shared senses of trust, respect, and responsibility. The second step occurred as human populations grew and the division of labor became more complex. Distinct cultural groups emerged that demanded from members loyalty, conformity, and cultural identity. In becoming members of a new cultural “we”, modern humans evolved cognitive skills of collective intentionality, resulting in culturally created and objectified norms of right and wrong that everyone in the group saw as legitimate morals for anyone who would be one of “us”.

As a result of this two-stage process, contemporary humans possess both a second-personal morality for face-to-face engagement with individuals and a group-minded “objective” morality that obliges them to the moral community as a whole.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Strategy of Conflict, by Thomas C. Schelling, from Harvard University Press

Schelling the Trailblazer

Books influence us in untold ways, and the ones that influence us the most are often read in childhood. Harvard University Press Senior Editor Julia Kirby is reminded of this on the anniversary of the birth of one of this country’s most celebrated economists. This month would have brought Thomas Schelling’s one-hundredth birthday—and he got closer to seeing it than many mortals. The Nobel laureate economist died just five years ago, after a brilliant career as both a scholar and an advisor to US foreign policy strategists. What better day to dip into his classic work