Friday, July 25, 2008

Moral minds

A review by Jonathan Derbyshire of Marc Hauser's book, Moral Minds, in The Guardian.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm an admirer of Hauser's work. Derbyshire, however, seems relatively unimpressed by Hauser's claims.
Hauser's extravagant promise, in the prologue, to "explain how an unconscious and universal grammar underlies our judgments of right and wrong" is therefore not fulfilled. In fact, he comes close to acknowledging this in a somewhat deflating conclusion when he concedes that the "science of morality" is still in its infancy. And there is nothing here to suggest that this nascent discipline will conquer the "proprietary province of the humanities" any time soon.
Hauser begs to differ. He presents a response entitled Did you actually read the book? here.
Though much of Jonathan Derbyshire’s review captures much of my book Moral Minds quite accurately, there are some egregious errors that I would like to flag.
I think there's a lot of work to be done in exploring the link between biology and morality, but I think contributions by the likes of Hauser have advanced our understanding of morality by leaps and bounds in the past decade. And the fact that this is only the beginning is exciting, not deflating. As Hauser states.
The field is abuzz, and the results are emerging quickly. I am glad to be alive to witness this renaissance, an inquiry into one of the most interesting aspects of human life.
I couldn't agree more.


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