Evolutionary Ethics

The (Meta-)Ethical Implications of Evolutionary Explanations of Morality


The NWO-funded research programme (2014-2018) aims at investigating the philosophical implications of recent empirical research on the evolutionary origin of human morality. Since Charles Darwin in his Descent of Man (1871) sketched an evolutionary explanation of what he called our ‘moral sense’, ever-new insights concerning the evolution of human morality have been gained by various scientific and scholarly disciplines, such as evolutionary biology, comparative behavioural biology, cultural anthropology, history, and, according to some, functional neuro-imagining studies of moral decision-making. This quickly developing field of interdisciplinary research raises several philosophical questions concerning the implications of evolutionary explanations for normative ethics and meta-ethics, which the members of the project address in their respective research programmes.


The research group regularly invites speakers and organizes symposia, on topics related to the general theme. Below is a list of previous symposia:

  • Evolutionary Debunking Arguments in Ethics. Normative, Metaethical, and Empirical Aspects (November 28, 2014, Utrecht)
  • Universal Moral Values. Empirical Perspectives on Moral Objectivity (March 20, 2015, Utrecht)

Programme Members