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Beyond Evolution: Human Nature and the Limits of Evolutionary Explanation

3 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198250043
ISBN-10: 0198250045
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Editorial Reviews

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"O'Hear's wide-ranging discussion clearly characterizes current struggles within the discipline of philosophy and provides, if not a compromise, a resolution to the most central debates. Highly recommended."--Choice


About the Author


Anthony O'Hear is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bradford. He is Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Editor of the journal Philosophy, and a member of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and of the Teacher Training Authority.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press (September 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198250045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198250043
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,135,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Science explains more things every day. This fact gives many people the courage to say that everything that is capable of explanation, is capable of scientific explanation, and every mystery is either an ultimately inpenetrable mystery on one that will, at the appropriate future time, be explained scientifically.

Human beings are a species, and hence like all other creatures, a product of Darwinian evolution. This fact has emboldened many to claim that all that is human can be explained by the evolutionary principles of reproduction with mutation, selection, and adaptation. Of course, it is far from true that scientists have succeeded in explaining all human characteristics and behaviors. We do not understand why we have self-reflective consciousness or language, whereas other creatures do not. We do not understand why we can produce science, mathematics, music, art, poetry, and a host of other human achievements that appear to lie so far beyond the requirements of evolutionary success, as exhibited by the rest of the natural order.

Many scientists claim that, although we do not have explanation of such phenomena at the present time, since we are the products of evolutionary adaptation, all these myriad human capacities are necessarily adaptations. And this is the case, whether we eventually succeed in explaining them or not.

O'Hear argues the contrary with respect to three aspects of human achievement: epistemology, morality, and beauty. His epistemological argument is the most cogent, I believe. Why do human being seek truth? The evolutionary epistemologist will say that truth-seeking is adaptive. But, no other species seeks truth. Why is truth-seeking adaptive for us alone?
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Format: Paperback
Anthony O'Hear goes to work with the idea that human beings has a nature, but that they also, to a certain extent, can act unrestricted of this biological nature. But like so many with the same starting-point he fails to show what he means by both the biological restraint and the moral freedom. His examples of instinct in people designed to prove our biological background are nothing but silly. A man responding to insult is one example. But everybody knows that there are many different ways of reacting to insults, from turning the other cheek to killing. So where is the instinct? The other examples are equally silly (A man responding to invasion of his territory and a mother - why leave out the father? - defending her child). ....
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