The Evolution of Morality (Life and Mind and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
  • List Price: $36.00
  • Save: $2.96 (8%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
The Evolution of Morality... has been added to your Cart
+ $3.99 shipping
Used: Like New | Details
Sold by powells_chicago
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: Independent bookstore since 1970. In stock, quick shipment with delivery confirmation on domestic orders. 2005. Hardcover. Cloth. 8vo. 271 pp. Remainder stamp to bottom edge of text block. Fine. Dust Jacket is Fine.
Access codes and supplements are not guaranteed with used items.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Evolution of Morality (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) Hardcover – December 2, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0262101127 ISBN-10: 0262101122

Buy New
Price: $33.04
33 New from $10.27 39 Used from $6.00
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$10.27 $6.00
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Amazon Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student

Best Books of the Year
See the Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Hero Quick Promo
Save up to 90% on Textbooks
Rent textbooks, buy textbooks, or get up to 80% back when you sell us your books. Shop Now

Product Details

  • Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (December 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262101122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262101127
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Joyce's book is brilliant. There is nothing more important than knowing what we are doing when we speak in the language of value. We are animals that judge with cognitve and affective equipment. Joyce explains who we are. Nothing matters more." Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Duke University

"Joyce's approach is refreshing, and he wears his learning lightly.... [He] does an excellent job of bringing philosophy to the ordinary reader, using striking and quirky examples of different moral judgements.... His bold, jargon-free approach means that this work is serious philosophy can nonetheless by understood by the non-philosophically trained layperson." Matthew Cobb Times Literary Supplement

"In his enjoyable and informative book The Evolution of Morality, Richard Joyce distinguishes between explaining how natural selection might explain socially useful behavior in animals and what more is needed to explain morality, with its thoughts about right or wrong, in human beings. Contrary to what others have said, Joyce argues plausibly that, to the extent that our moral concepts and opinions are the results of natural selection, there is no rational basis for these concepts and opinions." Gilbert Harman , Department of Philosophy, Princeton University

"This book is a tour de force, synthesizing disparate literatures into a pleasing whole. Joyce's writing is clear, articulate, and enjoyable, and his presentation masterful." William D. Casebeer , Associate Professor of Philosophy, U.S. Air Force Academy

"This book is a *tour de force*, synthesizing disparate literatures into a pleasing whole. Joyce's writing is clear, articulate, and enjoyable, and his presentation masterful."--William D. Casebeer, Associate Professor of Philosophy, U.S. Air Force Academy

About the Author

Richard Joyce is Professor of Philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington and author of The Evolution of Morality (MIT Press, 2006).

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on September 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Morality", that sense of doing good, or at least avoiding harm, to others is one of humanity's treasured phrases. It is one of the characteristics that supposedly sets us apart from the other animals. We use the values imparted to it in judging others, as we are judged in turn. However, it remains an enigmatic term, carrying a host of definitions. And that's not counting the exceptions. Richard Joyce, for all his assertive title, isn't claiming to have the final word on morality. Instead, he's launching a project with areas of study that should be investigated further. Only one thing he insists on - as a product of evolution by natural selection, human beings will find the origins of that valued concept in our biological heritage.

Joyce's treatise is tightly organised. Given he addresses this complex idea in just over two hundred pages, discipline with words is a must. There are but six chapters in which to deal with questions plaguing our species since at least the invention of writing. In that short stack, he ties anthropology, sociology, evolutionary psychology and other fields together in a very neat package. Even such a short presentation doesn't force him to be terse. The material is clearly presented and sprinklings of wit keep it from bogging the reader down. However, the proposals are carefully, if succinctly, offered and the reader's attention must not flag.

Since "morality" hinges on the interactions between humans [other animals, whatever their behaviour traits, are deemed "amoral"] the key in Joyce's analysis is "reciprocity". Reciprocity hinges on a host of factors, from the genetic proximity of relatives to what kind of reputation one has - even across a large group.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. A. McCarron on October 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book puts forth an argument that I think will have to be dealt with for a long time to come. It essentially takes what we know about Natural Selection and asks what this tells us about the reliability of our moral beliefs. The answer is not very flattering for our moral beliefs.

Yes more work will need to be done in this area. The author does not claim to close the case but is more of the inclination that he is opening the case. So the book is not exhaustive of every possible approach one might take when dealing with this issue. However, when Joyce does go down a line of thought, he does so with clarity. Chapter 5 dealing with those who think evolution actually vindicates our moral beliefs is, alone, worth the price of the book. The author makes short work of sorting out the ambiguities that cloud the thinking here. In doing this, he not only points out the critical flaws in much of what has been previously written on this topic, but he informs the reader how to spot many of the ambiguities that repeatedly come up in this discourse.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
51 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on February 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Moral philosophers tend to take the content of morality as given, perhaps by intuition or our cultural heritage, and attempt to derive moral truth from a sparse set of assumptions, such a utilitarianism (Bentham, Mill), virtue theory (Aristotle), or synthetic a priori deontological notions (Kant). Other philosophers attempt to derive valid moral rules themselves on the basis of a neo-Platonic foray into the juggling of abstract universals (Rawls, Nozick, Singer, Dworkin). Perhaps I betray my position as a behavioral scientist by believing that morals are things that people have, like noses and tendencies to procrastinate, and should be studied scientifically rather than philosophically. Happily, I am not alone, however, as Richard Joyce takes the same position in his book, The Evolution of Morality.

Joyce recites the extensive body of evidence showing that there is a universal human morality observed in virtually all societies ever studied, including the thousand or so primitive hunter-gather societies that exist in the contemporary world. Of course, there are also strong contrasts in some moral principles across societies, but these tend to be confined to a few delicate areas, including gender relations and political philosophy, and they can doubtless be explained by level of economic development and political integration. But, if this is the case, it is unlikely that "ethical theory" can stand as a bastion of philosophizing. Rather, ethical theory is the study of the structure and evolution of human morality. This is the "moral skepticism" that Joyce embraces, and it is well taken.
Read more ›
3 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this book, Richard Joyce basically makes the case that evolution may well have produced in us a sense of morality that vindicates error theory (in that we feel like our moral sentiments say something true about the world, but are actually subjective judgments that don't reflect any objective truth at all). His argument comes in three parts: The first part of the book is concerned with showing that evolution could have created the propensity toward moral thinking and that doing so could have aided in individuals' and groups' fitness. Second, he talks about what this means, rejecting the "naturalistic" view that moral judgments reflect facts about the universe, and arguing for the "error theory" view that while moral judgments seem to reflect facts about the world, they do not.

The first part of the book treads lightly because, in the end, we can only speculate about how, in fact, evolution favored moral thinking. Joyce discusses several theories - kin altruism, group selection, direct and indirect reciprocal altruism. While Joyce seems to prefer the idea that direct reciprocal altruism led to indirect reciprocal altruism and that this produced our tendency for moral thought, he remains ultimately agnostic. More evidence needs to come in before we know, in fact, how evolution created morality.

A notable part of this section is Joyce's clarification of what morality actually is. He rejects both strong cognitivism and non-cognitivism, taking a middle position. Morality is less than just reasoned reflection (cognitivism) but more than just emotional sentiments (non-cognitivism). Morality, to Joyce, involves both sentiment and thought (and he suggests that it requires linguistic ability as well).
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?