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Abstract. Sociobiologists make large claims for their subject. Knowing about the genetic underpinnings of human society will, they claim, enable us to understand all of human behavior and even to solve the ancient philosophical questions of how we ought to live. This essay assesses the significance of sociobiology for ethics. It argues that sociobiologists have misunderstood the relevance of facts to values and that their larger ambitions for their subject are bound to remain unfulfilled. Nevertheless, philosophers are wrong to ignore sociobiology. To give a genetic account of the existence of a widely held value does not justify that value, but it does say something of relevance to the ethical issues. The problem is to work out just what difference such an explanation makes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1984
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Religious studies


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