Biology, Justice and Hume’s Guillotine

Hugo de Brito Machado Segundo, Raquel Cavalcanti Ramos Machado


Biology and Neuroscience are addressing issues related to moral sentiments, but this does not mean that Philosophy has lost its importance in the debate. Paradoxically, the discovery that moral sentiments have evolutionary origins does not overcome the problem of “Hume’s Guillotine”. There are human characteristics which can be explained by natural selection and that are nonetheless culturally reproved. In order to choose or select which “natural” characteristics are to be promoted and which are to be discouraged, it is necessary to use a criterion that is not given by nature, although human capacities to discuss these criteria have been naturally shaped.


moral sentiments; evolutionary origins; moral philosophy

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