“Cognitive Approaches to Moral Evil: Prospects and Pitfalls of Naturalists Explanations of Moral Wrong Doing”

The origin and nature of Moral Evil is undoubtedly one of the great human questions. It’s one of those complex issues in which anthropological, metaphysical and religious thesis intertwine. But in recent years this theoretical scenario has been changed and expanded due to the irruption of Natural and Cognitive Sciences. In this paper, I will focus on the approach of the cognitive ethologist Marc Hauser, who attempts to explain moral wrong doing (in particular of gratuitous cruelty and violence) from an evolutionist and cognitivist standpoint. In short, I will try show that his naturalist approach may be an interesting contribution for the comprehension of human psychology but entails certain philosophical weaknesses: i) it rests on implicit realists assumptions, ii) it requires a strong conception of human personal dignity and value, and iii) it fits better in a libertarian framework of free will. All these theses are at least problematic within the limits of a naturalistic approach.