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A philosophical analysis of the biological accounts of morality and altruism

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2020
Bilgin, Arda
The main purpose of my thesis is to show that morality is not unique to humans and it does not separate humans from nature. To that end I first discuss the issue of emotions to emphasize that biological accounts are more significant than cultural ones. Then, I focus on the notion of altruism that I find central to morality. In this part, I examine different approaches to altruism and try to reveal that the emotion of empathy is the main motivation behind altruistic behavior. I touch upon the mechanisms underlying empathy and defend a multilayered structure for empathy. Also by appealing to evidence of altruistic behavior in other animal species, I present that there is a continuity of morality between humans and other animals. The phenomenon of morality is about how we get in touch with our environment. Here, the environment is the other individuals with which we interrelatedly constitute a social structure. This structure provides us a less distressed life time compared to a solitary lifestyle. The way such a social structure works is not coincidental or arbitrary. It relies on the emotions that motivate social and moral behavior, and they are the result of a long evolutionary history. Accordingly, the concept of altruism seems to be the most pivotal element of morality because the structure can continue to exist only in an interrelated manner, and this interrelation requires altruistic characteristics. .