Victor Kumar and Richmond Campbell, A Better Ape: The Evolution of the Moral Mind and How it Made us Human, Oxford University Press, 2022, 334pp., $32.99 (hbk), ISBN 9780197600122.
Reviewed by Louise Antony, University of Massachusetts / Rutgers University
Victor Kumar and Richmond Campbell (“K & C” hereafter) have written an ambitious book. They set out not only to explain the evolutionary history of the “moral mind,” but also to draw lessons from this evolutionary history for the possibilities of moral progress among human beings today. The first, explanatory task is the focus of the first three sections: “Moral Apes,” “The Moral Mind,” and “Moral Cultures”; the second task is undertaken in the last section, “Moral Progress.”
I am afraid I found a great deal to criticize in this book, and not much to admire. The adaptationist story K & C tell about our ascent from our proto-moral primate ancestors is, despite their disclaimers (5), largely a “just-so” story, badly unconstrained by evidence. The…
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