The Natural Selection of Autonomy

By Bruce N. Waller

Subjects: Ethics
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology
Paperback : 9780791438206, 193 pages, July 1998
Hardcover : 9780791438190, 193 pages, July 1998

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Table of contents


Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: Natural Autonomy and Alternative Possibilities

Chapter Three: Natural Authenticity

Chapter Four: Moral Responsibility

Chapter Five: Responsibility and the Self-Made Serf

Chapter Six: Virtue, Vice, and Moral Responsibility

Chapter Seven: Moral Development without Moral Responsibility

Chapter Eight: Bitter Fruits, Just Deserts, and Natural Consequences

Chapter Nine: Morality without Reason

Chapter Ten: What Reason Adds to Animal Morality

Chapter Eleven: The Moral Foundations

Chapter Twelve: Darwinian Moral Nonobjectivism

Chapter Thirteen: Conclusion: Darwinist Care Ethics




Challenges the deep traditional assumption that autonomy, morality, and moral responsibility are uniquely human characteristics.


The Natural Selection of Autonomy challenges the deep traditional assumption that autonomy, morality, and moral responsibility are uniquely human characteristics. By examining autonomy on a larger scale in the natural world, it clears away the mysteries associated with autonomy claims and shows what is valuable and adaptive (for humans and other animals) in genuine open alternatives—and how human reason strengthens, rather than creates, autonomous behavior.

Drawing on recent research in biology, psychology, and philosophy, The Natural Selection of Autonomy attacks widely shared and deeply held beliefs that have passed from the historical pre-Darwinian philosophical tradition into contemporary thought, and offers a clear look at the evolution of autonomous moral behavior among many species, including—but not limited to—human animals.

Bruce N. Waller is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Youngstown State University. His previous work includes Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict and Freedom Without Responsibility.


"This book is a joy to read—jargon-free, cogently argued." — Mark Bernstein, University of Texas, San Antonio

"Waller writes with a simplicity and grace of style which both engages the reader and illuminates the steps in the argument. The overall position defended concerning the nature of freedom/autonomy and its connection, or lack thereof, with moral responsibility is both novel and inventive. The book is remarkably creative. In part this is because it is iconoclastic, critically confronting regnant opinions. But more creatively, it offers a synoptic position—a nuanced view—with many of its presuppositions and ramifications." — George Graham, University of Alabama at Birmingham