Norms and Nature: Engagements between Ethics and the Biological Sciences

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation comprises five, self-contained chapters, each focused on an issue at the intersection of ethical theory and the biological sciences. Chapter 1 enters into an on-going debate over whether evolutionary explanations for widespread patterns of basic evaluative judgments threaten certain kinds of normative realism. I argue that normative realism can be shown to be compatible with a plausible view of the evolution of human evaluative judgment. Chapter 2 brings together several parallel lines of thought in contemporary epistemology, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of mind on the nature of belief in order to build a framework for considering how and why selection might favor certain kinds of representational states in humans. Chapter 3 focuses on an evolutionary puzzle about guilt proneness in humans, offering two solutions to the puzzle, one rooted in an individual-level selectionist account, the other in a group-level account. Chapter 4 develops an approach to genetic counseling that attends to the manifold ways in which patients are vulnerable to manipulation, coercion, and social pressure during genetic counseling. Finally, Chapter 5 considers whether Aquinas’ moral epistemology is threatened by contemporary anti-essentialist views of human nature.


Attribute NameValues
Author Michael J. Deem
Contributor Grant Ramsey, Research Director
Contributor Robert Audi, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2015-06-15

Submission Date 2017-06-02
Record Visibility and Access Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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