Evolved benevolence: Hutcheson and the moral engines of community

Abstract of talk at the Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association
Special session on Evolutionary Psychology and Literature
Toronto, December 27-30, 1997

Francis Steen looks at the debate between the materialists and the moralists in the eighteenth century, focusing on the debate surrounding benevolence. "The Author of Nature," Francis Hutcheson writes in 1725, "has much better furnishíd us for a virtuous Conduct, than our Moralists seem to imagine"; in particular, he has "given us strong Affections to be the springs of each virtuous Action." Steen shows that this view receives significant and perhaps surprising support from modern evolutionary psychology, in a form which may illuminate the underlying issueóstill highly relevantóof the motivational springs of community.

© 1997 Francis F. Steen, Department of English, University of California at Santa Barbara