This book highlights the recent re-emergence of Edward Westermarck's work in modern approaches to morality and altruism, examining his importance as one of the founding fathers of anthropology and as a moral relativist, who identified our moral feelings with biologically-evolved retributive emotions.

Questioning the extent to which current debates on the relationship between biology and morality are similar to those in which Westermarck himself was involved, the authors ask what can be learnt from his arguments and from the criticism that he encountered. Drawing on Westermarck's manuscripts and papers as well as his published work, the authors show the importance of situating debates, whether modern or classical, in their correct methodological and philosophical context.

This volume is a rigorous assessment of the ways in which morality is connected with human biological nature. It plays close attention to the development of debates in this field and will appeal to scholars of sociology, anthropology and philosophy.

chapter 1|11 pages


Westermarck and modern evolutionary approaches to morality

part I|52 pages

Westermarck and the emergence of twentieth-century social anthropology

chapter 3|18 pages

Westermarck, Malinowski and the ‘wild things’

At the interface between anthropology, sexology and psychoanalysis

chapter 4|13 pages

The sensitiveness of the holy

Westermarck and Durkheim on society and religion

part II|41 pages

Westermarck as a precursor of evolutionary psychology

chapter 6|5 pages

Westermarck as a precursor of evolutionary psychology

The nature and nurture of evolutionary explanations

chapter 7|13 pages

Itemising Westermarck’s hypothesis

The assumptions embedded in Westermarck’s explanation of human incest avoidance

part III|49 pages

The emotional origins of morality

chapter 9|6 pages

The emotional origins of morality

Methodological issues

chapter 12|14 pages

Emotions and moral relativism

Prinz and Westermarck

part IV|52 pages

Evolutionary psychology and morality

chapter 16|15 pages

Darwinian conservatives and Westermarck’s ethics

A political dimension of the late twentieth-century Westermarckian renaissance