Saar Boter, Hanno Sauer and Marc Slors at The History of Morality
Saar Boter, Hanno Sauer and Marc Slors at The History of Morality

The History of Morality | Lecture and conversation by philosophers Hanno Sauer and Marc Slors

Where does our morality come from? How did we, from prehistoric times on, develop a sense of what is the right thing to do? A sense of how to live together? Society seems increasingly polarized. It seems the gap between the values of different groups keep on growing. Fortunately, according to philosopher Hanno Sauer, this is not the case. We all find values as helpfulness, cooperation, respect, honesty, bravery and possession important. Differences in values are mostly due to socioeconomic circumstances, not to different moral ideas. Learn from philosopher Hanno Sauer about the origins of our morality, the importance of it and the role of morality in society.

Video | Podcast 

Tuesday 19 March 2024 | 20.00 - 21.30 hrs | De Vasim, Nijmegen | Radboud Reflects and Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam.  See annoucement

Review 

The review will be available in Dutch. Visit the Dutch page

Announcement

Where does our morality come from? How did we, from prehistoric times on, develop a sense of what is the right thing to do? A sense of how to live together? Society seems increasingly polarized. It seems the gap between the values of different groups keep on growing. Fortunately, according to philosopher Hanno Sauer, this is not the case. We all find values as helpfulness, cooperation, respect, honesty, bravery and possession important. Differences in values are mostly due to socioeconomic circumstances, not to different moral ideas. Come and learn from  philosopher Hanno Sauer about the origins of our morality, the importance of it and the role of morality in society.

Progress

According to Hanno Sauer morality is the basis of our society. Not because it is in people's heads, but because it is in our cities and dikes, laws and customs, in our celebrations and wars. We have an idea of moral progress, and this idea makes societies receptive to social change and technical innovation. "We've always done that!" is replaced by "What can we improve here? Tradition by innovation. 

History

Hanno Sauer describes in his book Moral. Die Erfindung von Gut und Böse the history of humanity through morality. In doing so, he investigates how people live in relation to each other and what they consider the right thing to do or not. We think we are very moral beings nowadays. We know what is right and what is wrong and we are that civilized that we mainly do the right thing. But is this really true? How come we are we having more and more autocratic regimes that based on ethnicity and identity decide who does and does not belong to a certain group. And how come we seem unable to stop the rapid climate change? To what extent is morality a modern man characteristic? 

Dark side 

Hanno Sauers’ main conclusion in describing the history of morality is that our moral values and principles have a dark side. Every moral gain, every instance of progress, has a corresponding loss. And conversely even the worst acts and policies usually have a moral motivation. Morality is a powerful social tool, but it can also be used in a bad way. We must beware of people who, under the guise of morality, do bad things to others. 

Hanno Sauer tells the story of our conscience, from the origins of our ability five million years ago to cooperate to the polarization that grips us today. He shows what biological, cultural and historical developments have shaped our moral values. Come and ask your own questions.

Philosophy student Saar Boter will moderate the discussion.

This programme will be in English.

About the speaker

Hanno Sauer is a philosopher and teaches ethics at Utrecht University. He leads a European research project on moral progress. He previously published Moral thinking, fast and slow. His latest book is Moral. Die Erfindung von Gut und Böse  (2023).

Marc Slors is Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at Radboud University. His current research focuses on the relationship between cognition and culture. Previous work has focused on the philosophy of neuroscience, free will, social cognition and the self.

Contact information

Subscribe to the English newsletter and be the first to know about new programming, the latest reviews, video's and more.

Organizational unit
Radboud Reflects
Theme
Ethics, Philosophy, Behaviour, International, Society, Science