Genetic influences on moral capacity: What genetic mutants can teach US

Giovanni Boniolo, Paolo Vezzoni

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Lo maggior don che Dio per la sua larghezza. fesse creando, ed a la sua bontate. più conformato, e quel ch'è più apprezza, fu de la volontà la libertate; di che le creature intelligenti, e tutte e sole, furono e sono dotate. Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, V, 19–24. Discussions about the relations between genes and free will, in particular in relation to morality, are nothing but a new chapter of an old story, the beginning of which can be traced back before the birth of Western philosophy. Is man really free in choosing moral values and moral actions? Are there biological, physical, metaphysical, or divine constraints? We know that throughout the history of philosophy, the debates on moral freedom have reached an extremely high degree of sophistication. Certainly this is not the place to deal with this vast topic. More modestly we will limit ourselves to consider some data coming from genetics, in order to understand, from a biological point of view, to what extent we can say we have free moral will, and how far our freedom can reach. A long-standing tradition, well expressed in Dante Alighieri's verses, holds the view that free will is a specific characteristic of humans. But some scholars thought that all human choices are determined. In particular there were those supporting the idea that man's choices are determined by his genome: we would be our genes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary Biology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780511498428, 0521856299, 9780521856294
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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