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Rupert M. Scheule {*}

"Evolutionary Ethics 2.0"?

Evolutionary Anthropology's Findings about the Nature of Man


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 4/2012, P. 253-264
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    The evolutionary sciences are a challenge to the traditional moral theology. Rupert M. Scheule, professor of moral theology and Christian social sciences at the Faculty of Theology Fulda examines newer concepts of evolutionary anthropology and ethics.


On 2 January 2007 the 50 year old construction worker Wesley Autrey was waiting at the New York subway station 137th Street / Broadway for his train, when next to him the 20 year old epileptic Cameron Hollopeter collapsed. Autrey and two passers-by came to his aid, and Hollopeter was able to get up. But he stumbled again and fell on the tracks, while the headlights of the oncoming train became already visible. Wesley Autrey now plunged on Hollopeter and pushed him to the ground. The underground thundered over the two. Autrey and Hollopeter remained unharmed. Asked about the reasons for his commitment, Wesley Autrey only said, "I do not feel like I did something spectacular, I just saw someone who needed help." {1}

Why are there people who act like Wesley Autrey? Why do they apparently help, without calculating on benefitting from it but also without making much effort to explain their ethical reasons? Is it possible that we needn't rationally wrest our goodness from our primary selfishness? Are morals, i.e. the recognition of a binding obligation (ought), which equally differs from a lust-controlled liking (want) and from an externally enforced doing (must), possibly inscribed in our natural endowment? These variations on the one question of the relationship between nature and morals have a long history in theology and philosophy. But the most surprising answers to these questions are today given by the empirical sciences. It is impossible also for theological ethics to get round these answers.

In this contribution first the process of anthropological research on the "morals-nature-question" has to be reconstructed. Subsequently, possible consequences for Christian ethics are discussed.


Nature and Morality - a Survey of the Findings

Once again: What does it mean to show, as in the case of Wesley Autrey, a behavior in whose favour there are good ethical reasons - without referring to those grounds? Is it an indication that our human nature has causally to do with our moral behavior?



Aristotle would answer this question in the affirmative. At the beginning of the chapter on friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics he writes that "one may see in the course of travel how close of kin and how friendly man is to man" (NE 1155 a 21-22) - and certainly also at a subway station in Manhattan. Thomas Aquinas entirely agrees with Aristotle. Man is by nature manís friend: naturaliter homo homini amicus (Contra Gentiles IV 54). For their statements Aristotle and Thomas simply rely on everyday evidence - and Wesley Autrey seems to confirm them.

It is certainly difficult to hear this 'homo homini amicus' and not to think of the counter-formula of Thomas Hobbes: homo homini lupus (De Cive, Epist. Dedic 135/59): Not the friend of man is man, he rather is by nature his suspicious, exclusively self-interested opponent: It must always be reckoned with his hungry attack. Even though man is not downright evil by nature, he is in any case not ready of his own accord to change his behavior in favor of somebody else. According to Hobbes, there are needed watchful institutions in order to make this happen. Hobbes, too, thinks that he needn't specifically substantiate his view: ordinary life is proof enough (cf. De Cive, 68). The behavior of Wesley Autrey would thus be a positive deviance phenomenon and by no means exemplary. Who is right: Aristotle and Aquinas or Thomas Hobbes? It seems that philosophical interpretations of everyday behavior do not get us any further at this point.

But not even the doctrinal decisions [Vorentschiedenheit] of the Christian faith give directly a clearer answer to the question of the relationship between nature and morality: It is well known that Protestants and Catholics, and within the Catholic camp Jansenists and Molinists fell out with each other about the question of whether after the Fall of Man man has still enough spiritual gifts and is thus able to do the good of his own accord or whether he has lost his entire natural endowment with grace by the Fall, and consequently only the invincible grace of God can bring about the good, but never man of his own accord.


Response Efforts of Evolutionary Science

You will admit that contemporaries do no longer put their questions about nature to philosophy and theology but to the empirical sciences. This applies also to the question about the relationship between nature and morality. It belongs to the disciplinary scope of evolutionary ethics and evolutionary anthropology. Disciplines as ethology, sociobiology, paleoanthropology and evolutionary psychology collaborate under those two labels. They deduce their insights either from comparisons of human beings with apes or try to decipher archaeological finds and to keep at the same time their eyes on the subsistence strategies of today's so-called primitive peoples.



The theory of evolution is the common heuristic basis of those disciplines. Since 1950 it is regarded as legitimate also by the magisterium of the church (cf. DH 3896). However, it seems at first glance a very bad idea to inquire on this basis after morality, because the evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest is basically not compatible with the phenomenon of morality: Why should in the evolutionary struggle for reproductive opportunities just such in a life-threatening manner philanthropic natures as Autrey assert themselves against all the aggressive egomaniacs and pass on their inclination towards morals to their offspring? Already Charles Darwin saw this aporia and was not able to resolve it {2}. This was attempted not until much later.

In 1964, William Hamilton presented the concept of "inclusive fitness" {3}. His basic idea: If you demonstrate evolutionary fitness by passing on as much as possible of your own gene pool to the next generation, then two nephews are just as good as a son; either way, in the next generation your own gene portion is "inclusively" at 50 percent. Hamilton assumed that he was thus able to explain socio-biologically why we prefer helping people in our social environment and especially relatives to helping strangers: due to a so-called nepotist altruism, we simply make sure that our own genes are passed on together with those of our relatives.

But why people - apparently as the only species - are willing to change their behavior also in favor of unrelated conspecifics, as e.g. the strange subway passenger, can certainly not be explained by 'inclusive fitness' {4} - at least not without the help of additional unproved assumptions {5}.

The theory of "reciprocal altruism" may possibly help to avoid this dilemma. In 1971 it was introduced by Robert Trivers into the aetiology of morality {6}. According to it, morality had in the last analysis to be attributed to a selfish calculation of service and consideration: Wesley Autrey would help only because he in return, and if needed, expected obligingness. Ethicists such as Norbert Hoerster regard just this self-serving business based on reciprocity as causal core of morality. Hoerster writes explicitly, "we had quasi to buy e.g. the protection of our life through the concession to protect foreign life" {7}.

Reciprocal altruism is thus fully compatible with moral concepts that are oriented towards calculating one's own benefit, and whose final horizon is self-interest. These concepts, however, assume that morality would be merely a phenomenon among living beings that are able to benefit and harm each other. But why we donate to AIDS orphans in South Africa, Lesotho, cannot be explained in this way. In all probability, the Sotho people for whom we donate will never get a chance to harm or benefit us.



In order to explain why we help strangers of whom we can expect nothing in return, also the reciprocal altruism would have to work with additional assumptions on the assertion level.



It might be, however, that the basic assumption is wrong: the primal scene of morality was that one human being does, altruistically, something for another one. The Harvard philosopher Christine Korsgaard at least asserts:

"The primal scene of morality ... is not one in which I do something to you or you something to me, but one in which we do something together." {8}

This statement has inspired Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Anthropology to a modified starting hypothesis. In the causal research of morality, he regards altruism as unimportant: "Much more important is mutualism by which we all benefit from our joint actions." {9} The reciprocal altruism may still admit fare dodger phenomena (for example, the fact that a casualty accepts the help of somebody but he in turn is not willing to help if needed), whereas mutualism is immune against it: Here it is always about a joint project, to which one can not say goodbye without bringing about its downfall. How can the evolutionary mutualism be explained?

In paleoanthropology, two mutualist primal strategies are currently reflected upon. They needn't necessarily exclude each other: the cooperative hunt, and the cooperative breeding. The hunting hypothesis sees evolutionary advantages in the human we-intentionality, communication skills, empathy, and morality (when dividing the big game into pieces) {10}, whereas the breeding hypothesis connects especially our emphatic capability with the peculiarity that the portion of maternal education among human beings is cross-culturally "rather at 50%" {11}, while the share of mothers in the rearing of their children among the great apes reaches approximately 100 percent. Parents of human beings are always dependent on the help of so-called "allo parents", i.e. other group members, who help with child care {12}. Under primitive conditions, of particular importance for human parents was not only that they had to provide the 13 million calories, needed by the offspring from birth to puberty. A key factor for the mutualism of cooperative breeding is the promotion of empathy. In a society of allo parents, only the child's empathy enables it to "observe and assess the intentions of its parents and allo parents as well as to attract their attention and to request their help" {13}.



On the one hand it reaches thus well-fed the puberty, and is on the other hand also able to recognize the needs of unrelated children, when it later belongs to the caring faction of the allo parents model.

Tomasello regards the mutualism-thesis as empirically confirmed. Together with his colleagues, he carried out numerous experiments with children aged between 14 and 18 months {14}, accompanied by comparative tests with apes. The MPI researchers chose to work with human infants, because with regard to this group of test subjects they needn't reckon either with an argumentative backing of their behavior or with the fact that their behavior only reflected educational measures, as it might be the case with older children. Conclusions on man's natural behavioral endowment seemed thus to be in fact possible.

All experimental setups vary one scheme: the young children are confronted with the fact that an adult, whom they know only for a few moments, has a problem that he is able to solve only with a little help. Thus, he stores journals away in a closet but cannot continue it when the cabinet door shuts. In the respective experiment 22 of 24 the small children open the cupboard door for the alien adult {15}. They help, although it can be assumed that at their age no serious moral education has taken place. These results are confirmed in cross-cultural comparisons. This is all the more remarkable, as different cultures know also different starting times and sequences for the moral education {16}. Tomasello also sees signs that "those primates which are most closely related to us - including those which had little human contact - show helpful behavior similar to our" {17}.

The Leipzig anthropologists therefore conclude that "it is in the nature of man to help others to solve such simple problems" {18}. According to Tomasello, the universal, innate core knowledge of us human beings includes not only elementary notions of objects, numbers and space - an assumption on which the psychological research on infancy proceeds for quite some time {19} - but also certain forms of prosocial behavior. In particular, Tomasello thinks that he has proved by his studies that human beings - and only human beings - are innately capable of a shared intentionality. They had the "ability together with others to pursue joint intentions in cooperative enterprises, and to enter into commitments" {20}. This meant that people would see a situation and recognize spontaneously, on the basis of an innate "weness" ("we"-feeling) which connects them with other people, their role in clarifying the situation. Tomasello found that already 18 months old children are capable of the so-called actor-neutrality, i.e. they look from a bird's eye perspective at situations with the role expectations contained in them and assume then a specific role, but they can change it also in the context of the "we-project", if need be.



Even most detailed series of tests incidentally provided no evidence of the capability of any other creature known to us to do likewise.


Inclination to Standards

The ethicist notices at this point that from a so understood actor-neutrality there is only a small step to the basic proceeding of ethical objectivism, which interprets social situations from the impartial perspective of an "impartially sympathetic observer" (Adam Smith), or to that of a "universal legislation", known to us from the Kantian tradition. In fact, Tomasello sees not only the natural performance of "we-ness" deeply rooted in human nature, but also the generating of universal standards for the protection of the 'We'. He asserts that we had inherited a natural inclination to cooperation standards from our hominid ancestors, that is to build social pressure in order to maintain cooperation. The experiments at the Leipzig MPI show anyway, "that already after a brief joint activity (such as games) with an adult, children conclude readily that this is the right way to do something - that 'we' do it in this manner {21}, and that they protest when you deviate from this normative pattern, which protects the "We project". Our tendency to so-called conformance standards seems to be equally important:

"At some point in human history, it was important for members of a group to behave in the same way, and pressure to adapt developed. Here, the most obvious motive is to want to be like the others, to be accepted by the group, to be part of the 'We '-feeling of the group, which is in competition with other groups." {22}

But conformance and cooperation standards are not watchful institutions in the sense of Thomas Hobbes. They are not used to force the "weness" on a "people of devils" (as Immanuel Kant in his essay "Perpetual Peace" put it) ; they merely block the learning pathways which are leading away from the 'We'.

In order to ensure that cooperation and conformance standards in a group are functioning also beyond individual situations, there is needed a further important ingredient, namely the faculty of abstraction, which is communicated by language. Tomasello sees first signs of this in the make-belief-games of children. These were the ontogenetic and possibly also the phylogenetic precursors of collective arrangements:

"When children agree that a block of wood should be a piece of soap, so this is a step towards a common institutional reality, where objects and behaviors through collective arrangements and practices get a special deontic status." {23}



Our children's make-belief-games, the monetary value of a colorful scrap of paper and the validity of moral standards, all have in common that they rely on the consent of the parties.



Tomasello's theses invite to contradiction - and admittedly also in the literal sense: His book, which was first published in English under the title "Why We Cooperate" and then translated into German "Warum wir kooperieren" includes contributions of illustrious colleagues. They follow Tomasello's suggestion and bluntly criticize his work. Among these replicas that by Carol S. Dweck, a leading social psychologist, deserves special attention. Without doubting Tomasello's findings in the experiments with young children, she nevertheless calls his conclusion into question, that the social behavior of the subjects, even after their first year of life, manifests itself in such an unaltered form that it is possible to draw conclusions on a natural core knowledge. In her view, you would have to "prove first that there are in the first twelve months no processes in which children perceive the forms of action, wishes and values of adults, and try to act accordingly" {24}.

Also the Berlin forensic expert Hans-Ludwig Kroeber follows Dweck's line. In his view, prosociality as such is not innate. What matters are rather the "learning processes of prosociality" {25}. They would begin in the first year and follow then definitely Kohlberg's classical phase model of moral development {26}. But with Tomasello's research findings in the back, just this can be called into question. Lawrence Kohlberg had in his day asserted that children at the two lower levels of moral development were only interested in avoiding punishment and in gaining reward, whereas Tomasello and colleagues confirm the so-called overjustification effect {27} also for the prosocial behavior of young children. In their test series with 20-month-old children it becomes apparent that

children "continued to help an a high level in the subsequent test phase when no material or social reward was offered and when helping entailed interrupting an attractive activity (almost three fourths of the time across all conditions). However, children in the Reward condition, who had previously received a material reward, helped less." {28}

If learning is always also learning by success {29}, then Tomasellos experiments probably speak against the learning theory of morality.

Subject to the fallibilist basic fact that all empirical research only deserves acceptance as long as it is not refuted, we can summarize the current knowledge of moral anthropology as follows: Man is the animal that says 'We' {30}.



The capability for empathy and shared intentionality as well as for the abstracting actor-neutrality and his inclination to protect by shared standards an action that has been recognized as a "We-project", make him the solitaire of evolutionary history.



First, we can say that in the above outlined "Thomas Hobbes against Thomas Aquinas controversy" Tomasello is clearly on the side of Aquinas. His work supports the thesis 'naturaliter homo homini non lupus, sed amicus'.

Furthermore, we can say with Tomasello, that man by nature is precisely not only an animal morabile, i.e. a being that admittedly has the neurobiological conditions for the development of morality, but has still to "develop morals out of his own strength and according to own criteria" {31}. It requires no additional "basal imperative" {32} still to develop the ability for morals. If morality is the virtue to recognize an 'Ought', an moral duty that is based on human "we-ness", and to act according to it, it seems to be a natural dowry. And in this sense applies, 'Homo animal naturaliter morale'. It is then a matter of the socialization process that a human being does no longer see the "Ought", which is engraved in certain situations, resp. defined by them {33} - this incidentally explains why also on the subway platform 137th Street / Broadway there were people who rather looked away than helped. Tomasello does certainly not simply ascribe to human beings an amorphous sensibility to the "Ought". He gives anthropological depth also to ethics - that is the business of substantiating the "Ought": The setting of standards in such a way that they become agreeable to all parties involved dates back far into the evolutionary history of Homo sapiens. Man is obviously by his nature not only moral, he is the living being that goes in for ethics: homo animal ethicum.


Old Ethical Naturalism or "Evolutionary Ethics 2.0"?

The pieces of research presented here do not mean a 'points win' for ethical naturalism, i.e. that view, according to which ethical statements can be fully translated into scientific ones {34} - reasons for being morally right are actually not needed, because the evolutionary-biological causes are already sufficient.

The fact that I identify exactly with that and no other moral act, which I select for good reasons from a set of options and am ready also to justify it on the basis of those reasons, can not be understood through scientific cause study. The evolutionary anthropology does not want and cannot shed light upon this inside of morality.



It does not want to explain that I am willing to moral acts because they are morally right (and not just because they are in accordance with my natural endowments). Those who equate causes with reasons or think that causes could replace reasons confuse concepts sui generis, and reduce where it is impossible to reduce.

But even if you are not allowed to confuse the causes and reasons of morality, the 'Ego', which at the inside of morals, so to speak, is busy with good reasons, can nevertheless assess the outer side of morality - its natural causes. And how else but morally good should you find it that man is inherently morally oriented, and that he tackles the business of setting moral standards on the basis of group consensus? The moral nature of man and the normative protection of man's commitment to morals are not morally neutral. They are morally worthy of approval. The moral man therefore can't help saying 'Yes' to his nature, provided that it proves to be a moral nature.

The ethical implications of this finding could read: On the one hand we have to reckon with the morality of others, i.e. we are morally obliged to respect and protect morality and the people to whose nature morality belongs. No ethical cultural relativism can persuade us to give up the categorical moral obligation to protect other moral beings.

On the other hand, we have also morally to handle our own moral nature. It does not only deserve the respect and protection by others, but also an affirmation through us. We are morally obligated to live according to our moral nature and not against it. Ethics, which is understood as a safeguard service on morality, has also a share in the moral dignity of morals.

Understood in this way, "Evolutionary Ethics" describes not only the moral nature of man. It does not want to abolish the business of reasonable justification of standards in the way of scientific factual claims. And it does not at all provide a finalized package of material definitions of the good human condition in the style of the old natural law. It calls on human nature to be witness for its moral characteristics [Moralbewandtnis] and conversely it makes these moral characteristics discharge their duties of caring for human nature. This could be a property that indeed allows to speak of an "evolutionary ethics 2.0".


The Desideratum: Globalization of the "We project"

Really existing morality has a fatal negative aspect: It tends to exclusion. If it is possible to position the conformity standards of a "We project" against an unknown and different reality, they are particularly effective. The most horrific crimes in human history are downright based on a moral mobilization of "We-ness", against (fellow) people who have previously been excluded from the "We" by definition {35}.



Not only to prevent genocides, it will become important in the future to globalize the human "We project". It is more difficult (or impossible) to overcome all the major challenges of humankind, from climate change over migration issues, the demographic change up to the impacts of the financial crisis, if we stick to the small-scale We-culture - practiced by our species over the past 100 000 years. As a training program for the solidary widening of our situational perception, Christianity could play an important role.


For a Christian Ethics of Perception

Radically all-encompassing "We-ness" is a basic motif of Christian ethics, as it becomes exemplarily apparent in the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10, 25-37). Behind Luke's story is the appeal to us to change our awareness of the situation. The priest saw the man, and "he passed by on the other side" (Luke 10:31), likewise the Levite. The two quite obviously withhold their we-intentionality in this situation. Only the Samaritan, the pagan, the alien makes this situation to his own: he accepts the role that is ascribed to him by the "We project" and helps. Rudolf Schnackenburg points out that "in the story of Jesus the question of 'who is my neighbor' is changed by the evangelist into the question of who has become the neighbor of the wounded man" {36} It was from time immemorial Jewish common sense that you must help your neighbor (cf. Lev 19:34). But the unprecedented turn in the parable is that somebody makes himself the neighbor of everybody by a radically all-embracing perception of the situation. This is an perception-oriented ethical imperative. It applies to the faithful, and wants to make especially them motivated initiators for the globalization of the "We project."

In the end, it seems that from a Christian point of view it is not only about "nature and morality" but also about "grace and morality." For blessed with their belief in salvation, Christians are aware of the fact that they are above all players in a very grand "We project". The Trinitarian God, who is only in the "We" entirely in Himself, remained also loyal to Himself in His transcendence: He became one of us. As man is the animal that says 'We', so the God of the Christians is the God who says 'We'. And nobody with whom the incarnate God sides can for his part consider other people to be out of place, in the "We project" of comprehensive solidarity.

On 2 January 2007, Wesley Autrey rescued the human "We-ness" on a New York subway platform from a dramatic threat. The current research of moral anthropology shows that we must not set Autrey on a pedestal of the individual hero, rather, we must consider him as one of us.



As human beings, all of us bring this strange tendency to morality already with us. Morality needn't be developed under laboratory conditions and then implanted in us as something foreign. What matters is that we do not forget morality, that we protect morals through ethics, and that we ensure that morality is not brought into position against people - whoever and wherever they are {37}.



{1} C. Buckley, Man Is Rescued by Stranger an Subway Tracks, in: The New York Times, 3. 1. 2007: (accessed on 21. 3. 2011).

{2} See Ch. Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (London 1859) 200 f.; M. Engels, Evolutionäre Ethik, in: Handbuch Ethik, edited by Ch. Hübenthal et. al (Stuttgart 2002) 340-346, 342.

{3} See W. D. Hamilton, The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour, in: Journal of Theoretical Biology 7 (1964) 1-52.

{4} See S. B. Hrdy, Mütter u. Andere. Wie die Evolution uns zu sozialen Wesen gemacht hat (Berlin 2010) 258-262.

{5} Thus, Hans Mohr asserts in 1986, at a time when the "inclusive fitness" was obviously the dominant evolutionary ethical paradigm: "Overall fitness is not necessarily limited to a group of individuals who are connected by genetic relatedness, and who therefore share many common genes with each other. A 'friend', for example, is a person whose characteristics and also genes I appreciate, although I am not related to the person. I treat therefore a 'friend' so as if he was a person with whom I share many genes " (H. Mohr, Evolutionäre Ethik, in: Information Philosophie 1986, Nr. 4, 4-16, 12). Significantly, Mohr puts the word "friend" in quotation marks. For especially the phenomenon of friendship remains with him in the indistinctness of a vague conclusion by analogy.

{6} R. L. Trivers, The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism, in: Quarterly Review of Biology 46 (1971) 35-57.

{7} N. Hoerster, Ethik des Embryonenschutzes. Ein rechtsphilosophischer Essay (Stuttgart 2002) 78.

{8} Ch. Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge 1996) 275.

{9} M. Tomasello, Warum wir kooperieren (Berlin 2010) 50.

{10} See H. Esser, Soziologie. Allgemeine Grundlagen (Frankfurt 1993) 212.

{11} Tomasello (note 9) 71.

{12} See Hrdy (note 4) 39.

{13} Ibid. 52.

{14} Shootings of Thomasello's experiments are available on the website (accessed o 28. 3. 2011).

{15} See F. Warneken & M. Tomasello, Altruistic helping in human infants & young chimpanzees, in: Science 31 (2006) 1301-1303.

{16} T. Callahan et al., Early Social Cognition in Three Cultural Contexts, in: Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 76 (2011) No. 2, 1-142.

{17} Tomasello (note 9) 24.

{18} Ibid. 22.

{19} See E. Spelke, Kommentar, in: Tomasello (note 9) 108-123, 112 et seq.

{20} Tomasello (note 9) 11 f.

{21} Ibid. 77.

{22} Ibid. 77.

{23} Ibid. 80.

{24} C. S. Dweck, Kommentar, in: Tomasello (note 9) 95-101, 101.

{25} H.-L. Kroeber, Prosoziale Persönlichkeit. Warum ist kooperatives, normorientiertes Verhalten der Normalfall?, in: Der Nervenarzt 82 (2011) 37-42.



{26} L. Kohlberg, Die Psychologie der Moralentwicklung (Frankfurt 1995).

{27} As a classical empirical evidence for the overjustification effect see M. R. Lepper et al., Undermining children's intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward: A test of the "overjustification" hypothesis, in: Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 28 (1973) 129-137. ó In the test documented here with three-to five-year-old children, however, it was about the effect of rewards on their pleasure in drawing. This wanes when material reward is given.

{28} F. Warneken & M. Tomasello, Extrinsic Rewards Undermine Altruistic Tendencies in 20-Month-Olds, in: Developmental Psychology 44 (2008) 1785-1788, 1787.

{29} See A. Bandura, Social Learning Theory (New York 1971).

{30} See M. Greffrath, Das Tier, das "Wir" sagt, in: Die Zeit, 8. 4. 2009; quoted from (accessed on 28. 3. 2011).

{31} O. Höffe, Lebenskunst u. Moral oder Macht Tugend glücklich? (München 2007) 54.

{32} Ibid. 48.

{33} Tomasello (note 9) 46.

{34} See M. Quante, Einführung in die Allgemeine Ethik (Darmstadt 2003) 113.

{35} All the genocides of the 20th century, says Harald Welzer, were perpetrated with the gesture of a highly moral "we-ness" defense. Murder did no longer appear to be murder, "but - as in the case of the Holocaust - as 'special treatment', as the fulfillment of 'laws of nature', as 'Final Solution of the Jewish question'... The often stated assumption that this was linguistic concealment is misleading. The Nazis regarded the Jews in the biological sense as pests on the racial corpus. They were consistently killed with Zyklon B, a poison against pests. In Rwanda one killed in the same way as one fights weeds.": H. Welzer, Klimakriege. Wofür im 21. Jahrhundert getötet wird (Frankfurt 2008) 89.

{36} R. Schnackenburg, Die sittliche Botschaft des Neuen Testaments, volume 1 (Freiburg 1986) 91.

{37} I thank sincerely my colleague Professor Bernd Goebel for his critical comments on the text.


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