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Incest, Incest Avoidance, and Attachment: Revisiting the Westermarck Effect

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

This article defends a version of the Westermarck Effect, integrating existing clinical, biological, and philosophical dimensions to incest avoidance. By focusing on care-based attachment in primates, my formulation of the effect suggests the power of a phylogenetic argument widely accepted by primatologists but not by cultural anthropologists. Identifying postadoption incest as a phenomenon with underexplored evidential value, the article sketches an explanatory strategy for reconciling the effect with the clinical reality of incest, concluding with an explicit argument against culture-first or conventionalist accounts of incest avoidance prevalent in anthropology.

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Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

*

To contact the author, please write to: Department of Politics, Media, and Philosophy, La Trobe University, Bundoora 3086, Victoria, Australia; e-mail: rwilson.robert@gmail.com.

I would like to thank Bernard Chapais, Kristen Dunfield, Mark Erickson, Frank Keil, Jay Odenbaugh, Warren Shapiro, audiences at the University of Toronto and the University of Western Australia, and the journal referees for helpful and insightful responses to earlier versions of this article.

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