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Evolutionary moral psychologist Jonathon Haidt’s view of morality
Posted: 29 October 2013 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Consistent with Hume’s point about the difficulty of deriving ought from is, if science can tell us anything useful about morality, I expect it will only be in the form of telling us what we ‘ought’ (instrumental) to do to accomplish our separately defined goals. For example, agricultural science can tell a farmer how to grow a lot of beans but not that he is obligated to grow a lot of beans. Similarly, the science of morality (understanding the origins and function of moral behaviors as advocated by cultural moral codes and motivated by ‘moral’ emotions) should be able to tell us which moral norms are most likely to achieve our ultimate goals, but not what those ultimate goals ought to be.

Jonathon Haidt is an evolutionary psychologist with a focus on moral psychology with just such an “instrumental ought” approach. That is, he describes what the science is and it is then up to people to decide if knowing that science is useful for achieving their goals. For example, social liberals to understand social conservative’s (strange to Liberals) morality and vice versa. 

http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/profiles-in-evolutionary-moral-psychology-jonathan-haidt

In the linked interview, Jonathon Haidt describes his work on 6 universal human moral foundations (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty), how emphasizing different moral foundations leads liberals and conservatives to mutual incomprehension of the other’s morality, and the origins and function of ecstasy of self-transcendence (transpersonal identification) that is common to religious and spiritual experiences. I liked seeing his work briefly summarized with lots of convenient (open source!) links to his and other’s work.

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Posted: 29 October 2013 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Mark Sloan - 29 October 2013 03:27 PM

Similarly, the science of morality (understanding the origins and function of moral behaviors as advocated by cultural moral codes and motivated by ‘moral’ emotions) should be able to tell us which moral norms are most likely to achieve our ultimate goals, but not what those ultimate goals ought to be.

This doesn’t make sense.  Unless you can further explain something.
If a “science” can tell us a “moral” which is most likely to achieve a goal, then that science would by default have to know what that goal is(what it ought to be). That’s a goal.  A goal is something that an entity thinks “ought to be”.
So if science could show the most efficient way, the best morals to achieve a “goal”, then obviously it would be directing an entity towards a specific goal.(ought)

In other words nothing, no praxis or technique or idea, can illustrate the most efficient pathway without knowing where the path leads to.

The point is, there is no long term goal per say.(I think we went through this the last time) Or short term goal really.
And ultimately things that you and/or I would view as the “opposite” of moral would be just as instrumental in achieving that “ultimate goal”
if there was such a thing.(an ultimate goal)

[ Edited: 29 October 2013 08:48 PM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 30 October 2013 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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VYAZMA - 29 October 2013 08:45 PM
Mark Sloan - 29 October 2013 03:27 PM

Similarly, the science of morality (understanding the origins and function of moral behaviors as advocated by cultural moral codes and motivated by ‘moral’ emotions) should be able to tell us which moral norms are most likely to achieve our ultimate goals, but not what those ultimate goals ought to be.

This doesn’t make sense.  Unless you can further explain something.
If a “science” can tell us a “moral” which is most likely to achieve a goal, then that science would by default have to know what that goal is(what it ought to be). That’s a goal.  A goal is something that an entity thinks “ought to be”.
So if science could show the most efficient way, the best morals to achieve a “goal”, then obviously it would be directing an entity towards a specific goal.(ought)

In other words nothing, no praxis or technique or idea, can illustrate the most efficient pathway without knowing where the path leads to.

The point is, there is no long term goal per say.(I think we went through this the last time) Or short term goal really.
And ultimately things that you and/or I would view as the “opposite” of moral would be just as instrumental in achieving that “ultimate goal”
if there was such a thing.(an ultimate goal)


Science can be understood as an assembly of provisional facts. An assembly of provisional facts cannot contain goals. To think differently is to make the is/ought category error. 

For example, agricultural science can tell a farmer how to grow a lot of beans but not that he is obligated to grow a lot of beans. Agricultural science does not “have to know the farmer’s goal” in order to provide those facts.

Similarly, understanding the biology underlying our moral behaviors and the cross cultural function of moral codes is useful for achieving whatever our goals are. That factual knowledge is not dependent on what our goals are.  Again, to think differently is to make the is/ought category error. 

A long term goal that does exist is that societies commonly agree that the ultimate goal of advocating and enforcing moral codes is to increase the benefits of living in that society.

Finally, you have captured the classical problem with all present consequentialist moral theories with “And ultimately things that you and/or I would view as the “opposite” of moral would be just as instrumental in achieving that “ultimate goal””

But the science of morality does not contribute to this problem. In my opinion, it potentially solves it.  It potentially solves it by telling us about moral ‘means’ that are intrinsically harmonious with our moral intuitions. (Haidt’s published claims appear more limited.)

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Posted: 30 October 2013 09:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Mark Sloan - 30 October 2013 08:14 AM

Science can be understood as an assembly of provisional facts. An assembly of provisional facts cannot contain goals. To think differently is to make the is/ought category error. 

For example, agricultural science can tell a farmer how to grow a lot of beans but not that he is obligated to grow a lot of beans. Agricultural science does not “have to know the farmer’s goal” in order to provide those facts.

Yes, but that would be the farmers goal.  To grow a lot of beans.  Or else he wouldn’t use that science.
He would be using the science(for example) that shows him how to grow weather resistant beans(that have a lesser yield).

Similarly, understanding the biology underlying our moral behaviors and the cross cultural function of moral codes is useful for achieving whatever our goals are. That factual knowledge is not dependent on what our goals are.  Again, to think differently is to make the is/ought category error.

I don’t know.  Maybe.  It sounds like you are putting the chicken before the egg here….
I’ll go along with this though. It says science can help us improve society basically. 
I just don’t understand the two part nature you present here. Why the need to stress that that knowledge is not dependent on what are goals are? 

A long term goal that does exist is that societies commonly agree that the ultimate goal of advocating and enforcing moral codes is to increase the benefits of living in that society.

I don’t know. Maybe.  “Societies commonly agree”?  Maybe specific leaders of society commonly agree. But anyways ok, I can go along with this.
I’m trying to stay on track with your statements.  The word “ultimate” though is loaded with “ought” connontations.
Like I said there definitely is no ultimate goal. There are patchwork, in the moment goals. Stop-Gap goals if you will.
There is no ultimate goal. Because the closer one gets to an “ultimate” goal, the more divergence there is in the various actors idea of what that goal is.

But the science of morality does not contribute to this problem. In my opinion, it potentially solves it.  It potentially solves it by telling us about moral ‘means’ that are intrinsically harmonious with our moral intuitions. (Haidt’s published claims appear more limited.)

The science of morality certainly can’t hurt anything.  It just depends on what “sciences” we ought to focus on.
It depends on how we “ought” to implement that science.
There is always going to be an ought.
And that ties right back to the example of the bean farmer.  What science does the farmer feel he ought to use?

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Posted: 30 October 2013 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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VYAZMA - 30 October 2013 09:43 AM

The science of morality certainly can’t hurt anything.  It just depends on what “sciences” we ought to focus on.
It depends on how we “ought” to implement that science.
There is always going to be an ought.
And that ties right back to the example of the bean farmer.  What science does the farmer feel he ought to use?

It might help to clarify that at least three kinds of oughts are in common use:

Instrumental oughts - If the farmer has a goal of growing a lot of beans, then he ought (instrumental) to use agricultural science to inform him how to do that. And if a society has a goal for enforcing a moral code of increasing the well-being benefits of living in that society, then they ought (instrumental) to use the science of morality to inform them what moral norms ought (again instrumental) to be advocated and enforced.

Cultural normative oughts - In cultures with moral norms that prohibit eating pigs, you ought (Culturally normative) not eat pigs.


Universal normative oughts - Moral oughts that would be put forward by all rational, well-informed persons. Claims about universal normative oughts are the bread and butter of mainstream moral philosophy.

Science can only inform us about Instrumental oughts, but these instrumental oughts can be about what cultural moral norms we ought to enforce in order to be most likely to achieve goals for enforcing moral codes. To confuse Instrumental oughts with Universal normative oughts is, again, to make a category error.

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Posted: 30 October 2013 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Mark Sloan - 30 October 2013 10:43 AM

It might help to clarify that at least three kinds of oughts are in common use:

Instrumental oughts - If the farmer has a goal of growing a lot of beans, then he ought (instrumental) to use agricultural science to inform him how to do that. And if a society has a goal for enforcing a moral code of increasing the well-being benefits of living in that society, then they ought (instrumental) to use the science of morality to inform them what moral norms ought (again instrumental) to be advocated and enforced.

Cultural normative oughts - In cultures with moral norms that prohibit eating pigs, you ought (Culturally normative) not eat pigs.


Universal normative oughts - Moral oughts that would be put forward by all rational, well-informed persons. Claims about universal normative oughts are the bread and butter of mainstream moral philosophy.

Science can only inform us about Instrumental oughts, but these instrumental oughts can be about what cultural moral norms we ought to enforce in order to be most likely to achieve goals for enforcing moral codes. To confuse Instrumental oughts with Universal normative oughts is, again, to make a category error.

 
I think this is way too much overthinking. That’s just my opinion. Ought is just a word. It has the same meaning all the time.
You are just listing 3 examples of how “ought” can be used in a sentence.
Again, that’s just my opinion.
I see the same “ought” in all three examples above.
Morals are what most people, most of the time think we “ought” to be doing. Right?

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Posted: 01 November 2013 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Mark Sloan - 29 October 2013 03:27 PM

6 universal human moral foundations (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty), how emphasizing different moral foundations leads liberals and conservatives to mutual incomprehension of the other’s morality, and the origins and function of ecstasy of self-transcendence (transpersonal identification) that is common to religious and spiritual experiences. I liked seeing his work briefly summarized with lots of convenient (open source!) links to his and other’s work.

I do not wish to steal your thread but could I challenge the idea that there are any fundamental moral foundations?  I think that the ultimate thing that evolutionary psychology teaches us is that we have basic reasons to behave the way we do based on getting our genes passed on to the next generation.  The fact that we perceive that there are fundamental morals may simply be due to our genetic predisposition to get our genes passed on.  Perhaps we would all agree on some morals - fairness is a good one - but fairness is so intimately mixed with our predisposition toward reciprocal altruism that it may be impossible to judge what is fair especially when cultural morays are placed on top of the genetic dispositions.  (It seems to me that it is the ultimate arrogance (not the OP) to position oneself as an arbiter of ethics and morals.)  Consequently don’t the laws and underlying morals of a society have to be a democratic decision based on opinion rather than on a fundamental principle(s)?  Otherwise we will find ourselves in the position that faith-based belief religion pushes – ultimate tyrany over morality. 

I will try to give an example to make my point.  One of the basic tenents of EP is that women seek resources from men (to help raise children) and men seek beauty in women (because it is correlated with health).  Don’t know the knowledge level of EP on the board, but I am going to assume that most have a basic understanding (and that I don’t need to explain the details.)  But I will point out before crticism is raised that women do seek “health” but not the same way men do and vice versa with resources. 

These genetic dispositions lead to the infamous double standard in our society.  It is acceptable for men to sleep around but women are expected (or used to be before the pill) to be “virginal” before marriage (selection of genes derived in hunter gatherer societies over hundreds of thousands or years and may have nothing to do with the selection taking place now).  There are clear reasons for this –men do not wish to give their resources to someone that might cheat on them (sexaullly too active).  Is the double standard unfair?  Well yes and no.  I hope you see my point.  Fairness is a foreign concept in this scenario because we understand our genetic needs.  Not being fair in this case should not be construed as violating a moral dictim even though it appears not to be fair.  And I would suggest that we would not say it is morally wrong for men to sleep around if we understand the biology.  Nor would we say that it is morally wrong to be a gold digger even though it may not be fair to poor men. 
So, in conclusion, I postulate that it may not be wise to assume a moral foundation.

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Posted: 01 November 2013 04:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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volcanoman - 01 November 2013 03:21 PM
Mark Sloan - 29 October 2013 03:27 PM

6 universal human moral foundations (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty), how emphasizing different moral foundations leads liberals and conservatives to mutual incomprehension of the other’s morality, and the origins and function of ecstasy of self-transcendence (transpersonal identification) that is common to religious and spiritual experiences. I liked seeing his work briefly summarized with lots of convenient (open source!) links to his and other’s work.

I do not wish to steal your thread but could I challenge the idea that there are any fundamental moral foundations?  I think that the ultimate thing that evolutionary psychology teaches us is that we have basic reasons to behave the way we do based on getting our genes passed on to the next generation.  The fact that we perceive that there are fundamental morals may simply be due to our genetic predisposition to get our genes passed on.  Perhaps we would all agree on some morals - fairness is a good one - but fairness is so intimately mixed with our predisposition toward reciprocal altruism that it may be impossible to judge what is fair especially when cultural morays are placed on top of the genetic dispositions.  (It seems to me that it is the ultimate arrogance (not the OP) to position oneself as an arbiter of ethics and morals.)  Consequently don’t the laws and underlying morals of a society have to be a democratic decision based on opinion rather than on a fundamental principle(s)?  Otherwise we will find ourselves in the position that faith-based belief religion pushes – ultimate tyrany over morality. 

I will try to give an example to make my point.  One of the basic tenents of EP is that women seek resources from men (to help raise children) and men seek beauty in women (because it is correlated with health).  Don’t know the knowledge level of EP on the board, but I am going to assume that most have a basic understanding (and that I don’t need to explain the details.)  But I will point out before crticism is raised that women do seek “health” but not the same way men do and vice versa with resources. 

These genetic dispositions lead to the infamous double standard in our society.  It is acceptable for men to sleep around but women are expected (or used to be before the pill) to be “virginal” before marriage (selection of genes derived in hunter gatherer societies over hundreds of thousands or years and may have nothing to do with the selection taking place now).  There are clear reasons for this –men do not wish to give their resources to someone that might cheat on them (sexaullly too active).  Is the double standard unfair?  Well yes and no.  I hope you see my point.  Fairness is a foreign concept in this scenario because we understand our genetic needs.  Not being fair in this case should not be construed as violating a moral dictim even though it appears not to be fair.  And I would suggest that we would not say it is morally wrong for men to sleep around if we understand the biology.  Nor would we say that it is morally wrong to be a gold digger even though it may not be fair to poor men. 
So, in conclusion, I postulate that it may not be wise to assume a moral foundation.


Haidt has not made an assumption about moral foundations. His hypothesis is confirmed by data about how people actually make moral judgments. For example, see his paper: Moral Foundations Theory: The Pragmatic Validity of Moral Pluralism in the journal Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. You can get a free copy at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2184440.

Could you clarify your point about men and women’s different mating strategies? I have seen a lot of opinions on that topic that are closer to speculations than science.

If you are interested in the science of morality, Haidt has some useful links in the interview.

I’d also recommend the book Evolution, Games, and God by Martin Nowak (editor). A more accurate title would Evolution, Games, Morality, and the Evolution of Religion, but that would be less catchy. This book examines morality from a totally different perspective than Haidt, but is fully consistent with Haidt’s conclusions - which strengthen both approaches.

[ Edited: 01 November 2013 04:39 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 01 November 2013 08:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Mark Sloan - 01 November 2013 04:34 PM
volcanoman - 01 November 2013 03:21 PM
Mark Sloan - 29 October 2013 03:27 PM

Haidt has not made an assumption about moral foundations. His hypothesis is confirmed by data about how people actually make moral judgments. For example, see his paper: Moral Foundations Theory: The Pragmatic Validity of Moral Pluralism in the journal Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. You can get a free copy at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2184440.

Could you clarify your point about men and women’s different mating strategies? I have seen a lot of opinions on that topic that are closer to speculations than science.

If you are interested in the science of morality, Haidt has some useful links in the interview.

I’d also recommend the book Evolution, Games, and God by Martin Nowak (editor). A more accurate title would Evolution, Games, Morality, and the Evolution of Religion, but that would be less catchy. This book examines morality from a totally different perspective than Haidt, but is fully consistent with Haidt’s conclusions - which strengthen both approaches.

Thanks for the reference Mark.  I am really a novice when it comes to moral philosophy.  I tried to read Ruse’s Evolutionary Naturalism but had to put the book down about half way through because I did not think it was very well written.  I will take a look at your reference.  I am anxious to find out how he documents a moral hypothesis. 

“Could you clarify your point about men and women’s different mating strategies? I have seen a lot of opinions on that topic that are closer to speculations than science.”

I am sorry to hear that you have heard that mating strategies are speculative science.  The entire field of EP has had problems since Dawkins and Wilson were responsible for making it a well known area of study in the 1970s.  Unfortunately many of its tenants do not meet the approval of the woman’s movement and they have been undermined.  Another problem was Gould when he was alive and Lewonten who decided in the 1970s that the field was unacceptable to them and publically attacked Wilson.  You may know that Gould before he died became somewhat of a laughing stock among research scientists and some philosophers because of his ridiculous stance.  Steven Pinker, Dawkins, Dan Dennent, Robert Wright etc. almost certainly played big rolls in destroying Gould’s reputation among the scientific community.  I think I can safely say that mating strategies along with the rest of EP are alive and well.  One of the reasons I am so against the PC in the universities is because of the scurrilous attacks on science and in particular EP.  But we can leave that debate for another time.

Mating strategy is a very simple idea but underlies many of the fundamental ways humans behave (see Pinker’s The Blank Slate).  The principle revolves around the notion that it requires 9 months for a woman to have a baby.  In hunter gatherer society (which is where these traits were selected and even though we live in a much more sophisticated culture the traits are still there), women had to be very selective when having sex.  The reason women are more coy about sex than males is because they bear the burden of being pregnant for 9 months where as the male can bolt.  These basic traits drive a host of interactions between men and women and make us essentially different in our goals.  But the biology is fascinating.  The sophistication of the field is amazing.  They have discovered that sperm compete in the microscopic world with foreign sperm.  There are sperm that live only to kill foreign sperm.  And the vagina is constructed to be a competitive ground for the competition (in case there are several males competing).  Men tend to cheat more than women because they can get their genes passed on many times with this strategy where as women are limited to a nine month period.  Women are focused on resources.  They will marry the best provider but sometimes have sex with the healthiest males (best looking).  They get the best of all worlds in these cases because they have resource for the children and the best genes.  I don’t want to generalize too much but imo any discussion of morals must consider EP as I hope you see why.  Jealousy and many other emotions can be linked directly to our long history of selection in hunter gatherer society.  And at the end of the day, it is all about female selection.  Males attempt to impress and women select the male that they think will provide the most benefit (an interesting example would be the guy driving a hot new car).  In animals where the male takes care of the offspring (see the seahorse) it is the opposite behavior—the males select. 

I highly recommend Dave Buss’s textbook on EP to update you on the details especially if you are interested in morals.  It may appear to be anti female but I have lectured several feminist classes on the topic and they seem quite open to it once they find out the fundamentals.  My point is that although we have genetic traits that make us want to behave sexually in various ways (to get our genes passed on), it may not make us happy to allow these drives to push us.  The perfect case is a male tempted to cheat after marriage.  It may be a good strategy to get genes passed on but it may be terrible for future happiness.  Sorry if this seems like a lecture – I am just very interested in the subject.

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Posted: 02 November 2013 03:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Mark Sloan - 01 November 2013 04:34 PM

Haidt has not made an assumption about moral foundations. His hypothesis is confirmed by data about how people actually make moral judgments. For example, see his paper: Moral Foundations Theory: The Pragmatic Validity of Moral Pluralism in the journal Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. You can get a free copy at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2184440.

Could you clarify your point about men and women’s different mating strategies? I have seen a lot of opinions on that topic that are closer to speculations than science.

If you are interested in the science of morality, Haidt has some useful links in the interview.

I’d also recommend the book Evolution, Games, and God by Martin Nowak (editor). A more accurate title would Evolution, Games, Morality, and the Evolution of Religion, but that would be less catchy. This book examines morality from a totally different perspective than Haidt, but is fully consistent with Haidt’s conclusions - which strengthen both approaches.

volcanoman - 01 November 2013 03:21 PM

Thanks for the reference Mark.  I am really a novice when it comes to moral philosophy.  I tried to read Ruse’s Evolutionary Naturalism but had to put the book down about half way through because I did not think it was very well written.  I will take a look at your reference.  I am anxious to find out how he documents a moral hypothesis. 

“Could you clarify your point about men and women’s different mating strategies? I have seen a lot of opinions on that topic that are closer to speculations than science.”

I am sorry to hear that you have heard that mating strategies are speculative science.  The entire field of EP has had problems since Dawkins and Wilson were responsible for making it a well known area of study in the 1970s.  Unfortunately many of its tenants do not meet the approval of the woman’s movement and they have been undermined.  Another problem was Gould when he was alive and Lewonten who decided in the 1970s that the field was unacceptable to them and publically attacked Wilson.  You may know that Gould before he died became somewhat of a laughing stock among research scientists and some philosophers because of his ridiculous stance.  Steven Pinker, Dawkins, Dan Dennent, Robert Wright etc. almost certainly played big rolls in destroying Gould’s reputation among the scientific community.  I think I can safely say that mating strategies along with the rest of EP are alive and well.  One of the reasons I am so against the PC in the universities is because of the scurrilous attacks on science and in particular EP.  But we can leave that debate for another time.

Mating strategy is a very simple idea but underlies many of the fundamental ways humans behave (see Pinker’s The Blank Slate).  The principle revolves around the notion that it requires 9 months for a woman to have a baby.  In hunter gatherer society (which is where these traits were selected and even though we live in a much more sophisticated culture the traits are still there), women had to be very selective when having sex.  The reason women are more coy about sex than males is because they bear the burden of being pregnant for 9 months where as the male can bolt.  These basic traits drive a host of interactions between men and women and make us essentially different in our goals.  But the biology is fascinating.  The sophistication of the field is amazing.  They have discovered that sperm compete in the microscopic world with foreign sperm.  There are sperm that live only to kill foreign sperm.  And the vagina is constructed to be a competitive ground for the competition (in case there are several males competing).  Men tend to cheat more than women because they can get their genes passed on many times with this strategy where as women are limited to a nine month period.  Women are focused on resources.  They will marry the best provider but sometimes have sex with the healthiest males (best looking).  They get the best of all worlds in these cases because they have resource for the children and the best genes.  I don’t want to generalize too much but imo any discussion of morals must consider EP as I hope you see why.  Jealousy and many other emotions can be linked directly to our long history of selection in hunter gatherer society.  And at the end of the day, it is all about female selection.  Males attempt to impress and women select the male that they think will provide the most benefit (an interesting example would be the guy driving a hot new car).  In animals where the male takes care of the offspring (see the seahorse) it is the opposite behavior—the males select. 

I highly recommend Dave Buss’s textbook on EP to update you on the details especially if you are interested in morals.  It may appear to be anti female but I have lectured several feminist classes on the topic and they seem quite open to it once they find out the fundamentals.  My point is that although we have genetic traits that make us want to behave sexually in various ways (to get our genes passed on), it may not make us happy to allow these drives to push us.  The perfect case is a male tempted to cheat after marriage.  It may be a good strategy to get genes passed on but it may be terrible for future happiness.  Sorry if this seems like a lecture – I am just very interested in the subject.

Glad you liked the references. I am familiar with Dave Buss’s Evolutionary Psychology text, though I have not looked at it in several years. My interests have gone much more in the direction of Evolution, Games, and God and, indeed, beyond that to the cross-species universal aspects of morality which I do not see much discussed in the literature.

I also did not get much out of Ruse. Evolution, Games, and God is more useful by an order of magnitude.  (I wrote a 4 out of 5 star review on Amazon on the book that might be of interest. Last time I looked there were only 3 reviews so you should not have much trouble finding it.)

Ruse seems to take a perverse delight in saying “Morality is an illusion!” which, while technically correct in the sense he means it (that some magic obligation to act morally is an illusion), is highly misleading. Morality’s function as a product of evolutionary processes is as objectively real as gravity.

I agree that “we have genetic traits that make us want to behave sexually in various ways (to get our genes passed on), it may not make us happy to allow these drives to push us.”

I had two concerns with your comments about mating strategies. First, that there seemed to be a “it is natural therefore it is moral” flavor to them, which I now understand you are not putting forward as sensible (I was misunderstanding you). But second, the mating strategies literature seems to overly suffer from the “just so story” problem in that a hypothesis explains just one fact. That is, such hypothesis typically offer very little explanatory power and no predictive power and are therefore more speculation than science. Whereas, a robust hypothesis in science may explain millions of facts.

Definitively NOT being a “just so story” is one of the hopes I have for understanding morality as the product of evolutionary processes. An hypothesis about the evolutionary origins of morality can potentially explain millions of facts in the form of past and present enforced norms in cultural moral codes and perhaps dozens of facts about the biology underlying our moral emotions and Haidt’s moral foundations.

If you are interested, I wrote a blog post “Morality is evolutionary psychology’s killer application” on the subject.

http://moralitysrandomwalk.com/2012/12/15/morality-is-evolutionary-psychologys-killer-application/

Regarding the history of Evolutionary Psychology, Steven Pinker recently gave what I thought was an informative perspective at http://www.thisviewoflife.com/index.php/magazine/articles/steven-pinkers-advice-to-the-next-generation-of-evolutionary-psychologists

It is on David Sloan Wilson’s on line digital magazine Evolution: This View of Life. If you can find the Morality section, you will see that I am the associate editor there. Any suggestions for appropriate articles - either just linked to or original content - would be appreciated.

[ Edited: 02 November 2013 03:17 AM by Mark Sloan ]
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Science (and other fields) can tell us how to arrive at our goal most efficiently (while remaining consistent with our virtues), but science doesn’t “set the goal” or create our virtues. So maybe we borrow from something like utilitarianism (e.g. maximum good for the maximum number, while minimizing harm to humans and animals to the maximum extent possible), but then science is off and running.

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Posted: 06 April 2014 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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francismjenkins - 06 April 2014 08:58 AM

Science (and other fields) can tell us how to arrive at our goal most efficiently (while remaining consistent with our virtues), but science doesn’t “set the goal” or create our virtues. So maybe we borrow from something like utilitarianism (e.g. maximum good for the maximum number, while minimizing harm to humans and animals to the maximum extent possible), but then science is off and running.

Right.

I have been thinking of a kind of Rule-Utilitarianism where the “Rule” (perhaps a set of rules) is based in the science of morality’s cooperation strategies. That is, the “Rule” would define the moral means to a utilitarian end.

As I expect most people would agree, simple Utilitarianism can demand behaviors that are intuitively highly immoral. Science can solve this problem by defining means to utilitarian ends that are inherently harmonious with our moral intuitions, and therefore inherently motivating.

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Posted: 06 April 2014 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I didn’t bother getting involved because the posts were, in my opinion, disgustingly long.  However, my personal moral basis is relatively simple and in a single sentence:  “Help whenever I can and it’s rational, avoid hurting anyone if possible, and enjoy my lilfe.” 

Could you gve a few examples of Utilitarian morality that would “demand behaviors that are intuitively highly immoral”?

Occam

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Posted: 07 April 2014 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Occam. - 06 April 2014 03:22 PM

I didn’t bother getting involved because the posts were, in my opinion, disgustingly long.  However, my personal moral basis is relatively simple and in a single sentence:  “Help whenever I can and it’s rational, avoid hurting anyone if possible, and enjoy my lilfe.” 

Could you gve a few examples of Utilitarian morality that would “demand behaviors that are intuitively highly immoral”?

Occam

A google search should provide all you need. But here are two of the most commonly described “demand behaviors that are intuitively highly immoral”.

1) Your moral obligation to increase the happiness of a child on the other side of the earth who you will never meet is the same as your obligation to increase the happiness of your own child. It is intuitively immoral to act in ways that do not show some preference for the happiness of your own child.

As Peter Singer, a Utilitarian, puts it:“No doubt we do instinctively prefer to help those who are close to us. ...  The question, however, is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations.”

2) If an act would be highly costly to you (let’s say it would cause your death), but is expected to increase overall well being for everyone else by even a very small amount, you are morally obligated to do it. That is an intuitively immoral requirement.

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Posted: 10 April 2014 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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So anyone who wishes to respond to this, rank order the following, from what seems the most important core value to you, then the next, and so on:  care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty.  I’ll start.

1) fairness 2) liberty 3) care 4) loyalty 5) authority 6) sanctity

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 11 April 2014 02:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Mark Sloan - 07 April 2014 12:30 PM
Occam. - 06 April 2014 03:22 PM

I didn’t bother getting involved because the posts were, in my opinion, disgustingly long.  However, my personal moral basis is relatively simple and in a single sentence:  “Help whenever I can and it’s rational, avoid hurting anyone if possible, and enjoy my lilfe.” 

Could you gve a few examples of Utilitarian morality that would “demand behaviors that are intuitively highly immoral”?

Occam

A google search should provide all you need. But here are two of the most commonly described “demand behaviors that are intuitively highly immoral”.

1) Your moral obligation to increase the happiness of a child on the other side of the earth who you will never meet is the same as your obligation to increase the happiness of your own child. It is intuitively immoral to act in ways that do not show some preference for the happiness of your own child.

As Peter Singer, a Utilitarian, puts it:“No doubt we do instinctively prefer to help those who are close to us. ...  The question, however, is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations.”


2) If an act would be highly costly to you (let’s say it would cause your death), but is expected to increase overall well being for everyone else by even a very small amount, you are morally obligated to do it. That is an intuitively immoral requirement.

Yes, the whole idea behind a moral code is that it instructs you to do what is not intuitive, or not do what is.

Lois

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