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This still is not quite clear. Since Darwin attributed the genesis of conscience mainly to two factors, 1 intelligence and 2 the social instinct,we will examine the two in this order. First, it seems quite clear that intelligence is developed by means of natural selection; because intelligence is no doubt useful to its possessor, an individual animal. So we can agree with Darwin's assertion, at least with respect to this factor. But what about the social instinct?

The social instinct included sympathy, in particular, and sympathy played a crucial role in generating the moral sense or conscience. By means of sympathy, individual animals care for others and restrict their own selfish desires; in other words, altruistic or moral tendencies originate from sympathy. Then naturally we have to ask: Is the social instinct including sympathy also developed by natural selection? Darwin's attitude to this question is ambivalent; sometimes he seems to think that the answer is obviously 'yes', but at other times he seems to be aware of a grave difficulty.

Evolution, ethics, and human origins: A deep-time perspective on human morality

But what exactly is this difficulty? Let me explain. Let us recall how natural selection works. There are many individual variations which are hereditary among animals of the same species. And if some of these variations are more advantageous than others in the struggle for existence, individuals with these variations gradually increase within the species, and they eventually become dominant in number. Thus natural selection works in terms of the herediatry characteristics of individuals; and these characteristics must be useful primarily to their possessors, i.

But Darwin frequently speaks of moral faculties useful to a tribe or group of individuals, and he says that these faculties have been developed by the competition among such tribes or groups in their struggle for existence. For instance, he argues this way [Q5]: "When two tribes of primeval man, living in the same country, came into competition, if. Granted; but is this natural selection working on individuals? Darwin doesn't seem to think it is; for he is well aware of the difficulty as follows [Q6]:.

But it may be asked, how within the limits of the same tribe did a large number of members first become endowed with these social and moral qualities, and how was the standard of excellence raised? It is extremely doubtful whether the offspring of the more sympathetic and benevolent parents, or of those who were the most faithful to their comrades, would be reared in greater numbers than the children of selfish and treacherous parents belonging to the same tribe.. Therefore it hardly seems probable, that the number of men gifted with such virtues, or that thestandard of their excellence, could be increased through natural selection, that is, by the survival of the fittest; for we are not here speaking of one tribe being victorious over another.

Thus Darwin's program for explaining the genesis and development of morality by means of natural selection seems to have failed at a crucial point. That is to say, he tried to appeal to what we now call 'group selection' i. However, it must be pointed out, to be fair to Darwin, that he was aware of at least one key for solving this difficulty. It is what we now call 'kin selection.

If such men [i. Even if they left no children, the tribe would still include their blood relations; and it has been ascetained by agriculturarists that by preserving and breeding from the family of an animal, which when slaughtered was found to be valuable, the desired character has been obtained.

This idea could have been more developed and applied to the explanation of moral faculties; but Darwin left that job to the biologists in the 20th century, such as W. Hamilton kin selection or Robert Trivers reciprocal altruism. What Darwin actually did instead was to appeal to the principle of heredity of acquired characters.

In this talk I have outlined what I take as the essence of Darwin's theory of morality. He was mainly concerned with the biological and psychological task of explaining the genesis of moral faculties of man. But it seems to me that he was also interested in moral philosophy based on the evolutionary theory. The major advocate of what is called 'evolutionary ethics' in the 19th century was of course Herbert Spencer; and Darwin was far more cautious than Spencer, trying to avoid any definite statements about what we ought to do.

But now and then he criticizes former and contemporary moral philosophers, such as Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill , and sometimes even gets into issues of eugenics, in The Descent of Man. This indicates Darwin's strong interest in moral philosophy. Moreover, we have good evidence that this interest originates in his youth. For instance, I was surprised by finding the following remarks written in October, in his Notebooks [Q8]:.

Two classes of moralists: one says our rule of life is what will produce the greatest happiness. Society could not go on except for the moral sense, any more than a hive of Bees without their instincts. We may recall that the moral philosophers who emphasize the moral sense are called 'Intuitionists' and those who emphasize the greatest happiness are called 'Utilitarians'. Thus the young Darwin here is claiming that he can synthesize these two major schools of moral philosophy!

I will add, for your curiosity, that Henry Sidgwick, a great utilitarian and who claimed that Intuitionism and Utilitarianism can coincide, was born in the same year, And we have to notice also that Darwin's idea of the genesis of morality is already sketched in rough outline in the last sentence. But these historical interests aside, are there any significant suggestions for ethics or normative moral philosophy that can be exploited from Darwin's theory of the moral sense?

I think there are. Since I do not have much time left, let me briefly touch on this without arguments. First of all, 1 we have to know well about human morality in order to make any normative assertions. And in this respect, the Darwininan view of morality is certainly useful. We have to construct feasible ethics for humans as a social animal, not for an angel or an isolated beast.

For this purpose, we certainly have to know our biological capacity, limitations as well as potentialities. Secondly, 2 if the Darwinian view is on the right track, we should take the continuity of man and animals more seriously. Darwin argued more or less persuasively that we humans and other animals share many properties, including intelligence, feelings and preferences. Hence, if we find some of these valuable and think that they should be protected by our morals, the same consideration should support similar treatments of animals, with the difference of various degrees, of course.

For instance, persons like Jane Goodall, knowing very well about primates, assert that our treatment for them should be improved; and this assertion may well be justified. Thirdly and finally, 3 the Darwinian view suggests a certain approach to ethics, say the Reductionist approach I borrow this word from Parfit, who uses it in the context of the problem of personal identity; and Daniel Dennett also defends this approach, with respect to cognitive science, in his Darwin's Dangerous Idea , This is the view that all ethical concepts can be analyzed into more basic concepts which are not themselves ethical.

In other words, it is the view that concepts such as 'conscience' or 'moral goodness' will be well understood only in terms of concrete workings of human faculties and feelings, without postulating any peculiar realm of moral value. This is exactly what Darwin has done in his theory of the moral sense; conscience or moral sense is so called because of its workings in a certain way, not because it is related to some irreducible moral value. Since this position is very likely to be misunderstood, I will hasten to add a few explanatory remarks.

By reductionism I do not mean that ethical or evaluative concepts can be reduced to factual or descriptive concepts; this is what Moore called 'naturalism' and I do not support it. In order to be a reductionist in my sense, one need not be a naturalist. All one has to admit as an ethical reductionist is that morality can be related to a bunch of natural or conventional elements and their workings. Morality needs intelligence, but this intelligence does not come from any peculiar realm, devine or angelic.

Morality needs some instinctive factors, but one can find similar factors in other animals. And, again, moral feelings and preferences have an origin in a non-moral animal world, and you don't have to suppose any peculiar 'respect for the divine moral law'. All the factors necessary for full understanding of morality can be found in this world and the workings of its constituent parts. This is what I mean by reductionism. And I understand that Darwin is one of the most powerful advocates of this position, although very few people would regard him as a moral philosopher.

So, by emphasizing his contribution to ethics as a reductionist, I should like to end my talk. Barret, P. Darwin, C. Shurman, J. Uchii, S. Wilson, L. Robert Butts was the commentator; his comments and questions from the floor mostly centered on what I didn't say in the paper, i. I have worked out my ideas in my book , see the preceding Bibliography, and click here for English abstract ; the essential idea is that 1 evolutionarty biology can teach us what sort of sentiments or preferences we have as part of our human nature , and 2 moral sentiments and preferences are among them.

Since, as I see it, the justification of moral judgements can be made essentially in terms of our rational choice for satisfying our preferences not all, but those that can survive criticisms by facts and logic including moral preferences, evolutionary knowledge, unlike knowlege of general relativity or quantum mechanics, does contribute to our normative ethics.

For a brief discussion of the justification of "ought" statements prudential, moral, etc. Ruse's View" in Newslet. Finally, I wish to thank Jerry Massey for teaching me de Waal's recent book on the origin of morality; I have supported my view by de Waal's observations in my and papers. Darwin's emphasis on the persistent nature of the social instincts is illuminating.

But his story is not over. Darwin next points out that high intelligence would be accompanied by the ability to use some sort of language, which would enable our animal to express their wishes or desires as a member of their community. Thus it is very likely that they come to form their social norms, or "public opinions" as to how they should do for the common benefit of the community. These norms or opinions are of course in an important sense "artificial" or "conventional"; and therefore these cannot be regarded as genetically determined. Darwin admits all this.

But he emphasizes that "however great weight we may attribute to public opinion, our regard for the approbation and disapprobation of our fellows depends on sympathy, which. Similarly, in many societies throughout history, women and children have had no legal recourse against being assaulted by their husbands or parents. Note, though, that often in such cases the law not only fails to provide protection, it also prevents the unprotected individuals from carrying out retribution themselves.

Slaves cannot punish their masters for bad treatment, and even though there have been slave rebellions in history, such rebellions, being illegal, are difficult. Thus, whether you are an individual protected by the law or not, legal institutions in many situations either reduce your incentive to punish other individuals who have wronged you or positively disincentivise you from doing so: either they render it unnecessary if you are one of the lucky ones, or they put obstacles in the way of you doing it if you are not.

Moreover, if you are one of the protected ones, in many situations if you have been mistreated you do not even have to make a complaint for the miscreant to be liable for punishment. For some crimes, the police and the courts can take action without the victim making any complaint. In the case of capuchin monkeys, individual monkeys respond to unequal treatment by themselves becoming agitated, and it is presumably their behaviour when thus agitated that acts as the disincentive against unequally treating them.

There is some evidence that among some monkeys and apes a group will gang up to punish a misbehaving individual e. It is currently a matter of scientific controversy whether third-party punishment exists in non-human animals see Raihani et al. But even if it does, it is different from the punishment that happens by means of legal institutions in an important way. Just as in the capuchin case, the behaviour is not scaffolded in any way by written documents, physical structures, or formally organised bodies.

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It depends entirely on the activation of angry or indignant responses in the brains of individual monkeys. But this does not need to be the case if there are laws that give us recourse in situations where we have suffered, or perceive ourselves to have suffered, injustice. Rather than positive imperatives or specific rules, or even intuitions or moral sentiments, the internal, brain-based part involved in all this could be no more than such basic ideas as that laws are things to be obeyed , or the knowledge that if you break the law you will suffer bad consequences.

I admit, however, that it is prima facie unlikely that it is only this. And I must emphasise that I am not claiming that all of our moral decision-making is done for us by external resources in this way. However, if a reasonably significant amount of it is, then that reasonably significant amount falls outside the scope of the usual Evolutionary Psychology-based explanations, or indeed any account that takes us to have fundamental moral attitudes, or psychological characteristics underpinning such attitudes, that have remained unchanged since prehistoric times.

Moreover, the potential for us to outsource more of our moral decision-making than we currently do is not obviously limited in any way. The experiments of Sparrow et al. I am content to argue that a reasonably significant amount, rather than all, of our moral decision-making is outsourced. I suggest that the presence of legal institutions creates conditions favourable to evolutionary rollback of whatever cognitive modules evolved in the Pleistocene to solve problems of social interaction—i.

Evolutionary rollback AKA evolutionary streamlining, regressive evolution is where an organ becomes non-functional and eventually becomes atrophied or disappears altogether. For example, cave-dwelling fish often lose their eyes and, more generally, vestigial organs often become incapable of performing their former functions. This may happen because of the expensiveness of developing an organ that is not needed.

Or there may be costs to having an organ, e. Or there may be lack of selection pressure where it is needed to maintain an organ. For some discussion, see Protas et al. As Mark Rowlands argues, in general if a creature no longer benefits from having a complex internal mechanism, then it probably benefits from not having it, a principal reason being the energy costs involved in constructing and maintaining it.

This, of course, depends in part on whether the organism is able to use them. But we know that laws are available for people to use, and that people are able to use them, to resolve problems of dealing with non-co-operators and so forth. Modern humans possess a means for solving problems of social interaction, in the form of legal institutions;. Legal institutions can be thought of as facilitating a kind of embedded cognition, often saving us having to rely solely on our own internal cognitive resources to solve these problems;.

The emergence of legal institutions introduces a new factor in evolution, which leads to the diminution in importance of internal, genetically specified cognitive mechanisms;. This applies to moral attitudes because of the existence of institutions that solve problems of social interaction, saving us having to. Legal institutions often solve those problems that Evolutionary Psychology says we have cognitive mechanisms to solve. Often, a person who has been mistreated does not even have to make a complaint for a miscreant to be liable for punishment.

In the case of people who are not so protected, the legal institutions disincentivise them from acting. In general, evolved creatures will neither store nor process information in costly ways when they can use the structure of the environment and their operations upon it as a convenient stand-in for the information-processing operations concerned. Clark , p.

If it is necessary for an organism to be able to perform a given adaptive task T, then it is differentially selectively dis advantageous for that organism to develop internal mechanisms sufficient for the performance of T when it is possible for the organism to perform T by way of a combination of internal mechanisms and manipulations of the external environment. Rowlands , p. Lawrence Shapiro objects to the and Barking Dog principles on the ground that they make Panglossian assumptions.

In other words, he is arguing that Clark and Rowlands are presupposing an unrealistic view of evolution where what evolves is determined solely by what would be most useful to the organism, and that they do not take seriously the effects of ancestral conditions in biasing the direction of evolution. In response to this I argue, first, that anti-Panglossianism would not favour the standard Evolutionary Psychology story. Any objection to the effect that biases resulting from ancestral conditions are not being taken seriously can be levelled with equal justice at a story that, appealing to evolution, claims that our psychology is underpinned by cognitive modules that were naturally selected in the Pleistocene and hence are well-suited to life in that time.

Second, I do not make Panglossian assumptions in the present paper because what I offer, I offer as a conjecture only. I am arguing that there are grounds for thinking that conditions have been favourable to rollback of certain cognitive modules. But that is not the same as claiming that that rollback has taken place. The latter is an empirical question, and at the end of the paper, I make some very brief and tentative suggestions as to how it might be tested.

However, regardless of whether or not the or Barking Dog principles are true, we have seen that there is evidence that humans do in fact have a strong tendency to make use of outsourcing opportunities when they are available. As we have seen, the complexity of the mechanisms is a key component of the argument that it would take a very long time for natural selection to produce them. But it is a lot easier for natural selection to un-make a complex mechanism than it is for it to make it. Rolling back, since it only involves un-making a mechanism, can be much faster than building one, since it is a much simpler achievement.

It only requires natural selection hitting upon a way that the mechanism no longer works, and there are plenty of those. One only has to reflect on how much easier it is to break a complicated machine than it is to make one to see this. It may be the case that humans at one time had internal, developmentally robust moral or proto-moral attitudes, and that that was the only way to deal with social interaction issues at the time.

However, most or perhaps all human groups now existing have legal institutions of some kind, in the sense spelt out in Sect. Any genetic change needed to facilitate a switch from relying on internal resources to external ones would, in all likelihood, have been very simple and hence could have been brought about by natural selection quite quickly. Of course legal institutions are also complex. However, they are no more complex than other human-made entities which have clearly come into existence later than the Pleistocene, and which therefore cannot have required genetic change to come into existence.

For example, the infrastructure of a modern city is vastly more complex than anything that existed in the Pleistocene, or for that matter in ancient historical times, but did not, so far as we know, require genetic change to come into existence. Thus, rather than positive imperatives or specific rules, or even intuitions or moral sentiments, what is left of our evolutionary heritage from the Pleistocene may be no more than such basic ideas as that laws are things to be obeyed.

To reiterate, I do not think it is likely that it is that minimal, but it is an empirical question whether and to what extent the rollback about which I am hypothesising has taken place. In this subsection I will argue that evidence of cross-cultural similarity does not necessarily support the standard Evolutionary Psychology view, since there is an alternative explanation for such similarity consistent with the conjecture offered here.

That alternative explanation is that laws were made in a given society because somebody in that society thought they were a good idea. And sometimes the same thing is a good idea in lots of different cultures. It is possible for advocates of the standard Evolutionary Psychology view to appeal to any direct evidence that there might be that there are moral values that are common to all or most cultures.

As with evolutionary theories about human mating preferences and other things, it is especially important to look for evidence from different cultures that have had no contact with each other. In practice, this means or at least ought to mean looking for evidence from cultures that have not had contact with modern western culture, in order to alleviate the suspicion that the values of modern western culture are being projected onto humanity in general.

The debate about whether there is pan-cultural agreement on fundamental morals is a very old one. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man , offered an ambitious list of moral rules that he claimed could be found in all known cultures. A recent survey paper by Henrich et al. I do not propose to adjudicate the matter here, but the claim that there is widespread pan-cultural agreement on moral matters is—to say the least—contentious, and this contentiousness is not due solely to lack of evidence but also to the difficulty of interpreting such evidence as there is.

However, let us say for the sake of argument that there is good evidence that some moral values are constant across many different unconnected cultures. That would tell against any explanation of those values in terms of cultural transmission. That, in turn, might suggest that the only explanation remaining is that we inherited those values—or at least the proto-values, emotional reactions or whatnot—underlying them, from a time at least as long ago as the last common ancestor.

And that, in turn, might suggest that the only plausible explanation for them is in the evolution of our Pleistocene ancestors. But, insofar as there are such universals, an obvious alternative explanation is that some rules of conduct are a good idea in lots of different circumstances. All that is required to explain why something is legally prohibited or legally required is that somebody somewhere thought it would be a good idea to prohibit or require it.

But it is perfectly possible that some things—murder, for example—are such that people in many different societies would find it a good idea to make laws against them. Of course, what is counted as murder can vary greatly—e. However, what I am addressing in this subsection is how to explain such commonalities as there are: the existence of major differences in moral beliefs between cultures or between individuals does not favour the view that our moral attitudes are to be explained by a universal set of cognitive modules.

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Other things—enforcing certain types of promises, for a possible example—may be such that many different kinds of societies would find it a good idea to introduce laws instituting them. So what I am proposing is that laws were invented in a given society because somebody thought they were a good idea, and in many cases what is a good idea is invariant across cultures, and this in turn because they solved some problem that people reasonably regularly face when interacting with each other.

The issue of explaining why we find similar laws and customs in many different societies is approached in a standard Evolutionary Psychology way by Boyer and Petersen This view places much less weight than mine on the conscious element in law-making. Such an explanation seems to me to greatly underestimate the amount of conscious thought that goes into law-making. Very large parts of the law—e. This deliberation does not have to be by just one person: it can be done by groups—e.

However, I do not deny that in some cases a story of the Boyer and Petersen type may be correct, and I will say a little in the final section about how in individual cases we might tell if this is so, or if my type of story is correct instead. They argue that cultural phenomena such as languages, customs, fashions, styles of art, religion evolve by a process analogous to biological natural selection.

This would imply that they are not products of conscious design. But in response to this I would say: firstly, that even if this is the case, it does not affect the main point of the present paper—namely, that the presence of robust legal institutions can facilitate cognitive outsourcing and rollback. Second, an overemphasis on the unconscious nature of cultural evolution would once again underestimate the amount of conscious thought that goes into law-making.

It may be objected that I have only offered an extremely vague explanation for such commonalities of legal and moral systems as may exist. Theoreticians trying to construct a genuinely informative account of how moral value-systems evolved could end up arguing forever about what exactly are the rules that many different societies are likely to have thought were a good idea.

However, I suggest that it is at least as good as common-inheritance evolutionary explanations of moral universals, since the latter suffer from this problem to at least as great a degree. That is because they take the reason why these moral attitudes exist to be that they solved Pleistocene problems of social interaction. Yet a great many of the Pleistocene problems of social interaction hypothesised by Evolutionary Psychology and similar schools are of such a general kind that they are common to any human society, Pleistocene or not.

More generally, accounts of the problems faced by our Pleistocene ancestors tend to be rather vague as a consequence of the paucity of our knowledge of Pleistocene conditions. As I said earlier, some plausibility is given to view that our moral attitudes are grounded in cognitive modules by the fact that, very often, the feeling of moral disapproval or indignation, the feeling that something is just wrong , hits us prior to any reflection on why it is wrong. If we find this plausible, then we can combine this with the complexity of the processes that likely underlie this to argue that they are likely to be products of natural selection.

However, people seem to have these immediate visceral responses to very different kinds of things. Some people have such responses to swear-words, some to racist or homophobic language, while others are unbothered by such things. In saying this, I am not claiming that there are no moral universals, but rather that the kind of immediate visceral moral-indignation response that forms the basis of a phenomenological argument for there being cognitive modules underlying our moral responses, seems at least prima facie to be evocable by some things that are clearly not moral universals.

I will say a little bit more about this at the end of the paper. This point highlights a strength of my view. The standard Evolutionary Psychology story requires us to explain modern moral attitudes as products of cognitive modules that have remained unchanged since the Pleistocene. But then we have to explain very different moral attitudes as underpinned by the same modules. Some attempts to accommodate these facts into to a standard inheritance story have been made e. But an alternative is to say that our underlying moral attitudes are more changeable than the standard Evolutionary Psychology story allows.

There is evidence that moral attitudes such as disapproval can be triggered very easily. For example, arousal of disgust can cause people to form negative moral judgements Wheatley and Haidt ; Schaller and Park The presence of a bad smell or being in a messy, dirty room increases the likelihood of forming a negative moral judgement on someone, even when the smell or the dirt have nothing to do with them, and even if the person being judged is not present but just being talked about.

It is worthwhile pointing out that I am saying more than just that our moral attitudes and practices are, at least to a greater extent than Evolutionary Psychology supposes, products of our cultural milieu. That would be consistent with the view that we have highly robust internal moral attitudes, but that those attitudes are products of learning and socialisation in early life, and hence can vary greatly between cultures.

This view is held both by people who reject the relevance of biological evolution to understanding human moral attitudes at all e. Wright ; Sterelny The hypothesis I am suggesting differs from theirs in that I think that, at least to the extent that legal institutions have either facilitated the offloading of moral-cognition tasks, or prevented people from effectively exercising their moral capacities, it may be that robust internal moral attitudes do not exist at all, or at least exist to much less an extent than we commonly think: our moral attitudes, or at least a significant amount of them, are momentary and are the effects of immediate conditions.

This has some parallels with an idea explored by Gilbert Harman , and Doris , who argue based on social psychology that there is no such thing as character as it is commonly understood. It seems to me that there is indirect evidence that supports the embedded cognition view as against the learning in the sense of internalisation view.

The evidence from Sparrow et al. Well-known psychological experiments such as the Stanford Prison Experiment Haney et al. None of this is intended as decisive evidence that rollback of cognitive modules involved in moral attitudes has taken place. I further suggest that there are some ways in which we might be able to tell whether particular attitudes are likely to be rooted in unchanged Pleistocene modules or not, given that I have argued that cross-cultural similarity is insufficient evidence. I offer two suggestions: 1 We might find good evidence that some attitude or practice is pan-cultural and is not explainable as obviously a good idea in lots of different contexts.

The alternative account that I offer should help to combat some of the morally pessimistic or quietistic implications that Evolutionary Psychology accounts of morality appear to have.

Origins of Morality: An Evolutionary Account - Oxford Scholarship

On the usual Evolutionary Psychology accounts, what keeps cognitive modules unchanged is alleged to be a combination of lack of genetic change since the Pleistocene and a very high level of developmental robustness, which implies that only genetic engineering or highly structured and scientifically well-informed intervention in the developmental process could change them. The upshot of this is that we may be stuck with them, even if they conflict with other, perhaps more reasoned, moral beliefs. But the solutions that the standard Evolutionary Psychology type of story envisages natural selection as having produced tend to be ones that worked in the Pleistocene environment, and do not necessarily work at all as well in the present day.

It is possible that some of the implications that it does have are equally worrying, however. The hypothesis I am proposing differs in its consequences from the usual evolutionary type of story in other ways too. Very roughly, the usual type of story predicts that what constitutes a solution to the problems is a strategy that maximises reproductive fitness , so that that is what we should expect to have been produced.

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My alternative predicts that what constitutes a solution is something that eliminates or at least reduces or would be expected to reduce what someone perceives as a problem. Hence there is, at least in principle, the possibility of empirical evidence being forthcoming that would favour one possibility over the other. I owe this information to Goldstein Richardson , pp. Therefore, the nearest precedents for my argument here are Clark and Rowlands Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. The evolution of morality and its rollback. Open Access. First Online: 21 March Part of the following topical collections: Darwin in the Humanities and the Social Sciences.

To sum up my argument so far: 1. Nuclear Physics B, 3 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Boyd, R.


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