Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Narrative resources
 
The Evolution of Moral Sentiments, Practices, and Rules
 
An Open Discussion
Department of Anthropology, UCSB
May 22, 1998 from 12:30pm to 2pm
Humanities and Social Sciences Building 2001A
 
 
Discussion Theme
 
This week will not involve an outside speaker, but will instead be a general discussion of a topic that many regular participants have asked be explored in an open forum.   Many of the talks this year (e.g., Binmore's on game theory and the evolution of fairness, Alan Fiske's on communal sharing, equality matching, and the other forms of social relations, the session on group selection models) dealt with this issue, and many of the seminar's regular participants do research that touches on questions relating to the emergence of moral systems or practices (e.g., kin selection, game theory, reciprocation, alliances and coalitions, incest avoidance, sharing, etc.).

The seminar will not be on the normative topic of what a good moral system ought to be, but rather on the "natural history" question of what causes or organizes behaviors, sentiments, norms, concepts, rules, representations, and social practices targeted at shaping "proper" or "moral" conduct.  Thus, Aztec sacrifice, the war to exterminate the Albigensians, or Nazi ideology are as much examples of "moral systems" as are liberalism, multiculturalism, or filial piety.

Are there evolved aspects of human nature that are responsible for systems of morality?  How do alternative cultural forms emerge?  What governs the relationship between individual-level processes and group level processes?

For one of  many views, attendees may wish to consult Richard Alexander's book The Biology of Moral Systems.

 

 

Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Narrative resources