Paper Title

[1.1] A Darwinian Perspective on the Purpose of Morality

Location

IB 1014

Start Date

January 2020

End Date

January 2020

Disciplines

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Philosophy

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

The drive to be moral is an enigmatic quality that appears to be unique to humans by the overall consensus of behavioral biologists. Seemingly altruistic behaviors have been observed in different lifeforms ranging from bacteria to other vertebrates; however, these differ from human morality in that such altruistic acts seem limited to close relatives or ultimately confer some advantage to the individual. Morality, on the other hand, extends universally, and people appear to act morally regardless of whether doing so has any direct individual benefit. Morality is thus most often regarded as a distinct phenomenon and is a conundrum in that it appears to encapsulate behaviors that are purely selfless. I, however, argue that both human morality and non-human altruistic behaviors are products of the same influences, and I use this parallel as a tool to examine the purpose of morality. I align with Thomas Hobbes’ viewpoint of morality being born out of its utilitarian advantages over the alternative of its absence—the state of nature where every person fends for themselves. This suggests that morality is ultimately a method for humans to achieve self-serving ends. Using Darwinian reasoning, I extend this to provide rationale as to why social groups capable of the social and biological processes that achieve morality would have had a selective advantage over those incapable. My conclusion is that morality in humans can be explained as an evolutionary adaptation necessitated by the advantages it brings.

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Jan 18th, 2:30 PM Jan 18th, 4:00 PM

[1.1] A Darwinian Perspective on the Purpose of Morality

IB 1014

The drive to be moral is an enigmatic quality that appears to be unique to humans by the overall consensus of behavioral biologists. Seemingly altruistic behaviors have been observed in different lifeforms ranging from bacteria to other vertebrates; however, these differ from human morality in that such altruistic acts seem limited to close relatives or ultimately confer some advantage to the individual. Morality, on the other hand, extends universally, and people appear to act morally regardless of whether doing so has any direct individual benefit. Morality is thus most often regarded as a distinct phenomenon and is a conundrum in that it appears to encapsulate behaviors that are purely selfless. I, however, argue that both human morality and non-human altruistic behaviors are products of the same influences, and I use this parallel as a tool to examine the purpose of morality. I align with Thomas Hobbes’ viewpoint of morality being born out of its utilitarian advantages over the alternative of its absence—the state of nature where every person fends for themselves. This suggests that morality is ultimately a method for humans to achieve self-serving ends. Using Darwinian reasoning, I extend this to provide rationale as to why social groups capable of the social and biological processes that achieve morality would have had a selective advantage over those incapable. My conclusion is that morality in humans can be explained as an evolutionary adaptation necessitated by the advantages it brings.