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  1. Christine Clavien (2012). Kitcher’s Revolutionary Reasoning Inversion in Ethics. Analyse and Kritk 34 (1):117-128.
    This paper examines three specific issues raised by The Ethical Project. First, I discuss the varieties of altruism and spell out the differences between the definitions proposed by Kitcher and the ways altruism is usually conceived in biology, philosophy, psychology, and economics literature. Second, with the example of Kitcher’s account, I take a critical look at evolutionary stories of the emergence of human ethical practices. Third, I point to the revolutionary implications of the Darwinian methodology when it is thoughtfully applied (...)
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2012-11-12
Supporting Kitcher's Revolutionary Reasoning Inversion in Ethics with Better Science

I am delighted that someone of Kitcher's ability has tackled the meta-ethical implications of understanding morality as an evolutionary adaptation. Further, Christine Clavien has advanced that good cause by providing an inspiringly insightful and clear review of important implications of his work. 

However, the science of the matter actually supports a much stronger hypothesis than Kitcher's "morality evolved to overcome altruism failures".That stronger hypothesis may have different meta-ethical implications.

Relevant criteria for scientific truth regarding morality as an evolutionary adaptation Include explanatory power for descriptive facts and puzzles, no contradiction with known facts, simplicity, and integration with the rest of science. By these criteria, a superior hypothesis can be stated as "morality overcomes a universal cooperation-exploitation dilemma by motivating or advocating altruistic cooperation strategies". That is, morality is composed of assemblies of biological and cultural evolutionary adaptations selected for by synergistic benefits of altruistic cooperation in groups (where altruistic cooperation and the cooperation-exploitation dilemma is as explained by the game theorist Herb Gintis).

Biological evolution implemented these altruistic cooperation strategies in our biology that underlies 1) our moral emotions such as empathy and loyalty that motivate altruism, 2) guilt that punishes us when we do 'bad' things, 3) indignation that motivates punishment of others when they do 'bad' things, 4) an emotional concern for our reputations, and 5) the remarkable biology underlying our malleable moral intuitions that determine when and with what intensity our moral emotions are triggered.

Note that all altruistic cooperation strategies require punishment of poor cooperators - people whose actions reduce the benefits of cooperation in groups. Guilt, indignation, and concern for our reputations are as important as altruism and loyalty in maintaining moral behavior in groups.

Cultural evolution implemented these altruistic cooperation strategies in enforced norms such as the Golden Rule (indirect reciprocity in its Christian version), "Do not steal, lie or murder!", "Risk injury and death to defend your group!", "Obey the King!", 'Greek' virtues that emphasize leadership and 'Christian' virtues that emphasize obedience, and even circumcision and prohibitions against eating pigs or hair cutting that serve as markers of membership and commitment to a cooperative in-group. Enforcement was implemented by means such as culturally approved collective group disapproval, reputation damage, 'honor' codes concerning retribution, and rule of law.

So, contrary to Kitcher, ethical practice is revealed to be much more than "a moving phenomenon intrinsically bound to our evolving biology and culture". It is revealed to be intrinsically bound to altruistic cooperation strategies that are as cross-species universal and timeless as their mathematics. In other words, ethical practice is intrinsically bound to altruistic cooperation strategies that solve a universal cooperation-exploitation dilemma that was present before the fusion fires of the first star lit, and will be still be universal when the last star dies.

Of course, these universal strategies for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups are silent on what "benefits" might be moral or immoral. So ethical practice still is a "moving phenomena" but regarding only the ends of moral behavior and the most effective biological and cultural heuristics for altruistic cooperation strategies.

The meta-ethical implications of what I see as this better supported hypothesis are beyond my limited knowledge of philosophy. But I encourage people with that expertise to consider such hypotheses that are more solidly supported than Kitcher's simple claim "morality evolved to overcome altruism failures".


2013-01-11
Supporting Kitcher's Revolutionary Reasoning Inversion in Ethics with Better Science
Reply to Mark Sloan
It remains to be seen that the concept of ethics is "intrinsically bound" to concept of altruism. In order for this to be true, there could be no scenario in which both "X acted unethically" and "X acted out of altruism" could simultaneously be held true. But examples of this are simple to form. For example: John committed a violent robbery in order to give the money to starving orphans. Judgments may vary, but it is certain that at least someone could make the ethical judgments "John acted unethically" and "John acted out of altruism".

I have many other disagreements with your notion of "cultural evolution" but since post is supposed to be about Kitcher, I will only say that, as it is, his more tentative definition seems much more reasonable than yours.

2013-02-01
Supporting Kitcher's Revolutionary Reasoning Inversion in Ethics with Better Science
Reply to Mark Sloan

I can appreciate this conversation which focuses on the question of morality. It's interesting to me how same approach such a subject and its explanation of its origins. Is morality simply a part of mankind's personhood that allows them to survive or is morality a question that speaks to a higher level of acceptable behavior to someone else?

In my book Made in the Image of God I express the concept that morality is a standard that originates with the creator God and is his alone to make or change this standard. With that said just what is morality? And where did it come from? Is morality biological or metaphysical? It is my view that morality is not biological (technically speaking) but metaphysical on the basis that morality in mankind is based on his nature. How do I define human nature? Human nature is a combination of the metaphysical makeup of body and spirit, where spirit is that part of mankind that generates attitude and where conscience lies. Mankind's personhood lies with his soul a metaphysical part of mankind that functions with intellect, emotion and will power in which mankind's nature is a controlling factor. (All these concepts are discussed in my book.)

If we follow the historical record of the Scriptures (Bible), we learn that the issues of right and wrong derive themselves from God's standards of attitude and behavior. The book of Romans in the cannon of Scriptures is a great resource to understanding the relationship of the origins and nature of morality. Within these resources we learn that the issue of morality is created within us at birth and that God's Laws become our school teacher to understand this standard more clearly and correctly.

For a better understanding of this discussion with relationship to metaphysics and the nature of God and Mankind, my book is available worldwide in most formats chosen to build a library in. (As a side note: the term personhood is a word I created and is defined in my book.)

Respectfully


2013-02-24
Supporting Kitcher's Revolutionary Reasoning Inversion in Ethics with Better Science
Reply to Mark Sloan
Even if it is the case that morality is deontological and derives from God, natural selection is basically an established fact that you can't simply slough it off as having an impact on what we call morality in everyday parlance.