Evolution of Moral Norms

Abstract
Moral norms are the rules of morality, those that people actually follow, and those that we feel people ought to follow, even when they don’t. Historically, the social sciences have been primarily concerned with describing the many forms that moral norms take in various cultures, with the emerging implication that moral norms are mere arbitrary products of culture. Philosophers, on the other hand, have been more concerned with trying to understand the nature and source of rules that all cultures ought to follow, with relatively little regard for what people actually do. The tension between the two approaches has to do with whether there are any standards higher than the whims of culture in determining right and wrong. Typically, the social sciences say “no”, pointing at the diversity of moral beliefs. Most philosophers (along with people of moral conviction) feel that there must be some deeper source of morality than the trends and fads of culture. Unfortunately, the nature and source of such standards has remained something of a mystery. Recent work on the evolution of norms has changed this picture dramatically.
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