The evolution of cooperative behavior and its implications for ethics

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):915-926 (2009)
While many philosophers agree that evolutionary theory has important implications for the study of ethics, there has been no consensus on what these implications are. I argue that we can better understand these implications by examining two related yet distinct issues in evolutionary theory: the evolution of our moral beliefs and the evolution of cooperative behavior. While the prevailing evolutionary account of morality poses a threat to moral realism, a plausible model of how altruism evolved in human beings provides the grounding for a research program that focuses on achieving some of the more practical goals shared by ethicists. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Political Science, Economics, and Philosophy, College of Staten Island/City University of New York, 2800 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, NY 10314; e‐mail:
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