We suggest that anecdotes have evidentiary value in interpreting nonhuman primate behavior. We also believe that any outcome from the experiments proposed by Heyes can be interpreted as a product of previous experience with trainers or as associative learning using the experimental cues. No potential outcome is clearcut evidence for or against the theory of mind proposition.
No matter what we do, however kind or generous our deeds may seem, a hidden motive of selfishness lurks--or so science has claimed for years. This book, whose publication promises to be a major scientific event, tells us differently. In Unto Others philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson demonstrate once and for all that unselfish behavior is in fact an important feature of both biological and human nature. Their book provides a panoramic view of altruism throughout (...) the animal kingdom--from self-sacrificing parasites to insects that subsume themselves in the superorganism of a colony to the human capacity for selflessness--even as it explains the evolutionary sense of such behavior. (shrink)
What is the biological reason for gossip? For laughter? For the creation of art? Why do dogs have curly tails? What can microbes tell us about morality? These and many other questions are tackled by renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson in this witty and groundbreaking new book. With stories that entertain as much as they inform, Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution and shows how, properly understood, they can illuminate the length and breadth of creation, from (...) the origin of life to the nature of religion. Now everyone can move beyond the sterile debates about creationism and intelligent design to share Darwin’s panoramic view of animal and human life, seamlessly connected to each other. Evolution, as Wilson explains, is not just about dinosaurs and human origins, but about why all species behave as they do—from beetles that devour their own young, to bees that function as a collective brain, to dogs that are smarter in some respects than our closest ape relatives. And basic evolutionary principles are also the foundation for humanity’s capacity for symbolic thought, culture, and morality. In example after example, Wilson sheds new light on Darwin’s grand theory and how it can be applied to daily life. By turns thoughtful, provocative, and daringly funny, Evolution for Everyone addresses some of the deepest philosophical and social issues of this or any age. In helping us come to a deeper understanding of human beings and our place in the world, it might also help us to improve that world. (shrink)
Can we ever truly answer the question, “Who am I?” Moderated by Alex Voorhoeve (London School of Economics), neuro-philosopher Elie During (University of Paris, Ouest Nanterre), cognitive scientist David Jopling (York University, Canada), social psychologist Timothy Wilson (University of Virginia),and ethicist Frances Kamm (Harvard University) examine the difficulty of achieving genuine self-knowledge and how the pursuit of self-knowledge plays a role in shaping the self.
David Sloan Wilson has recently revived the idea of a group mind as an application of group selectionist thinking to cognition. Central to my discussion of this idea is the distinction between the claim that groups have a psychology and what I call the social manifestation thesis-a thesis about the psychology of individuals. Contemporary work on this topic has confused these two theses. My discussion also points to research questions and issues that Wilson's work raises, as well (...) as their connection to externalist conceptions of the mind familiar since the work of Putnam and Burge. (shrink)
Many contemporary philosophers accept Hume's Dictum (HD), according to which there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed entities. Tacit in Lewis's work is a potential motivation for HD, according to which one should accept HD as presupposed by the best account of the range of metaphysical possibilities---namely, a combinatorial account, applied to spatiotemporal fundamentalia. Here I elucidate and assess this Ludovician motivation for HD. After refining HD and surveying its key, recurrent role in Lewis’s work, I present (...) Lewis’s appeal to HD as providing a broadly axiomatic generating basis for the space of metaphysical modality, and canvas the prima facie advantages of the resulting combinatorial principle---HD (L-combinatorialism)---as being principled, extensionally adequate and modally reductive. Most criticisms of Lewis's combinatorialism have targeted seeming ways in which the theory overgenerates the desired space; I rather argue that HD (L-combinatorialism) seriously undergenerates the desired space in three different ways. For each way I argue that available means of overcoming the undergeneration either fail to close the gap, undermine the claim that HD (L-combinatorialism) is a principled generator of metaphysical modal space, undermine the reductive status of Lewis's combinatorialism, or call into question the truth of HD. (shrink)
In works of literary fiction, it is a part of the fiction that the words of the text are being recounted by some work-internal 'voice': the literary narrator. One can ask similarly whether the story in movies is told in sights and sounds by a work-internal subjectivity that orchestrates them: a cinematic narrator. George M. Wilson argues that movies do involve a fictional recounting (an audio-visual narration ) in terms of the movie's sound and image track. Viewers are usually (...) prompted to imagine seeing the items and events in the movie's fictional world and to imagine hearing the associated fictional sounds. However, it is much less clear that the cinematic narration must be imagined as the product of some kind of 'narrator' - of a work-internal agent of the narration. Wilson goes on to examine the further question whether viewers imagine seeing the fictional world face-to-face or whether they imagine seeing it through some kind of work-internal mediation . It is a key contention of this book that only the second of these alternatives allows one to give a coherent account of what we do and do not imagine about what we are seeing on the screen. Having provided a partial account of the foundations of film narration, the final chapters explore the ways in which certain complex strategies of cinematic narration are executed in three exemplary films: David Fincher's Fight Club , von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress , and the Coen brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There. (shrink)
Theories of religion that are supported with selected examples can be criticized for selection bias. This paper evaluates major evolutionary hypotheses about religion with a random sample of 35 religions drawn from a 16-volume encyclopedia of world religions. The results are supportive of the group-level adaptation hypothesis developed in Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (Wilson 2002). Most religions in the sample have what Durkheim called secular utility. Their otherworldly elements can be largely understood as proximate (...) mechanisms that motivate adaptive behaviors. Jainism, the religion in the sample that initially appeared most challenging to the group-level adaptation hypothesis, is highly supportive upon close examination. The results of the survey are preliminary and should be built upon by a multidisciplinary community as part of a field of evolutionary religious studies. (shrink)
Jansen and Wall suggest a new way of defending hard paternalism in clinical research. They argue that non-therapeutic research exposing people to more than minimal risk should be banned on egalitarian grounds: in preventing poor decision-makers from making bad decisions, we will promote equality of welfare. We argue that their proposal is flawed for four reasons.First, the idea of poor decision-makers is much more problematic than Jansen and Wall allow. Second, pace Jansen and Wall, it may be practicable for regulators (...) to uncover the values that a potential research participant holds when agreeing to enter a research project, so their claim that we must ban such research projects for all if we are to ban them for poor decision-makers looks to be unmotivated. Third, there seem to be cases where the liberty to enter the sort of research project Jansen and Wall discuss is morally weighty, and arguably should outweigh concerns of egalitarian distribution. Fourth, banning certain types of research, which seem on the face of it to offer an unfavourable risk-benefit ratio, would have unwelcome consequences for all clinical research, which Jansen and Wall do not recognize. (shrink)
The hypothesis of group selection fell victim to a seemingly devastating critique in 1960s evolutionary biology. In Unto Others (1998), we argue to the contrary, that group selection is a conceptually coherent and empirically well documented cause of evolution. We suggest, in addition, that it has been especially important in human evolution. In the second part of Unto Others, we consider the issue of psychological egoism and altruism -- do human beings have ultimate motives concerning the well-being of others? We (...) argue that previous psychological and philosophical work on this question has been inconclusive. We propose an evolutionary argument for the claim that human beings have altruistic ultimate motives. (shrink)
Kant's theory of animals is based on his belief that animals have presentations and consciousness and in this are like human beings. When we abuse animals then we are more likely to abuse human beings. But animals are organic beings that have internal purposiveness and hence are ends for which other things are means. In this limited sense animals have intrinsic value.
The naturalistic fallacy is mentionedfrequently by evolutionary psychologists as anerroneous way of thinking about the ethicalimplications of evolved behaviors. However,evolutionary psychologists are themselvesconfused about the naturalistic fallacy and useit inappropriately to forestall legitimateethical discussion. We briefly review what thenaturalistic fallacy is and why it is misusedby evolutionary psychologists. Then we attemptto show how the ethical implications of evolvedbehaviors can be discussed constructivelywithout impeding evolutionary psychologicalresearch. A key is to show how ethicalbehaviors, in addition to unethical behaviors,can evolve by natural selection.
The primary outcome of natural selection is adaptation to an environment. The primary concern of epistemology is the acquistion of knowledge. Evolutionary epistemology must therefore draw a fundamental connection between adaptation and knowledge. Existing frameworks in evolutionary epistemology do this in two ways; (a) by treating adaptation as a form of knowledge, and (b) by treating the ability to acquire knowledge as a biologically evolved adaptation. I criticize both frameworks for failing to appreciate that mental representations can motivate behaviors that (...) are adaptive in the real world without themselves directly corresponding to the real world. I suggest a third framework in which mental representations are to reality as species are to ecosystems. This is a many-to-one relationship that predicts a diversity of adaptive representations in the minds of interacting people. As “species of thought”, mental representations share a number of properties with biological species, including isolating mechanisms that prevent them from blending with other representations. Species of thought also are amenable to the empirical methods that evolutionists use to study adaptation in biological species. Empirical studies of mental representations in everyday life might even be necessary for science to succeed as a normative “truth-seeking” discipline. (shrink)
We address the following issues raised by the commentators of our target article and book: (1) the problem of multiple perspectives; (2) how to define group selection; (3) distinguishing between the concepts of altruism and organism; (4) genetic versus cultural group selection; (5) the dark side of group selection; (6) the relationship between psychological and evolutionary altruism; (7) the question of whether the psychological questions can be answered; (8) psychological experiments. We thank the contributors for their commentaries, which provide a (...) diverse agenda for future study of evolution and morality. Our response will follow the organization of our book, distinguishing between evolutionary issues that concern fitness effects and psychological issues that concern motives. (shrink)
Kant gave lectures on physical geography and anthropology and called them cosmopolitan philosophy. His physical geography lectures were intended to teach students not just facts but also how to have practical judgment (Klugheit) and were to prepare students for their place in the world. This article shows how the physical geography lectures were organized for that purpose.
I examine the relationship between evolutionary definitions of altruism that are based on fitness effects and psychological definitions that are based on the motives of the actor. I show that evolutionary altruism can be motivated by proximate mechanisms that are psychologically either altruistic or selfish. I also show that evolutionary definitions do rely upon motives as a metaphor in which the outcome of natural selection is compared to the decisions of a psychologically selfish (or altruistic) individual. Ignoring the precise nature (...) of both psychological and evolutionary definitions has obscured many important issues, including the biological roots of psychological altruism. (shrink)
Group selection is increasingly being viewed as an important force in human evolution. This paper examines the views of R.D. Alexander, one of the most influential thinkers about human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, on the subject of group selection. Alexander's general conception of evolution is based on the gene-centered approach of G.C. Williams, but he has also emphasized a potential role for group selection in the evolution of individual genomes and in human evolution. Alexander's views are internally inconsistent and (...) underestimate the importance of group selection. Specific themes that Alexander has developed in his account of human evolution are important but are best understood within the framework of multilevel selection theory. From this perspective, Alexander's views on moral systems are not the radical departure from conventional views that he claims, but remain radical in another way more compatible with conventional views. (shrink)
The old Das Adam Smith Problem is no longer tenable. Few today believe that Smith postulates two contradictory principles of human action: one in the Wealth of Nations and another in the Theory of Moral Sentiments . Nevertheless, an Adam Smith problem of sorts endures: there is still no widely agreed version of what it is that links these two texts, aside from their common author; no widely agreed version of how, if at all, Smith's postulation of self-interest as the (...) organising principle of economic activity fits in with his wider moral-ethical concerns. We argue that the enduring Adam Smith problem may be solved by recourse to a realist perspective that recognises the different levels of social reality to which Smith refers in his discourse. Essential to Smith, we try to show, is the action-theoretic distinction between motive and capacity; between a typology of empirical human acts, on the one hand—self-love and benevolence in Smiths terminology—and the (non-empirical) condition of possibility of all human action—what Smith calls the sympathetic principle—on the other. (shrink)
: Catholic teaching has no moral difficulties with research on stem cells derived from adult stem cells or fetal cord blood. The ethical problem comes with embryonic stem cells since their genesis involves the destruction of a human embryo. However, there seems to be significant promise of health benefits from such research. Although Catholic teaching does not permit any destruction of human embryos, the question remains whether researchers in a Catholic institution, or any researchers opposed to destruction of human embryos, (...) could participate in research on cultured embryonic stem cells, or whether a Catholic institution could use any therapy that ultimately results from such research. This position paper examines how such research could be conducted legitimately in a Catholic institution by using an ethical analysis involving a narrative context, the nature of the moral act, and the principle of material cooperation, along with references to significant ethical assessments. It also offers tentative guidelines that could be used by a Catholic institution in implementing such research. (shrink)
We have two main objections to Kerr and Godfrey-Smith's (2002) meticulous analysis. First, they misunderstand the position we took in Unto Others – we do not claim that individual-level statements about the evolution of altruism are always unexplanatory and always fail to capture causal relationships. Second, Kerr and Godfrey-Smith characterize the individual and the multi-level perspectives in terms of different sets of parameters. In particular, they do not allow the multi-level perspective to use the individual fitness parameters i and i. (...) We don't see why the multi-level perspective prevents one from thinking in these terms. Kerr and Godfrey-Smith's argument that Uyenoyama and Feldman's (1980, 1992) definition of altruism belongs more to the individualist perspective than it does to the multi-level perspective is an artifact of their choice of parameters; the same point applies to their argument about the individualism inherent in the idea of Class I and Class II fitness structures. (shrink)
Research involving human subjects is much more stringently regulated than many other nonresearch activities that appear to be at least as risky. A number of prominent figures now argue that research is overregulated. We argue that the reasons typically offered to justify the present system of research regulation fail to show that research should be subject to more stringent regulation than other equally risky activities. However, there are three often overlooked reasons for thinking that research should be treated as a (...) special case. First, research typically involves the imposition of risk on people who do not benefit from this risk imposition. Second, research depends on public trust. Third, the complexity of the moral decision making required favors ethics committees as a regulative solution for research. (shrink)
Words such as selfish and altruistic that describe conduct toward self and others are notoriously ambiguous in everyday language. I argue that the ambiguity is caused, in part, by the coexistence of multiple belief systems that use the same words in different ways. Each belief system is a relatively coherent linguistic entity that provides a guide for human behavior. It is therefore a functional entity with design features that dictate specific word meaning. Since different belief systems guide human behavior in (...) different directions, specific word meanings cannot be maintained across belief systems. Other sources of linguistic ambiguity include i) functional ambiguity that increases the effectiveness of a belief system, ii) ambiguity between belief systems that are functionally identical but historically distinct, and iii) active interference between belief systems. I illustrate these points with a natural history study of the word selfish and related words in everyday language. In general, language and the thought that it represents should be studied in the same way that ecologists study multi-species communities. (shrink)