Human syntactic language has no close parallels in other systems of animal communication. Yet it seems to be an important part of the cultural adaptation that serves to make humans the earth’s dominant organism. Why is language restricted to humans given that communication seems to be so useful? We argue that language is part of human cooperation. We talk because others can normally trust what we say to be useful to them, not just to us. Models of gene-culture coevolution give (...) one plausible explanation for how language, cooperative institutions, and the genetic basis for both could have evolved. Why did the coevolutionary process come to rest leaving a huge space for the cultural evolution of language? We argue that language diversity functions to limit communication between people who cannot freely trust one another or where even truthful communications from others would result in maladaptive behavior on the part of listeners. (shrink)
The complexity of human societies of the past few thousand years rivals that of social insect societies. We hypothesize that two sets of social “instincts” underpin and constrain the evolution of complex societies. One set is ancient and shared with other social primate species, and one is derived and unique to our lineage. The latter evolved by the late Pleistocene, and led to the evolution of institutions of intermediate complexity in acephalous societies. The institutions of complex societies often conflict with (...) our social instincts. The complex societies of the last few thousand years can function only because cultural evolution has created effective “work-arounds” to manage such instincts. We describe a series of work-arounds and use the data on the relative effectiveness of WWII armies to test the work-around hypothesis. (shrink)
What are the causes of the evolution of complex cognition? Discussions of the evolution of cognition sometimes seem to assume that more complex cognition is a fundamental advance over less complex cognition, as evidenced by a broad trend toward larger brains in evolutionary history. Evolutionary biologists are suspicious of such explanations since they picture natural selection as a process leading to adaptation to local environments, not to progressive trends. Cognitive adaptations will have costs, and more complex cognition will evolve only (...) when its local utility outweighs them. (shrink)
As cultural evolutionists interested in how culture changes over the long term, we've thought and written a lot about migration, but only recently tumbled to an obvious idea: migration has a profound effect on how societies evolve culturally because it is selective. People move to societies that provide a more attractive way of life, and all other things being equal, this process spreads ideas and institutions that lead to economic efficiency, social order and equality.
Free enterprise economic systems evolved in the modern period as culturally transmitted values related to honesty, hard work, and education achievement emerged. One evolutionary puzzle is why most economies for the past 5,000 years have had a limited role for free enterprise given the spectacular success of modern free economies. Another is why if humans became biologically modern 50,000 years ago did it take until 11,000 years ago for agriculture, the economic foundation of states, to begin. Why didn’t free enterprise (...) evolve long ago and far away? (shrink)
Rates of violence in the American South have long been much greater than in the North. Accounts of duels, feuds, bushwhackings, and lynchings occur prominently in visitors’ accounts, newspaper articles, and autobiography from the 18th Century onward. According to crime statistics these differences persist today. In their book, Culture of Honor, Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen (1996) argue that the South is more violent than the North because Southerners have different, culturally acquired beliefs about personal honor than Northerners. The South (...) was disproportionately settled by Protestant Scotch-Irish, people with an animal herding background, whereas Northern settlers were English, German and Dutch peasant farmers. Most herders live in thinly settled, lawless regions. Since livestock are easy to steal, herders seek reputations for willingness to engage in violent behavior as a deterrent to rustling and other predatory behavior. Of course, bad men come to subscribe to the same code, the better to intimidate their victims. As this arms race proceeds, arguments over trivial acts can rapidly escalate if a man—less often a woman—thinks his honor is at stake, and the resulting “culture of honor” leads to high rates of violence. Nisbett and Cohen support their hypothesis with an impressive range of data including, laboratory data, attitude surveys, field experiments, data on violence, and differences in legal codes. (shrink)
Two kinds of factors set the tempo and direction of organic and cultural evolution, those external to biotic evolutionary process, such as changes in the earth’s physical and chemical environments, and those internal to it, such as the time required for chance factors to lead lineages across adaptive valleys to a new niche space (Valentine 1985). The relative importance of these two sorts of processes is widely debated. Valentine (1973) argued that marine invertebrate diversity patterns responded to seafloor spreading as (...) this process generated more or less niche space. He suggested that natural selection is a powerful force and that earth’s biota are in near equilibrium with the niches available on the geological time scale. Walker and Valentine (1984) modeled the evolution of species assuming a logistic speciation rate limited by internal factors and a diversity-independent death rate caused by ongoing environmental change. Fitting this model to the observed evolution of shelled marine invertebrates suggests that the lag between extinctions and the evolution of new species leaves perhaps 30% of ecological niches unfilled. In this model, the biota lag environmental change by perhaps a few million years. However, as Valentine (1985) notes, if adaptive landscapes have whole suites of niches protected by deep maladaptive valleys, the waiting time for some pioneering species to cross the divide may be very long, generating the rare events that set new body plans and generate major adaptive radiations. Eldredge and Gould (1972) and Gould (2002) championed the idea that internal processes such as genetic and developmental constraints, coupled with the complexity of the adaptive landscape, resulted in a highly historically contingent evolutionary process. On Gould’s account, most of the history of life had to do not with a relatively close tracking of a changing environment but with the halting evolutionary exploration a deeply fissured niche space, mostly by rapid bursts of evolution as a fissure was crossed, followed by long periods of stasis.. (shrink)
Recent debates about memetics have revealed some widespread misunderstandings about Darwinian approaches to cultural evolution. Drawing from these debates, this paper disputes five common claims: (1) mental representations are rarely discrete, and therefore models that assume discrete, gene-like particles (i.e., replicators) are useless; (2) replicators are necessary for cumulative, adaptive evolution; (3) content-dependent psychological biases are the only important processes that affect the spread of cultural representations; (4) the “cultural fitness” of a mental representation can be inferred from its successful (...) transmission; and (5) selective forces only matter if the sources of variation are random. We close by sketching the outlines of a unified evolutionary science of culture. (shrink)
Humans hunt and kill many different species of animals, but whales are our biggest prey. In the North Atlantic, a male long-ﬁ nned pilot whale (Globiceph- ala melaena), a large relative of the dolphins, can grow as large as 6.5 meters and weigh as much as 2.5 tons. As whales go, these are not particularly large, but there are more than 750,000 pilot whales in the North Atlantic, traveling in groups, “pods,” that range from just a few individuals to a (...) thousand or more. Each pod is led by an individual known as the “pilot,” who appears to set the course of travel for the rest of the group. This pilot is both an asset and a weakness to the pod. The average pilot whale will yield about a half ton of meat and blubber, and North Atlantic societies including Ireland, Iceland, and the Shetlands used to manipulate the pilot to drive the entire pod ashore. In the Faroe Islands, a group of 18 grassy rocks due north of Scotland, pilot whale hunts have continued for the last 1200 years, at least. The permanent residents of these islands, the Faroese, previously killed an average of 900 whales each year, yielding about 500 tons of meat and fat that was consumed by local residents. Hunts have declined in recent years. From 2001 to 2005, about 3400 whales were killed, yielding about 890 metric tons of blubber and 990 metric tons of meat. The whale kill, or grindadráp in the Faroese language, begins when a ﬁ shing boat spots a pod close enough to a suitable shore, on a suitably clear day. A single boat, or even a small group of ﬁ shermen, is not sufﬁ cient to trap a.. (shrink)
Over the past several decades, we have argued that cultural evolution can facilitate the evolution of largescale cooperation because it often leads to more rapid adaptation than genetic evolution, and, when multiple stable equilibria exist, rapid adaptation leads to variation among groups. Recently, Lehmann, Feldman, and colleagues have published several papers questioning this argument. They analyze models showing that cultural evolution can actually reduce the range of conditions under which cooperation can evolve and interpret these models as indicating that we (...) were wrong to conclude that culture facilitated the evolution of human cooperation. In the main, their models assume that rates of cultural adaption are not.. (shrink)
We would like to thank the commentators for their generous comments, valuable insights and helpful suggestions. We begin this response by discussing the selfishness axiom and the importance of the preferences, beliefs, and constraints framework as a way of modeling some of the proximate influences on human behavior. Next, we broaden the discussion to ultimate-level (that is evolutionary) explanations, where we review and clarify gene-culture coevolutionary theory, and then tackle the possibility that evolutionary approaches that exclude culture might be sufficient (...) to explain the data. Finally, we consider various methodological and epistemological concerns expressed by our commentators. (shrink)
Social institutions are the laws, informal rules, and conventions that give durable structure to social interactions within a population. Such institutions are typically not designed consciously, are heritable at the population level, are frequently but not always group benefi cial, and are often symbolically marked. Conceptualizing social institutions as one of multiple possible stable cultural equilibrium allows a straightforward explanation of their properties. The evolution of institutions is partly driven by both the deliberate and intuitive decisions of individuals and collectivities. (...) The innate components of human psychology coevolved in response to a culturally evolved, institutional environment and refl ect a prosocial tendency of choices we make about institutional forms. (shrink)
Researchers from across the social sciences have found consistent deviations from the predictions of the canonical model of self-interest in hundreds of experiments from around the world. This research, however, cannot determine whether the uniformity results from universal patterns of human behavior or from the limited cultural variation available among the university students used in virtually all prior experimental work. To address this, we undertook a cross-cultural study of behavior in ultimatum, public goods, and dictator games in a range of (...) small-scale societies exhibiting a wide variety of economic and cultural conditions. We found, first, that the canonical model – based on self-interest – fails in all of the societies studied. Second, our data reveal substantially more behavioral variability across social groups than has been found in previous research. Third, group-level differences in economic organization and the structure of social interactions explain a substantial portion of the behavioral variation across societies: the higher the degree of market integration and the higher the payoffs to cooperation in everyday life, the greater the level of prosociality expressed in experimental games. Fourth, the available individual-level economic and demographic variables do not consistently explain game behavior, either within or across groups. Fifth, in many cases experimental play appears to reflect the common interactional patterns of everyday life. Key Words: altruism; cooperation; cross-cultural research; experimental economics; game theory; ultimatum game; public goods game; self-interest. (shrink)
Human societies are extraordinarily cooperative compared to those of most other animals. In the vast majority of species, individuals live solitary lives, meeting to only to mate and, sometimes, raise their young. In social species, cooperation is limited to relatives and (maybe) small groups of reciprocators. After a brief period of maternal support, individuals acquire virtually all of the food that they eat. There is little division of labor, no trade, and no large scale conflict. Communication is limited to a (...) small repertoire of self-verifying signals. No one cares for the sick, or feeds the hungry or disabled. The strong take from the weak without fear of sanctions by third parties. Amend Hobbes to account for nepotism, and his picture of the state of nature is not so far off for most other animals. In contrast, people in even the simplest human societies regularly cooperate with many unrelated individuals. Human language allows low-cost honest communication of virtually unlimited complexity. The sick are cared for, and sharing leads to substantial flows of food from the middle aged to the young and old. Division of labor and trade are prominent features of every historically known human society, and archaeology indicates that they have a long history. Violent conflict among sizable groups is common. In every human society, social life is regulated by commonly held moral systems that specify the rights and duties of individuals enforced, albeit imperfectly, by third party sanctions. (shrink)
Anthropologists believe that human behavior is governed by culturally transmitted norms, and that such norms contain accumulated wisdom that allows people to behave sensibly even though they do not understand why they do what they do. Economists and other rational choice theorists have been skeptical about functionalist claims because anthropologists have not provided any plausible mechanism which could explain why norms have this property. Here, we outline two such mechanisms. We show that occasional learning when coupled with cultural transmission and (...) a tendency to conform can lead to the spread of sensible norms even though very few people understand why they are sensible. We also show that norms that help solve problems of selfcontrol that arise from time-inconsistent preferences can spread if individuals tend to imitate successful people and are occasionally influenced by members of other groups with different norms. (shrink)
The application of phylogenetic methods to cultural variation raises questions about how cultural adaption works and how it is coupled to cultural transmission. Cultural group selection is of particular interest in this context because it depends on the same kinds of mechanisms that lead to tree-like patterns of cultural variation. Here, we review ideas about cultural group selection relevant to cultural phylogenetics. We discuss why group selection among multiple equilibria is not subject to the usual criticisms directed at group selection, (...) why multiple equilibria are a common phenomena, and why selection among multiple equilibria is not likely to be an important force in genetic evolution. We also discuss three forms of group competition and the processes that cause populations to shift from one equilibrium to another and create a mutation-like process at the group level. (shrink)
Human migration is nonrandom. In small scale societies of the past, and in the modern world, people tend to move to wealthier, safer, and more just societies from poorer, more violent, less just societies. If immigrants are assimilated, such nonrandom migration can increase the occurrence of culturally transmitted beliefs, values, and institutions that cause societies to be attractive to immigrants. Here we describe and analyze a simple model of this process. This model suggests that long run outcomes depend on the (...) relative strength of migration and local adaptation. When local adaption is strong enough to preserve cultural variation among groups, cultural variants that make societies attractive always predominate, but never drive alternative variants to extinction. When migration predominates, outcomes depend both on the relative attractiveness of alternative variants and on the initial sizes of societies that provide and receive immigrants. (shrink)
Biology and the social sciences share an interest in phylogeny. Biologists know that living species are descended from past species, and use the pattern of similarities among living species to reconstruct the history of phylogenetic branching. Social scientists know that the beliefs, values, practices, and artifacts that characterize contemporary societies are descended from past societies, and some social science disciplines, linguistics and cross cultural anthropology for example, have made use of observed similarities to reconstruct cultural histories. Darwin appreciated that his (...) theory of descent with modification had many similarities of pattern and process to the already well developed field of historical linguistics. In many other areas of social science, however, phylogenetic reconstruction has not played a central role. (shrink)
Most human populations are subdivided into ethnic groups which have self-ascribed membership and are marked by seemingly arbitrary traits such as distinctive styles of dress or speech. Existing explanations of ethnicity do not adequately explain the origin and maintenance of group marking. Here we develop a mathematical model which shows that groups distinguished by both differences in social norms and in arbitrary markers can emerge and remain stable despite significant mixing between them, if (1) people preferentially interact in mutually beneficial (...) social interaction with people who have the same marker as they do, and (2) they acquire their markers and social behaviors by imitating successful individuals. We also show that the propensity to interact with people with markers like oneself may be favored by natural selection under plausible conditions. (shrink)
It is often argued that culture is adaptive because it allows people to acquire useful information without costly learning. In a recent paper Rogers (1989) analyzed a simple mathematical model that showed that this argument is wrong. Here we show that Rogers' result is robust. As long as the only benefit of social learning is that imitators avoid learning costs, social learning does not increase average fitness. However, we also show that social learning can be adaptive if it (...) makes individual learning more accurate or less costly. (shrink)
Group beneficial norms are common in human societies. The persistence of such norms is consistent with evolutionary game theory, but existing models do not provide a plausible explanation for why they are common. We show that when a model of imitation used to derive replicator dynamics in isolated populations is generalized to allow for population structure, group beneficial norms can spread rapidly under plausible conditions. We also show that this mechanism allows recombination of different group beneficial norms arising in..
Human migration is nonrandom. In small scale societies of the past, and in the modern world, people tend to move to wealthier, safer, and more just societies from poorer, more violent, less just societies. If immigrants are assimilated, such nonrandom migration can increase the occurrence of culturally transmitted beliefs, values, and institutions that cause societies to be attractive to immigrants. Here we describe and analyze a simple model of this process. This model suggests that long run outcomes depend on the (...) relative strength of migration and local adaptation. When local adaption is strong enough to preserve cultural variation among groups, cultural variants that make societies attractive always predominate, but never drive alternative variants to extinction. When migration predominates, outcomes depend both on the relative attractiveness of alError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapternative variants and on the initial sizes of societies that provide and receive immigrants. (shrink)
Metaethics is a perennially popular subject, but one that can be challenging to study and teach. As it consists in an array of questions about ethics, it is really a mix of (at least) applied metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and mind. The seminal texts therefore arise out of, and often assume competence with, a variety of different literatures. It can be taught thematically, but this sample syllabus offers a dialectical approach, focused on metaphysical debate over moral realism, which spans (...) the century of debate launched and framed by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica. The territory and literature are, however, vast. So, this syllabus is highly selective. A thorough metaethics course might also include more topical examination of moral supervenience, moral motivation, moral epistemology, and the rational authority of morality. Authors Recommend: Alexander Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003). This is one of the few clear, accessible, and comprehensive surveys of the subject, written by someone sympathetic with moral naturalism. David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Brink rehabilitates naturalism about moral facts by employing a causal semantics and natural kinds model of moral thought and discourse. Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Smith's book frames the debate as driven by a tension between the objectivity of morality and its practical role, offering a solution in terms of a response-dependent account of practical rationality. Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson, Moral Relativism & Moral Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996). Harman argues against the objectivity of moral value, while Thomson defends it. Each then responds to the other. Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Jackson argues that reductive conceptual analysis is possible in ethics, offering a unique naturalistic account of moral properties and facts. Mark Timmons, Morality without Foundations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Timmons distinguishes moral cognitivism from moral realism, interpreting moral judgments as beliefs that have cognitive content but do not describe moral reality. He also provides a particularly illuminating discussion of nonanalytic naturalism. Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001). A Neo-Aristotelian perspective: moral facts are natural facts about the proper functioning of human beings. Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003). In this recent defense of a Moorean, nonnaturalist position, Shafer-Landau engages rival positions in a remarkably thorough manner. Terence Cuneo, The Normative Web (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Cuneo argues for a robust version of moral realism, developing a parity argument based on the similarities between epistemic and moral facts. Mark Schroeder, Slaves of the Passions (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Schroeder defends a reductive form of naturalism in the tradition of Hume, identifying moral and normative facts with natural facts about agents' desires. Online Materials: PEA Soup: http://peasoup.typepad.com A blog devoted to philosophy, ethics, and academia. Its contributors include many active and prominent metaethicists, who regularly post about the moral realism and naturalism debates. Metaethics Bibliography: http://www.lenmanethicsbibliography.group.shef.ac.uk/Bib.htm Maintained by James Lenman, professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, this online resource provides a selective list of published research in metaethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu See especially the entries under 'metaethics'. Sample Syllabus: Topics for Lecture & Discussion Note: unless indicated otherwise, all the readings are found in R. Shafer-Landau and T. Cuneo, eds., Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology (Malden: Blackwell, 2007). (FE) Week 1: Realism I (Classic Nonnaturalism) G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, 2nd ed. (FE ch. 35). W. K. Frankena, 'The Naturalistic Fallacy,'Mind 48 (1939): 464–77. S. Finlay, 'Four Faces of Moral Realism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 820–49 [DOI: [DOI link]]. Week 2: Antirealism I (Classic Expressivism) A. J. Ayer, 'Critique of Ethics and Theology' (1952) (FE ch. 3). C. Stevenson, 'The Nature of Ethical Disagreement' (1963) (FE ch. 28). Week 3: Antirealism II (Error Theory) J. L. Mackie, 'The Subjectivity of Values' (1977) (FE ch. 1). R. Joyce, Excerpt from The Myth of Morality (2001) (FE ch. 2). Week 4: Realism II (Nonanalytic Naturalism) R. Boyd, 'How to be a Moral Realist' (1988) (FE ch. 13). P. Railton, 'Moral Realism' (1986) (FE ch. 14). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth' (1991) (FE ch. 38). Week 5: Antirealism III (Contemporary Expressivism) A. Gibbard, 'The Reasons of a Living Being' (2002) (FE ch. 6). S. Blackburn, 'How To Be an Ethical Anti-Realist' (1993) (FE ch. 4). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'Nondescriptivist Cognitivism' (2000) (FE ch. 5). W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 'Expressivism and Embedding' (2000) (FE ch. 37). Week 6: Realism III (Sensibility Theory) J. McDowell, 'Values and Secondary Qualities' (1985) (FE ch. 11). D. Wiggins, 'A Sensible Subjectivism' (1991) (FE ch. 12). Week 7: Realism IV (Subjectivism) & Antirealism IV (Constructivism) R. Firth, 'Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer' (1952) (FE ch. 9). G. Harman, 'Moral Relativism Defended' (1975) (FE ch. 7). C. Korsgaard, 'The Authority of Reflection' (1996) (FE ch. 8). Week 8: Realism V (Contemporary Nonnaturalism) R. Shafer-Landau, 'Ethics as Philosophy' (2006) (FE ch. 16). T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), ch. 1. T, Cuneo, 'Recent Faces of Moral Nonnaturalism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 850–79 [DOI: [DOI link]]. (shrink)
During the 'sixties and 'seventies, Hilary Putnam, Jerry Fodor, and Richard Boyd, among others, developed a type of materialism that eschews reductionist claims.1 In this view, explana- tions, natural kinds, and properties in psychology do not reduce to counterparts in more basic sciences, such as neurophysiology or physics. Nevertheless, all token psychological entities-- states, processes, and faculties--are wholly constituted of physical entities, ultimately out of entities over which microphysics quantifies. This view quickly became the standard position in philosophy of (...) mind, and reductionism fell out of favor. Recently, however, reductionism has been experiencing a rebirth, and many have suggested that the non-reductive approach was accepted too quickly and too uncritically. In this paper, we attempt to provide a more thorough account of the anti-reductionist position, and, in the process, to defend it against its recent critics. (shrink)
This essay advocates dual-inheritance theory for the renewal of Religious Studies. Not by Genes Alone , by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd (2005), presents this approach in an admirably clear manner. To make my case, I survey the development of Religious Studies since the Enlightenment, with special attention to the American context. The historical survey brings us to the dawn of the twenty-first century, where Religious Studies is often unnecessarily limited to sui generis Religious Studies and its postmodern (...) critics. Neither approach engages regnant Darwinian theoretical frameworks of gene-culture coevolution productively. In this context, I situate the contributions of dual-inheritance theory as presented by Richerson and Boyd and offer examples of its utility for progress in Religious Studies, its ability to open cooperation across disciplinary boundaries, and its salutary demystification of religion as a culturally unique and coherent phenomenon. I conclude by addressing concerns scholars of religion might entertain regarding the issue of reductionism and how an emergent science of religion might contribute to the traditional concerns of religion-and-science dialogue as it has evolved in the English-speaking context. (shrink)
Contents: FOREWORD Aronson, Moses J.; THE HUMANIZATION OF PHILOSOPHY Ayres, Clarence Edwin, THE GOSPEL OF TECHNOLOGY Bates, Ernest Sutherland; TOWARD A SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY Bode, Boyd H.; "THE GREAT AMERICAN DREAM" Cohen Felix S.; THE SOCIALIZATION OF MORALITY Costello, Harry Todd, A PHILOSOPHER AMONG THE METAPHYSICIANS Durant, Will; AN AMATEUR'S PHILOSOPHY Edman, Irwin; THE NATURALISTIC TEMPER Flewelling, Ralph Tyler; THE NEW TASK OF PHILOSOPHY Holt, Edwin Bissell; THE WHIMSICAL CONDITION OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, AND OF MANKIND Hook, Sidney; EXPERIMENTAL NATURALISM Irving, (...) John Allan; TOWARD RADICAL EMPIRICISM IN ETHICS Kallen, Horace Meyer . (shrink)
Version 3.0 12/02/00. Submitted to R.M. Nesse (ed.) The Evolution of Subjective Commitment, Russell Sage Foundation. Please do not cite without author’s permission. by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd. Comments welcome! Word count 14,487.
Not by Genes Alone excellently explains Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd's important ideas about human gene-culture co-evolution to a broader audience but remains short of a larger vision of civilization. Several decades ago Ralph Burhoe had seen that fertile possibility in Richerson and Boyd's work. I suggest getting past present reductionistic customs to a scientific perspective having an integral place for virtue. Subsystem agency is part of this view, as is the driving role of abundance, whose ultimate (...) origins are in the mysterious, quintessentially energetic Big Bang. The free-rider problem may not impede higher social organization as inexorably as Richerson and Boyd believe; "the tragedy" of enervating leakage from "the commons" may often be less influential than an invigorating flow of externalities to the commons. Eukaryotic origins mark the origin of inevitable wider sharing as higher living systems evolve. I use a metaphor of flesh and spirit in drawing a parallel between that turning point and the wide sharing that occurs in civilization. This helps solve the enigma of the demographic transition. Why do so many productive participants in first-world societies severely restrict their selfish-gene reproduction to below replacement birth rate? It is not because culture is maladaptive but because civilization's brain and womb have become partially differentiated in distinct populations. Considerations of social boundaries, myths of sacrifice, and human creativity help in understanding how human social evolution taps potentials present in reality. Human beings' diverse vigorous activities—the organized ones and the inadvertent ones, the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad, the carefully thoughtful and the merely playful—provide the ground of being, or primordial soup, for cultural entities that transcend our intentions. If we have it right for the most part and are fortunate, we will continue to emerge at higher levels. (shrink)
THE PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL EVOLUTION by C. R. Hallpike New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. 426pp., $59.00 CULTURE AND THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS by Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. 339pp., $29.95.
All representationalists maintain that there is a necessary connection between an experience’s phenomenal character and intentional content; but there is a disagreement amongst representationalists regarding the nature of those intentional contents that are necessarily connected to phenomenal character. Russellian representationalists maintain that the relevant contents are composed of objects and/or properties, while Fregean representationalists maintain that the relevant contents are composed of modes of presentation of objects and properties. According to Fregean representationalists such as David Chalmers and Brad Thompson, the (...) Fregean variety of the view is preferable to the Russellian variety because the former can accommodate purported counterexamples involving spectrum inversion without illusion and colour constancy while the latter cannot. I maintain that colour constancy poses a special problem for the Fregean theory in that the features of the theory that enable it handle spectrum inversion without illusion cannot be extended to handle colour constancy. I consider the two most plausible proposals regarding how the Fregean view might be developed in order to handle colour constancy—one of which has recently been defended by Thompson (Australas J Philos 87:99–117, 2009)—and argue that neither is adequate. I conclude that Fregean representationalism is no more able to accommodate colour constancy than is Russellian representationalism and, as such, ought to be rejected. (shrink)
This dissertation is a critique of synthetic ethical naturalism (SEN). SEN is a view in metaethics that comprises three key theses: first, there are moral properties and facts that are independent of the beliefs and attitudes of moral appraisers (moral realism); second, moral properties and facts are identical to (or constituted only by) natural properties and facts (ethical naturalism); and third, sentences used to assert identity or constitution relations between moral and natural properties are expressions of synthetic, a posteriori necessities. (...) The last of these theses, which distinguishes SEN from other forms of ethical naturalism, is supported by a fourth: the semantic contents of the central moral predicates such as 'morally right' and 'morally good' are fixed in part by features external to the minds of speakers (moral semantic externalism). Chapter 1 introduces SEN and discusses the most common motivations for accepting it. The next three chapters discuss the influential "Moral Twin Earth" argument against moral semantic externalism. In Chapter 2, I defend this argument from the charge that the thought experiment upon which it depends is defective. In Chapters 3 and 4, I consider two attempts to amend SEN so as to render it immune to the Moral Twin Earth argument. I show that each of these proposed amendments amounts to an abandonment of SEN. Chapter Five explores Richard Boyd's proposal that moral goodness is a "homeostatic property cluster." If true, Boyd's hypothesis could be used to support several metaphysical, epistemological, and semantic claims made on behalf of SEN. I advance three arguments against this account of moral goodness. In the sixth chapter, I argue that moral facts are not needed in the best a posteriori explanations of our moral beliefs and moral sensibility. Because of this, those who accept a metaphysical naturalism ought to deny the existence of such facts or else accept skepticism about moral knowledge. In Chapter 7, I consider a counterargument on behalf of SEN to the effect that moral facts are needed in order to explain the predictive success of our best moral theories. I show that this argument fails. (shrink)
Significance testing is the primary method for establishing causal relationships in psychology. Meehl [1978, 1990a, 1990b] and Faust  argue that significance tests and their interpretation are subject to actuarial and psychological biases, making continued adherence to these practices irrational, and even partially responsible for the slow progress of the ‘soft’ areas of psychology. I contend that familiar standards of testing and literature review, along with recently developed meta-analytic techniques, are able to correct the proposed actuarial and psychological biases. In (...) particular, psychologists embrace a principle of robustness which states that real psychological effects are (1) reproducible by similar methods, (2) detectable by diverse means, and (3) able to survive theoretical integration. By contrast, spurious significant findings perish under the strain of persistent tests of their robustness. The resulting vindication of significance testing confers on the world a role in determining the rationality of a method, and also affords us an explanation for the fast progress of ‘hard’ areas of psychology. *I would like to thank Dick Boyd and Phil Gasper for helpful comments on the ideas presented here. (shrink)