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)
Evolutionary models of behavior often encounter resistance due to an apparent focus on themes of sex, selfishness, and gender differences. The target article might seem ripe for such criticism. However, life history theory suggests that these themes, and their counterparts, including cooperation, generosity, and gender similarities, represent two sides of the same coin – all are consequences of reproductive trade-offs made throughout development.
In this article, I defend the thesis that selfishness and altruism can be intrapersonal . In doing so, I argue that the notions of intrapersonal altruism and selfishness usefully pick out behavioural patterns and have predictive value. I also argue that my thesis helps enrich our understanding of the prudential, and can subsume some interesting work in economic and psychological theory.
Henrich et al. describe an innovative research program investigating cross-cultural differences in the selfishness axiom (in economic games) in humans, yet humans are not the only species to show such variation. Chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys show signs of deviating from the standard self-interest paradigm in experimental settings by refusing to take foods that are less valuable than those earned by conspecifics, indicating that they, too, may pay attention to relative gains. However, it is less clear whether these species also (...) show the other-regarding preferences seen in humans. (shrink)
Richard Schmitt's case against the psychological defense of capitalism (Inquiry, Vol. 16, No. 2) has merit, but in stating it he attributes to a defender of capitalism the argument that capitalism suits people's innate selfishness. The position more plausibly attributed to the author in question is not only resistant to Schmitt's own arguments but is worth consideration in itself.
interested. Interested because I believe that as one of the leaders of the ethical movement Mr. Slater is aware that there is no more frequent or more fatal error to overcome, in his work, than this very philosophy of selfishness, and therefore should be one of those best conversant with the proofs of its shallowness and falsity.
Many situations in human life present choices between (a) narrowly preferred particular alternatives and (b) narrowly less preferred (or aversive) particular alternatives that nevertheless form part of highly preferred abstract behavioral patterns. Such alternatives characterize problems of self-control. For example, at any given moment, a person may accept alcoholic drinks yet also prefer being sober to being drunk over the next few days. Other situations present choices between (a) alternatives beneficial to an individual and (b) alternatives that are less beneficial (...) (or harmful) to the individual that would nevertheless be beneficial if chosen by many individuals. Such alternatives characterize problems of social cooperation; choices of the latter alternative are generally considered to be altruistic. Altruism, like self-control, is a valuable temporally-extended pattern of behavior. Like self-control, altruism may be learned and maintained over an individual's lifetime. It needs no special inherited mechanism. Individual acts of altruism, each of which may be of no benefit (or of possible harm) to the actor, may nevertheless be beneficial when repeated over time. However, because each selfish decision is individually preferred to each altruistic decision, people can benefit from altruistic behavior only when they are committed to an altruistic pattern of acts and refuse to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
In recent commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love , a distinction is commonly drawn between ‘proper’ and ‘selfish’ forms of self-love. In arguing that not all vices of self-focus can be captured under the heading of selfishness, I seek to distinguish selfishness from self-centredness. But the latter vice has a far more handsome cousin: proper self-focus of the kind necessary for ‘becoming a self’. As various feminist thinkers have argued, this will be missed if we valorise (...) self-sacrifice too uncritically. But nor need the latter concept be ditched. By distinguishing varieties of self-sacrifice, we can see the importance of avoiding the all too easy slide from proper self-sacrifice to outright self-annihilation. And we can discover that this avoidance is aided by recognising a kind of pride as part of true self-love. (shrink)
Recent history is replete with scandalous acts and charitable acts within the business community. Unfortunately, scandalous acts seem to occur with greater frequency than charitable acts – at least as reported in the broadcast and print media. An interesting corollary to the incidence of scandalous and charitable acts is the apparent differential involvement of men and women, particularly in scandals. This article explores a possible explanation for the apparent gender differential in involvement in scandals and acts of charity. Drawing on (...) a conceptual framework of three Fundamental Moral Orientations (FMOs) – selfishness, self-fullness, and selflessness – and relevant literature on gender effects, this article explores whether men and women are perceived as differing fundamentally in how they approach moral dilemmas. This phenomenon is examined with a sample of personnel (n = 682) from the hotel industry in Turkey. Results of the study indicate that gender has some effect on the perceived adoption of FMOs, and that these gender effects are generally consistent across age, educational level, and organizational rank categories. Implications of the findings are discussed. (shrink)
Rather than “selfishness,” a more accurate and revealing interpretation of Wang's use of siyuis “self-centeredness.” One of the main goals in Wang's model of moral cultivation was to attain a state devoid of self-centered desires. Wang relied a great deal on the exercise and cultivation of an emotional identification and feeling of oneness with others. In this paper, I first provide a brief summary of the role of Wang's concept of siyu in his moral psychology. I then examine key (...) passages in Wang's writings that reveal his nuanced understanding of siyu and, along the way, I draw on empirical research in psychology to help illuminate the significance of Wang's view of siyu to his overall model of moral cultivation. (shrink)
What would make it the right time for you to die, or the wrong one? In particular, could it be the right time for you to die even if your loved ones want to make the sacrifices needed to prolong your life, because that would cost them too dearly? The worry is that it would be selfish to permit these sacrifies, and wrong for that reason. I think it matters that the sacrifies would occur within a relationship of mutual devotion, (...) and I try to say how it matters. In particular, I argue against some fairly simple views of what constitutes impermissible selfishness in this context, and in favor of approaching such decisions in a different way. (shrink)
Abstract The word ‘meme’ was first used by Richard Dawkins (Dawkins, 1976)1 in the sense of a replicator to introduce the idea of cultural transmission through the process of imitation, just as genes are responsible for the evolution of organisms. Following Dawkins several writers came forth to have a closer look at ‘meme’. The consensus was that this was a fascinating way of explaining cultural evolution and transmission; that meme is the basic unit of (cultural) information whose existence influences events (...) so as to make more copies of itself (Brodie, 1996).2 The book which got most attention in this line of literature wasThe Meme Machine (Blackmore, 1993),3 which favours the idea that culture, like biology, evolves through the process of variation, selection and replication. Something striking in Blackmore’s thesis is that emotions and attitudes do not count as memes since they are subjective and never get passed on. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02780405?LI=true. (shrink)
The processes underlying decision-making in response to unfair offers in the ultimatum game (UG) have recently been discussed in light of models of reciprocity and fairness-related behavior. It has been suggested that behavior following norm-oriented, internalized expectations of reciprocity requires overcoming economic self-interest. In this study we investigated both, behavioral and peripheral-physiological indicators of inhibitory capacity related to neuronal networks that are likely to be involved in the behavioral response to unfair offers. Both heart-rate variability as an index of inhibitory (...) capacity, and performance in a motor response inhibition task predicted rejection of unfair offers in an ultimatum game, suggesting an important role of inhibitory processes in overcoming economic temptations and regulating behavior conforming to social norms of reciprocity and fairness. The role of parasympathetic activity as a physiological trait-marker predicting inter-individual differences in the rejection of unfair offers is discussed. (shrink)
Classical evolutionary explanations of social behavior classify behaviors from their effects, not from their underlying mechanisms. Here lies a potential objection against the view that morality can be explained by such models, e.g. Trivers’reciprocal altruism. However, evolutionary theory reveals a growing interest in the evolution of psychological mechanisms and factors them in as selective forces. This opens up perspectives for evolutionary approaches to problems that have traditionally worried moral philosophers. Once the ability to mind-read is factored-in among the relevant variables (...) in the evolution of moral abilities and counted among the selection pressures that have plausibly shaped our nature as moral agents, an evolutionary approach can contribute, so I will argue, to the solution of a long-standing debate in moral philosophy and psychology concerning the basic motivation for moral behavior. (shrink)
Individual and group selection are usually conceived as opposed evolutionary processes. Though cases of synergy are occasionally recognized, the evolutionary importance of synergy is largely ignored. However, synergy is the plausible explanation for the evolution of collectives as higher level individuals i.e., collectives acting as adaptive units, e.g., genomes and colonies of social insects. It rests on the suppression of the predictable tendency of evolutionary units to benefit at the expense of other units or of the wholes they contribute to (...) build. It plausibly explains human cooperation and morality: the molding of human groups into adaptive units. (shrink)
Brian Barry believed liberals should not follow Mill in appealing to the value of autonomy in order to justify liberal rights. Barry believed the basic liberal aim was to find social and political institutions that could be justified to citizens who held differing views about the good life as a fair way of adjudicating between these citizens’ conflicting interests and conceptions of the good.
At one level, this paper is a lament and a warning. I lament biologists borrowing well-known terms and then drastically and awkwardly changing their meanings, and I warn about the mischief this does. Biology''s public image is at stake, as is its general usefulness. At another level, I attempt to clarify the misnamed concepts, beyond what has been achieved in recent philosophical writings. This helps to account for the mischief, and to see how it might be avoidable. But the most (...) important thing about the paper is that, at a third level, it is an argument against physicalism and materialism, especially those variants which deny the autonomy of organisms and the existence of intrinsic goods. Interpreting biology from the point of view of those denials leads to unsatisfactory and even bizarre results. (shrink)
El trabajo analiza las razones para la acción. A partir de la distinción entre los enfoques de decisión racional y altruismo recíproco, el artículo examina sucesivamente ambos modelos, concluyendo con una breve observación sobre el poder de las profecías que se auto-cumplen. El texto argumenta que el enfoque de la decisión racional se basa en suposiciones erróneas sobre la naturaleza humana y, por consiguiente, conduce a predicciones igualmente equivocadas.
One critic complained that my argument was ‘philosophical’, as though that was sufficient condemnation. Philosophical or not, the fact is that neither he nor anybody else has found any flaw in what I said. And ‘in principle’ arguments such as mine, far from being irrelevant to the real world, can be more powerful than arguments based on particular factual research. My reasoning, if it is correct, tells us something important about life everywhere in the universe. Laboratory and field research can (...) tell us only about life as we have sampled it here. (The Selfish Gene (second edn, p322 in endnotes). (shrink)
Apology is due, not only for the delay but for the impatient tone of my article. One should not lose oneÂ’s temper, and doing so always makes for confused argument. My basic objections remain. But I certainly ought to have expressed them more clearly and temperately. This reply must, I think, concentrate simply on explaining the background of reasons why these objections matter. I shall have very little to say directly about MackieÂ’s argument, since it was chiefly just a very (...) fair and sympathetic exposition of Dawkins' views. Mackie himself drew only very modest conclusions from them, and avoided the excesses of psychological egoism, as of course he also does in his own book. But this still leaves two serious worries. In the first place I do not think that The Selfish Gene itself, on any natural interpretation, does avoid those excesses. In the second, even when modestly interpreted, I think it is far too one-sided a book to be picked out and used in isolation for the re-education of moral philosophy in the biological facts of life. (shrink)
This article analyzes the problem of preference imputation in rational choice political science. I argue against the well-established practice in political science of assuming selfish preferences for purely methodological reasons, regardless of its empirical plausibility (this I call a preference for selfish preferences). Real motivations are overlooked due to difficulties of imputing preferences to agents in a non-arbitrary way in the political realm. I compare the problem of preference imputation in economic and political markets, and I show the harmful consequences (...) of the preference for selfish preferences in the field of collective action. Key Words: rational choice theory preference functionalism collective action. (shrink)
I have been taken aback by the inexplicable hostility of Mary MidgleyÂ’s assault. Some colleagues have advised me that such transparent spite is best ignored, but others warn that the venomous tone of her article may conceal the errors in its content. Indeed, we are in danger of assuming that nobody would dare to be so rude without taking the elementary precaution of being right in what she said. We may even bend over backwards to concede some of her points, (...) simply in order to appear fair-minded when we deplore the way she made them. I deplore bad manners as strongly as anyone, but more importantly I shall show that Midgley has no good point to make. She seems not to understand biology or the way biologists use language. No doubt my ignorance would be just as obvious if I rushed headlong into her field of expertise, but I would then adopt a more diffident tone. As it is we are both in my corner, and it is hard for me not to regard the gloves as off. I will try to make my reply constructive, in the hope that it may interest those who have not read MidgleyÂ’s article, as well as those who have. Unattributed quotations with page numbers will all be taken from her article. Since it was my book, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), which stimulated her attack, it will also be necessary for me to quote from it. I shall divide my reply into eight sections. (shrink)
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)
The duty to love one's neighbor as oneself is at the core of Kierkegaard's Works of Love . In this book, Kierkegaard unfolds the meaning of neighborly love and claims that it is the only valid form of true love. He contrasts between neighborly love and preferential love (which includes romantic love and friendship) and criticizes the latter for being nothing but a form of selfishness. However, in some contexts, Kierkegaard seems to acknowledge the significance of preferential love relationships, (...) and does not disallow them. Therefore, his understanding of preferential love appears to be confused and inconsistent. My essay discusses the tension in Kierkegaard's position regarding preferential love, and by presenting recent readings of Works of Love , it asks whether this tension is resolvable and offers a suggestion for a possible solution. (shrink)
Marx's thought about justice is essentialist and dialectical. It has been interpreted in terms of immoralism. It is rather a synthesis of the traditional natural law, based on the Aristotelian concept of nature as the potential for perfection or ideal fulfilment, radically different from the Hobbesian reductionist concept of nature as atomistic and mechanical; of the tradition of dialectics in its German idealist form; and of Feuerbach's humanism. Marx's explicitly realist idea of science reveals 'veiled wage-slavery'. Concentration on the market (...) exchange, to the exclusion of the subsequent exploitative use of labour power, deceives exclusively analytic observers into the belief that there is some justice in capitalism. Marx characterized the proletariat as the 'universal class', capable of bringing about the fulfilment of the human essence in a family-style mode of production , because it is the victim of total injustice . However, he criticized workers for not rising above such bourgeois selfishness as demanding 'a fair wage', which is not even a coherent concept. Capitalism is not only a moral injustice, but an ontological injustice, a violation of the worker's humanity. It is coercion into alienation, fetishism and idolatry. (shrink)
Modern professional behavior all too often fails to meet high standards of moral conduct. An important reason for this unfortunate state of affairs is the expansive self interest of the individual professional. The individual''s natural desire for his/her own success and pleasure goes unchecked by internal moral constraints. In this essay, I investigate this phenomenon using the psychoanalytic concepts of the ego ideal and superego. These concepts are used to explore the internal psychological dynamics that contribute to moral decision-making. The (...) contrasts between self interest and concern for others, selfishness and moral values, and moral conscience and social conformity are examined in Tolstoy''s study of the modern professional in The Death of Ivan Ilych. By reviewing Freud''s work on the moral conscience, particularly its complex inner structure and liabilities to dysfunction, and applying it to Tolstoy''s penetrating portrayal of Ivan Ilych''s personal and professional life, an understanding of the inner (emotional) foundation of moral character, its dependence on the past through the links between generations, and the need to integrate idealism with moral values is generated. Examples from Enron Corporation will be used throughout the paper to relate the analysis and discussion to contemporary business ethics problems. (shrink)
Milton Friedman's article, The Social Responsibility of Business Is To Increase Its Profits, owes its appeal to the rhetorical devices of simplicity, authority, and finality. More careful consideration reveals oversimplification and ambiguity that conceals empirical errors and logical fallacies. It is false that business does, or would, operate exclusively in economic terms, that managers concentrate obsessively on profitability, and that ethics can be marginalized. These errors reflect basic contradictions: an apolitical political base, altruistic agents of selfishness, and good deriving (...) from greed. (shrink)
Many types of 'other-regarding' acts and beliefs cannot be accounted for satisfactorily as instances of sophisticated selfishness, altruism, team-reasoning, Kantian duty, kin selection etc. This paper argues in favour of re-inventing the notion of solidarity as an analytical category capable of shedding important new light on hitherto under-explained aspects of human motivation. Unlike altruism and natural sympathy (which turn the interests of specific others into one's own), or team-reasoning (which applies exclusively to members of some team), or Kantian duty (...) (which demands universalisable principles of action), the essence of solidarity lies in the hypothesis that people are capable of responding sympathetically to (or empathising with) a condition afflicting others, irrespectively of who those others are or whether one cares for them personally. And when that condition is a social artefact, we argue, solidarity turns radical. (shrink)