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: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
While “Intelligent Design” has garnered increasing support in America, its critics have been hesitant to address it publicly. In this paper I argue that it is important for defenders of evolution to take the supporters of intelligent design head-on. I refute the notion that the best way of addressing the threat posed by intelligent design is by ignoring it. I point out how academics’ unwillingness to speak publicly on the issue of intelligent design is symptomatic of a general reticence towards (...) communicating with the public. Finally, I argue that this reticence is detrimental both to science and the general welfare. (shrink)
Incompatibilists believe free will is impossible if determinism is true, and they often claim that this view is supported by ordinary intuitions. We challenge the claim that incompatibilism is intuitive to most laypersons and discuss the significance of this challenge to the free will debate. After explaining why incompatibilists should want their view to accord with pretheoretical intuitions, we suggest that determining whether incompatibilism is in fact intuitive calls for empirical testing. We then present the results of our studies, which (...) put significant pressure on the claim that incompatibilism is intuitive. Finally, we consider and respond to several potential objections to our approach. (shrink)
Evolutionary theorists have encountered difficulty in explaining how altruistic behavior can evolve. I argue that these theorists have made this task more difficult than it needs to be by focusing their efforts on explaining how nature could select for a strong type of altruism that has powerful selection forces working against it. I argue that switching the focus to a weaker type of altruism renders the project of explaining how altruism can evolve significantly less difficult. I offer a model of (...) weak altruism that can avoid many of the difficulties that evolutionary accounts of altruism have traditionally faced. (shrink)
Philosophers working in the nascent field of ‘experimental philosophy’ have begun using methods borrowed from psychology to collect data about folk intuitions concerning debates ranging from action theory to ethics to epistemology. In this paper we present the results of our attempts to apply this approach to the free will debate, in which philosophers on opposing sides claim that their view best accounts for and accords with folk intuitions. After discussing the motivation for such research, we describe our methodology of (...) surveying people’s prephilosophical judgments about the freedom and responsibility of agents in deterministic scenarios. In two studies, we found that a majority of participants judged that such agents act of their own free will and are morally responsible for their actions. We then discuss the philosophical implications of our results as well as various difficulties inherent in such research. (shrink)
Philosophers often suggest that their theories of free will are supported by our phenomenology. Just as their theories conflict, their descriptions of the phenomenology of free will often conflict as well. We suggest that this should motivate an effort to study the phenomenology of free will in a more systematic way that goes beyond merely the introspective reports of the philosophers themselves. After presenting three disputes about the phenomenology of free will, we survey the (limited) psychological research on the experiences (...) relevant to the philosophical debates and then describe some pilot studies of our own with the aim of encouraging further research. The data seem to support compatibilist descriptions of the phenomenology more than libertarian descriptions. We conclude that the burden is on libertarians to find empirical support for their more demanding metaphysical theories with their more controversial phenomenological claims. (shrink)
People are less willing to accept bets about an event when they do not know the true probability of that event. Such uncertainty aversion has been used to explain certain economic phenomena. This paper considers how far standard private information explanations (with strategic decisions to accept bets) can go in explaining phenomena attributed to uncertainty aversion. This paper shows that if two individuals have different prior beliefs about some event, and two sided private information, then each individualâs willingness to bet (...) will exhibit a bid ask spread property. Each individual is prepared to bet for the event, at sufficiently favorable odds, and against, at sufficiently favorable odds, but there is an intermediate range of odds where each individual is not prepared to bet either way. This is only true if signals are distributed continuously and sufficiently smoothly. It is not true, for example, in a finite signal model. (shrink)
The importance of the notion of common knowledge in sustaining cooperative outcomes in strategic situations is well appreciated. However, the systematic analysis of the extent to which small departures from common knowledge affect equilibrium in games has only recently been attempted.We review the main themes in this literature, in particular, the notion of common p-belief. We outline both the analytical issues raised, and the potential applicability of such ideas to game theory, computer science and the philosophy of language.