The evolution of contractual morality

Ideas Y Valores 60 (147):209-222 (2011)
Abstract
Evolutionary explanations of altruism and human cooperation, first set forth by pioneers such as Darwin, Hamilton and Trivers, suggest that biology might be capable of offering a plausible scientific explanation of the core of human morality. According to this project, morality and human cooperation arise when resourcesare scarce; they cannot be exploited by isolated individuals; and individuals cannot maintain a long-term position of domination over others in order to advance their selfish ends. An important philosophical question that arises with respect to this project has to do with the concepts of de morality and moral motivation that itpresupposes. The evolutionary project has not been clear in this respect. The article argues in favor of two theses: 1) evolutionary explanations of cooperation suggest a contractual type of morality, but they are ambiguous regarding the motivations favored by natural selection, thus reflecting, without resolving it, a traditionaldisagreement between Hobbes’s moral contractualism and that of Kant ; 2) in their current form, these explanations cannot resolve that disagreement, but a reflection on the role of the capacity to interpret the motivations and character of others in the evolution of morality could provide arguments in favor of Kantian contractualism.
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