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Jurjako Marko | Other
2014-10-01 - 2014-11-30 | Research area: Cognition and Sociality
Evolutionary Origins of Moral Reasons: Conceptual and Ontological Issues
The general question that I am addressing in my overall research is whether the concept of a moral reason can be accounted for in naturalistically respectable terms. The basic idea that I am developing in my research is the one proposed by Smith (2012) and Williams (1981). Namely, the idea is that the first step in accounting naturalistically for the concept of a reason is to connect it to a concept of rational belief and desire. Rationality of a belief and a desire is naturally construed as providing standards of correctness for beliefs and desires; in other words specifying the rationality of beliefs and desires consists in specifying their proper functions (see Milikan, 1984). Introducing the concept of a function enables one to interface normative concepts with scientifically respectable concepts. The second step is to investigate the function of moral beliefs. This can be done in at least two ways; one is to investigate into proximal (cognitive) mechanisms that underpin moral judgments, and the second is to investigate distal mechanisms, that is the evolutionary origins of current moral practices. The latter is the project I conducted while I was a visting fellow at the KLI Institute. In particular, the project investigated what function can be ascribed to moral beliefs and why in particular we intuitively objectify the contents of moral beliefs (the moral reasons) in a way that does not seem to be compatible with the general scientific picture of the world. My research plan had three phases: 1. Phase investigates the question whether there is a feasible explanation of the concept of a function that relies on evolutionary considerations. Moreover, the question is: if the concept of a function cannot be given an evolutionary explanation, does that diminish its scientific respectability? (see Cummins, 2002). 2. Phase consists in investigating the evolutionary origins of moral behaviour and its cognitive and emotional underpinning. In particular, the research concern the function of morality and its presupposed benefits in maintaining the cooperation in a certain society. 3. The final phase connects the first two by investigating the relation between the fitness and utility. The idea is that moral reasons are codified in agent’s utility function (or preferences represented by the utility function) and that evolution of moral behaviour has to do with fitness-enhancement. However, at least at the surface level it seems that individual’s utilities (moral reasons) do not necessarily follow fitness considerations. I analyse the apparent discrepancy in order to elucidate its significance for the connection between moral reasons and its evolutionary origins (see Sterelny, 2012). References Cummins, R. (2002). Neo-teleology. In A. Ariew, R. Cummins, & M. Perlman (Eds.), Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology (pp. 157-172). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Milikan, R. G. (1984). Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories: Nes Foundations for Realism. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Smith, M. (2012). Naturalism, absolutism, relativism. In S. Nuccetelli, & G. Seay (Eds.), Ethical Naturalism: Currrent Debates (pp. 226-244). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sterelny, K. (2012). From Fitness to Utility. In S. Okasha, & K. Binmore (Eds.), Evolution and Rationality (pp. 246-273). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Williams, B. (1981). Internal and External Reasons. In B. Williams, Moral Luck (pp. 101-113). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.