Morality as a System of Advantage‐Reducing Imperatives

Catherine Wilson

in Moral Animals

Published in print July 2004 | ISBN: 9780199267675
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601859 | DOI:
Morality as a System of Advantage‐Reducing Imperatives

Show Summary Details


Discusses the evolution of human morality from the proto‐morality of our primate ancestors. The dominance of some individuals and groups by others is taken to be the essential condition of the formulation of moral rules, which are to be distinguished from taboo prohibitions and other social norms. The historical evolution towards universalism in the application of moral rules in the face of empirical differences between human beings is argued to be insufficiently explained by evolutionary and game‐theoretic accounts of the origins of morality, to the extent that they posit agents as equal in strength and intelligence. Morality is a scalar phenomenon, with unrestrained self‐interest and advantage‐seeking lying at one pole and hypermoral abnegation at the other. Hobbes’ Theorem, which states that increments of morality added to a society contribute to the happiness and security of individuals, it is not unrestrictedly true.

Keywords: dominance; evolution; Hobbes’ Theorem; rules; taboo; universalism

Chapter.  13512 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.