The Expansion and Refinement of the Moral Senses in the Human Species

Dennis L. Krebs

in The Origins of Morality

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897261 | DOI:
The Expansion and Refinement of the Moral Senses in the Human Species

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This chapter presents an account of how the primitive moral sense possessed by early humans and other primates evolved into the complex sense of morality possessed by modern humans. Mental mechanisms that endow people with a sense of morality evolved in ancestral environments as tools in strategic social interactions. Although people use these tools to advance their adaptive interests, the self-serving biases inherent in them are constrained in a variety of ways, including the reactions of others. Perspective-taking, which originally evolved to enable people to advance their interests in strategic social interactions by anticipating how others would respond to their behaviors, mediated the expansion and refinement of the human conscience. Research that has mapped the brain regions that are activated by moral problems has demonstrated that people may derive moral judgments from “old brain” and from “new brain” structures, and that these structures may interact in a variety of ways.

Keywords: complex moral sense; moral reasoning; moral judgment; strategic interaction; self-serving biases; perspective-taking; old brain mechanisms; new brain mechanisms

Chapter.  7981 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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