The Evolution of a Sense of Morality

Dennis L. Krebs

in Creating Consilience

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794393
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919338 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science

The Evolution of a Sense of Morality

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Refinements in Darwin's theory of the origin of morality create a framework equipped to organize and integrate relevant contemporary theory and research. Morality originated in social instincts or decision-making strategies that enabled early humans to maximize their gains from social exchanges and resolve their conflicts of interest in adaptive ways. Moral judgments and moral norms originated from strategic interactions among members of groups who experienced confluences and conflicts of interest. Moral argumentation buttressed by moral reasoning is equipped to generate universal and impartial moral standards. Moral beliefs and standards are products of automatic and controlled information-processing and decision-making mechanisms. To understand how people make moral decisions, we must understand how early-evolved mechanisms in the old brain and recently evolved mechanisms in the new brain are activated, and how they interact.

Keywords: morality; sense of morality; moral judgments; moral norms; empathy; social exchanges; conscience; moral evaluation; moral reasoning

Chapter.  9005 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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