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Toward a Plausible Evolutionary Account of Altruism

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Abstract

In chapter 4, I argued that the egoist is unlikely to be persuaded by any existing enlightened self-interest (ESI) theory into believing that his interests would be best served by abstaining from antisocial behavior. Assuming this is correct, it would seem that we face a major obstacle in the endeavor to persuade people to commit to benign behavior. After all, in light of the arguments presented so far in this book, it appears that we are without a sound philosophical basis for arguing that the egoist ought to change his behavior on either moral or prudential grounds. And as I alluded to in chapter 4, if we cannot provide the egoist with compelling reasons for avoiding antisocial behavior, we should expect that our efforts to present such reasons for non-egoists will be limited in their effectiveness. Such a conclusion, if true, would provide reason for doubting that humanity will eventually dispense with the kinds of detrimental behaviors that are making the future prospects of our species increasingly bleak. Fortunately, there is reason for being optimistic that even if we cannot expect to rid the world of antisocial behavior entirely, a better understanding of human nature provided by science will enable us to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous future. Though none of the ESI theories presented in the philosophical literature up to this point seem up to the task of demonstrating how considerations of self-interest alone could be effective at persuading the egoist to change his ways, I believe that a better understanding of the secret chain that exists between self-interest and the interests of others will provide the means for helping to eliminate much of the antisocial behavior that typically accompanies egoistic attitudes.

Keywords

Antisocial Behavior Group Selection Evolutionary Explanation Altruistic Behavior Reciprocal Altruism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Stephen G. Morris 2015

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