The Origins of Morality: An Evolutionary Account

Hardcover | August 15, 2011

byDennis Krebs

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Why do people behave in moral ways in some circumstances, but not in others? In order to account fully for morality, Dennis Krebs departs from traditional approaches to morality that suggest that children acquire morals through socialization, cultural indoctrination, and moral reasoning. Hesuggests that such approaches can be subsumed, refined, and revised gainfully within an evolutionary framework. Relying on evolutionary theory, Krebs offers an account of how notions of morality originated in the human species. He updates Darwin's early ideas about how dispositions to obeyauthority, to control antisocial urges, and to behave in altruistic and cooperative ways originated and evolved, then goes on to update Darwin's account of how humans acquired a moral sense.Krebs explains why the theory of evolution does not dictate that all animals are selfish and immoral by nature. On the contrary, he argues that moral behaviors and moral judgments evolved to serve certain functions. Krebs examines theory and research on the evolution of primitive forms of prosocialconduct displayed by humans and other animals, then discusses the evolution of uniquely human prosocial behaviors. He describes how a sense of morality originated during the course of human evolution through strategic social interactions among members of small groups, and how it was expanded andrefined in modern societies, explaining how this sense gives rise to culturally universal and culturally relative moral norms. Krebs argues that although humans' unique cognitive abilities endow them with the capacity to engage in sophisticated forms of moral reasoning, people rarely live up their potential in their everyday lives. Four conceptions of what it means to be a moral person are identified, with the conclusionthat people are naturally inclined to meet the standards of each conception under certain conditions. The key to making the world a more moral place lies in creating environments in which good guys finish first and cheaters fail to prosper.

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Why do people behave in moral ways in some circumstances, but not in others? In order to account fully for morality, Dennis Krebs departs from traditional approaches to morality that suggest that children acquire morals through socialization, cultural indoctrination, and moral reasoning. Hesuggests that such approaches can be subsumed,...

Dennis Krebs is a Professor of Psychology, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and Fellow of Stanford University's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He received his MA and PhD from Harvard University, where he also taught for several years before returning to his native British Columbia to teach at Simon Fraser University. He ...

other books by Dennis Krebs

Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 1.1 inPublished:August 15, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019977823X

ISBN - 13:9780199778232

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Table of Contents

Part I: Setting the Stage1. Introduction and Overview2. What is Morality?3. Born Bad?4. Darwin's Theory of the Origin of Morality5. Foundations of a Neo-Darwinian Approach to MoralityPart II: The Evolution of Primitive Prosocial Behaviors6. The Evolution of Deference7. The Evolution of Self-control8. The Evolution of Altruism though Sexual Selection9. The Evolution of Altruism through Kin Selection10. The Evolution of Altruism through Group Selection and Imperfect Design11. The Evolution of Cooperation12. Psychological and Neurological Sources of Primitive Prosocial BehaviorsPart III: The Evolution of Uniquely Human Prosocial Behaviors13. Uniquely Human Prosocial Behaviors14. The Evolution of Uniquely Human Prosocial Behaviors15. Psychological Sources of Uniquely Human Prosocial BehaviorsPart IV: The Evolution of the Moral Senses16. The Origin of the Moral Senses17. The Expansion and Refinement of the Moral Senses in the Human Species18. The Evolution of Moral NormsPart V: Implications and Applications19. Human Nature and the Nature of Morality20. Reframing Psychological Models of Moral Development