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When evolutionary game theory explains morality, what does it explain?

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Evolutionary attempts to explain morality tend to say very little about what morality is. If evolutionary game theory aspires not merely to solve the ‘problem of altruism', but to explain human morality or justice in particular, it requires an appropriate conception of that subject matter. This paper argues that one plausible conception of morality (a sanction-based conception) creates some important constraints on the kinds of evolutionary explanations that can shed light on morality. Game theoretic approaches must either meet these constraints, or defend an alternative conception of morality. Skyrms’ model of the evolution of justice is found to violate the constraints imposed by the sanction-based conception.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Philosophy, 350 University Hall, Ohio State University, 230 N. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210.

Publication date: January 1, 2000


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