Cornell University

Moral Psychology Hybrid Speaker Series

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 at 4:45pm to 5:45pm

Warren Hall, 150

Moral Psychology Hybrid Speaker Series

Mike Dacey

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Bates College

Demand Sharing and the Evolution of Morality
Mike Dacey and Paul Schofield

Theories of the evolution of morality often take their primary evidence from what we call no pressure cases, such as the free offering of a good between nonhuman animals. These are examples of behavior in which there could be no social pressure at all on the helper. Cases like this have been important because of the presumption that the main challenge to the evolution of morality is to solve the problem of altruism; a consequence of this fixation being that behaviors are interpreted as selfish unless there is no way they could come from anything but an altruistic motivation. This biases evidence and, we suggest, puts the thumb on the scale for the broadly sentimentalist theories that dominate the literature. We suggest a research program that sets the problem of altruism aside, and studies cases of demand sharing. Cases like this may involve mixed motives on the part of the helper. But this makes for a richer mine of evidence, linking in more behaviors, psychological capacities, and patterns of social organization across a broader range of species. It also, potentially, opens up the exploration of other moral theories in evolutionary terms, which stress mixed motives as central to morality.



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Philosophy, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cognitive Science


cascal, philcal, psychevents, mopsyevents


Free and open to Cornell community

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Julie Simmons-Lynch

Contact Phone

607 255-6431


Mike Dacy

Speaker Affiliation

Boston College

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Open to Cornell community