Tuesday, 7 April 2009
The Evolutionary Function of Moral Projection
Kyle Stanfod , University of California, Irvine
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Why do we regard moral properties or qualities as features of the world that demand certain reactions from us, rather than subjective preferences (however strong) for certain character traits and courses of action? In this talk I will consider this phenomenon of moral projection from an evolutionary point of view. I will argue that a recent leading account of the evolutionary function of such moral projection is mistaken, and that seeing just why and how it is mistaken enables us to develop a more scientifically plausible and philosophically revealing account. On the alternative I propose, moral projection is essentially a device for ensuring correlation in cooperative and other morally relevant interactions, a condition which in turn is the key to rendering such cooperative or exploitable behavior evolutionarily stable in the first place. I will also briefly suggest that this account of why we engage in moral projection at least points the way towards a novel picture of what moral objectivity might be supposed to consist in and what is at stake when we insist upon it.