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The Philosophy of Social Evolution

Oxford: Oxford University Press (2017)

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  1. When can cultural selection explain adaptation?Azita Chellappoo - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (1):1-23.
    Cultural selection models aim to explain cultural phenomena as the products of a selective process, often characterising institutions, practices, norms or behaviours as adaptations. I argue that a lack of attention has been paid to the explanatory power of cultural selection frameworks. Arguments for cultural selection frequently depend on demonstrating only that selection models can in principle be applied to culture, rather than explicitly demonstrating the explanatory payoffs that could arise from their application. Understanding when and how cultural selection generates (...)
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  • Scaffolding Natural Selection.Walter Veit - forthcoming - Biological Theory:1-18.
    Darwin provided us with a powerful theoretical framework to explain the evolution of living systems. Natural selection alone, however, has sometimes been seen as insufficient to explain the emergence of new levels of selection. The problem is one of “circularity” for evolutionary explanations: how to explain the origins of Darwinian properties without already invoking their presence at the level they emerge. That is, how does evolution by natural selection commence in the first place? Recent results in experimental evolution suggest a (...)
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  • Belief Attribution as Indirect Communication.Christopher Gauker - 2021 - In Ladislav Koreň, Hans Bernhard Schmid, Preston Stovall & Leo Townsend (eds.), Groups, Norms and Practices: Essays on Inferentialism and Collective Intentionality. Springer Nature Switzerland. pp. 173-187.
    This paper disputes the widespread assumption that beliefs and desires may be attributed as theoretical entities in the service of the explanation and predic- tion of human behavior. The literature contains no clear account of how beliefs and desires might generate actions, and there is good reason to deny that principles of rationality generate a choice on the basis of an agent’s beliefs and desires. An alter- native conception of beliefs and desires is here introduced, according to which an attribution (...)
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  • Graphical Causal Models of Social Adaptation and Hamilton’s Rule.Wes Anderson - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (5):48.
    Part of Allen et al.’s criticism of Hamilton’s rule makes sense only if we are interested in social adaptation rather than merely social selection. Under the assumption that we are interested in casually modeling social adaptation, I illustrate how graphical causal models of social adaptation can be useful for predicting evolution by adaptation. I then argue for two consequences of this approach given some of the recent philosophical literature. I argue Birch’s claim that the proper way to understand Hamilton’s rule (...)
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  • Altruistic Deception.Jonathan Birch - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 74:27-33.
    Altruistic deception (or the telling of “white lies”) is common in humans. Does it also exist in non-human animals? On some definitions of deception, altruistic deception is impossible by definition, whereas others make it too easy by counting useful-but-ambiguous information as deceptive. I argue for a definition that makes altruistic deception possible in principle without trivializing it. On my proposal, deception requires the strategic exploitation of a receiver by a sender, where “exploitation” implies that the sender elicits a behaviour in (...)
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  • Toolmaking and the Evolution of Normative Cognition.Jonathan Birch - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (1):1-26.
    We are all guided by thousands of norms, but how did our capacity for normative cognition evolve? I propose there is a deep but neglected link between normative cognition and practical skill. In modern humans, complex motor skills and craft skills, such as toolmaking, are guided by internally represented norms of correct performance. Moreover, it is plausible that core components of human normative cognition evolved as a solution to the distinctive problems of transmitting complex motor skills and craft skills, especially (...)
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  • The Cultural Evolution of Cultural Evolution.Jonathan Birch & Cecilia Heyes - 2021 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 376:20200051.
    What makes fast, cumulative cultural evolution work? Where did it come from? Why is it the sole preserve of humans? We set out a self-assembly hypothesis: cultural evolution evolved culturally. We present an evolutionary account that shows this hypothesis to be coherent, plausible, and worthy of further investigation. It has the following steps: (0) in common with other animals, early hominins had significant capacity for social learning; (1) knowledge and skills learned by offspring from their parents began to spread because (...)
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  • Morality as an Evolutionary Exaptation.Marcus Arvan - 2021 - In Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (eds.), Empirically Engaged Evolutionary Ethics. Springer - Synthese Library. pp. 89-109.
    The dominant theory of the evolution of moral cognition across a variety of fields is that moral cognition is a biological adaptation to foster social cooperation. This chapter argues, to the contrary, that moral cognition is likely an evolutionary exaptation: a form of cognition where neurobiological capacities selected for in our evolutionary history for a variety of different reasons—many unrelated to social cooperation—were put to a new, prosocial use after the fact through individual rationality, learning, and the development and transmission (...)
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  • Samir Okasha’s Philosophy.Walter Veit - forthcoming - Lato Sensu: Revue de la Société de Philosophie des Sciences.
    This essay offers some reflections on Samir Okasha’s new monograph Agents and Goals in Evolution, his style of doing philosophy, and the broader philosophy of nature project of trying to make sense of agency and rationality as natural phenomena.
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  • Evolution of Multicellularity: Cheating Done Right.Walter Veit - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (3):34.
    For decades Darwinian processes were framed in the form of the Lewontin conditions: reproduction, variation and differential reproductive success were taken to be sufficient and necessary. Since Buss and the work of Maynard Smith and Szathmary biologists were eager to explain the major transitions from individuals to groups forming new individuals subject to Darwinian mechanisms themselves. Explanations that seek to explain the emergence of a new level of selection, however, cannot employ properties that would already have to exist on that (...)
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  • Unexplained cooperation.Eva Jaffro & Cédric Paternotte - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):1-21.
    Social evolution theory provides a wide array of successful evolutionary explanations for cooperative traits. However and surprisingly, a number of cases of unexplained cooperative behaviour remain. Shouldn’t they cast doubt on the relevance of the theory, or even disconfirm it? This depends on whether the theory is akin to a research programme such as adaptationism, or closer to a theory – a set of compatible, confirmable hypotheses. In order to find out, we focus on the two main tenets of social (...)
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  • The Hamiltonian View of Social Evolution.J. Arvid Ågren - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 68:88-93.
    Hamilton’s Rule, named after the evolutionary biologist Bill Hamilton, and the related concepts of inclusive fitness and kin selection, have been the bedrock of the study of social evolution for the past half century. In ’The Philosophy of Social Evolution’, Jonathan Birch provides a comprehensive introduction to the conceptual foundations of the Hamiltonian view of social evolution, and a passionate defence of its enduring value in face of the recent high profile criticism. In this review essay, I first outline the (...)
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  • Cooperation, Correlation and the Evolutionary Dominance of Tag-Based Strategies.Justin P. Bruner - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (2):1-20.
    Cooperation in the prisoner’s dilemma is possible if interactions are sufficiently correlated. We show that when conditions favorable to the evolution of cooperation hold tag-based strategies dominate. Thus, well-meaning interventions aimed at promoting cooperation may succeed but will often lead to in-group favoritism and ethnocentric behavior. Exploring ways that promote cooperation but do not usher in tag-based strategies should be a focal point of future work on the evolution of cooperation.
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  • The Cultural Evolution of Extended Benevolence.Andres Luco - 2021 - In Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (eds.), Empirically Engaged Evolutionary Ethics. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 153-177.
    Abstract In The Descent of Man (1879), Charles Darwin proposed a speculative evolutionary explanation of extended benevolence—a human sympathetic capacity that extends to all nations, races, and even to all sentient beings. This essay draws on twenty-first century social science to show that Darwin’s explanation is correct in its broad outlines. Extended benevolence is manifested in institutions such as legal human rights and democracy, in behaviors such as social movements for human rights and the protection of nonhuman animals, and in (...)
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  • Biological Markets, Cooperation, and the Evolution of Morality.Joeri Witteveen - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (2):401-430.
    Biological market theory has in recent years become an important part of the social evolutionist’s toolkit. This article discusses the explanatory potential and pitfalls of biological market theory in the context of big picture accounts of the evolution of human cooperation and morality. I begin by assessing an influential account that presents biological market dynamics as a key driver of the evolution of fairness norms in humans. I argue that this account is problematic for theoretical, empirical, and conceptual reasons. After (...)
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  • Transitions in Evolution: A Formal Analysis.Pierrick Bourrat - 2019 - Synthese 198 (4):3699-3731.
    Evolutionary transitions in individuality are events during which individuals at a given level of organization interact to form higher-level entities which are then recognized as new individuals at that level. ETIs are intimately related to levels of selection, which, following Okasha, can be approached from two different perspectives. One, referred to as ‘synchronic’, asks whether selection occurs at the collective level while the partitioning of particles into collectives is taken for granted. The other, referred to as ‘diachronic’, asks about the (...)
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  • Cultural Evolution.Tim Lewens - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  • Blind Cooperation: The Evolution of Redundancy Via Ignorance.Makmiller Pedroso - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axz022.
    One curious phenomenon of several social groups is that they are ‘redundant’ in the sense that they contain more cooperators than strictly needed to complete certain group tasks, such as foraging. Redundancy is puzzling because redundant groups are particularly susceptible to invasion by defectors. Yet, redundancy can be found in groups formed by a wide range of organisms, including insects and microbes. Birch has recently argued that coercive behaviours might account for redundancy using insect colonies as a case study. However, (...)
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  • The Inclusive Fitness Controversy: Finding a Way Forward.Jonathan Birch - 2017 - Royal Society Open Science 4 (170335):170335.
    This paper attempts to reconcile critics and defenders of inclusive fitness by constructing a synthesis that does justice to the insights of both. I argue that criticisms of the regression-based version of Hamilton’s rule, although they undermine its use for predictive purposes, do not undermine its use as an organizing framework for social evolution research. I argue that the assumptions underlying the concept of inclusive fitness, conceived as a causal property of an individual organism, are unlikely to be exactly true (...)
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  • Biological Individuals.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (1).
    The impressive variation amongst biological individuals generates many complexities in addressing the simple-sounding question what is a biological individual? A distinction between evolutionary and physiological individuals is useful in thinking about biological individuals, as is attention to the kinds of groups, such as superorganisms and species, that have sometimes been thought of as biological individuals. More fully understanding the conceptual space that biological individuals occupy also involves considering a range of other concepts, such as life, reproduction, and agency. There has (...)
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