This volume gives an overview of the rising field of Experimental Ethics. It is organized into five main parts: PART I – Introduction: An Experimental Philosophy of Ethics? // PART II – Applied Experimental Ethics: Case studies // PART III – On Methodology // PART IV – Critical Reflections // PART V – Future Perspectives. Among the contributors: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Eric Schwitzgebel, Ezio di Nucci, Jacob Rosenthal, and Fernando Aguiar.
Drawing on an idea proposed by Darwin, it has recently been hypothesised that violent intergroup conflict might have played a substantial role in the evolution of human cooperativeness and altruism. The central notion of this argument, dubbed ‘parochial altruism’, is that the two genetic or cultural traits, aggressiveness against out-groups and cooperativeness towards the in-group, including self-sacrificial altruistic behaviour, might have coevolved in humans. This review assesses the explanatory power of current theories of ‘parochial altruism’. After a brief synopsis of (...) the existing literature, two pitfalls in the interpretation of the most widely used models are discussed: potential direct benefits and high relatedness between group members implicitly induced by assumptions about conflict structure and frequency. Then, a number of simplifying assumptions made in the construction of these models are pointed out which currently limit their explanatory power. Next, relevant empirical evidence from several disciplines which could guide future theoretical extensions is reviewed. Finally, selected alternative accounts of evolutionary links between intergroup conflict and intragroup cooperation are briefly discussed which could be integrated with parochial altruism in the future. (shrink)
Building on and partially refining previous theoretical work, this paper presents an extended simulation model of ancestral warfare. This model (1) disentangles attack and defense, (2) tries to differentiate more strictly between selfish and altruistic efforts during war, (3) incorporates risk aversion and deterrence, and (4) pays special attention to the role of brutality. Modeling refinements and simulation results yield a differentiated picture of possible evolutionary dynamics. The main observations are: (i) Altruism in this model is more likely to evolve (...) for defenses than for attacks. (ii) Risk aversion, deterrence and the interplay of migration levels and brutality can change evolutionary dynamics substantially. (iii) Unexpectedly, one occasional simulation outcome is a dynamically stable state of ‘tolerated intergroup theft’, raising the question if corresponding patterns also exist in real intergroup conflicts. Finally, possible implications for theories of the co-evolution of bellicosity and altruism in humans are discussed. (shrink)
In this article we try to give a philosophically reflected introductory overview of the current theoretical developments in the field of evolutionary aesthetics. Our aim is not completeness. Rather, we try to depict some of the central assumptions and explanatory tools frequently used in evolutionary accounts of human aesthetical preferences and address a number of currently debated, open research questions.
It has recently been proposed that the evolution of human cooperativeness might, at least in part, have started as the cooptation of behavioral strategies evolved for solving problems of coordination to solve problems with higher incentives to defect, i.e. problems of cooperation. Following this line of thought, we systematically tested human subjects for spillover effects from simple coordination tasks (2x2 Stag Hunt games, SH) to problems of cooperation (2x2 Prisoner’s Dilemma games, PD) in a laboratory experiment with rigorous controls to (...) rule out subject confusion or habituation. Supporting the hypothesis that decision mechanisms for cooperation problems are linked with decision mechanisms for coordination, our main finding is that cooperation levels in PD games embedded in a sequence of SH games were significantly increased compared to a baseline sequence consisting only of PDs when subjects played in fixed pairs. No such effects could be found when players were randomly rematched each round. Additional findings include that this spillover effect cannot prevent a decay of cooperation over time, that there is no indication of a reversed effect, i.e. no signs of negative spillovers from failed cooperation to miscoordination, and that subjects self-reported preferences in SH games are prosocial. (shrink)
Although humans qualify as one of the most cooperative animal species, the scale of violent intergroup conflict among them is unparalleled. Explanations of the underlying motivation to participate in an intergroup conflict, however, remain unsatisfactory. While previous research shows that intergroup conflict increases ‘in-group love’, it fails to identify robust triggers of ‘out-group hate’. Here, we present a controlled laboratory experiment, which demonstrates that ‘out-group hate’ can be provoked systematically. We find direct and causal evidence that the intention to protect (...) the in-group is not only a crucial motivator of ‘out-group hate’ in defensive reactions, but also promotes preemptive offensive actions against out-group threat. Hence, the strength of ‘out-group hate’ depends on whether the own group is perceived to be on the offensive or the defensive side of the conflict. This finding improves our understanding of the escalation of intergroup conflicts and may have important implications for their prevention, as we find in our experiment that removing out-group threat substantially reduces intergroup aggression, leading to full peace. (shrink)
Bankers have a reputation for deviating from standard morals. It is an open question, though, if this claim can be substantiated. Here, it is tested directly if bankers respond differently to moral dilemmas. Evaluations of the moral acceptableness of behavioural options in two trolley cases by bankers (n = 23) are compared to those of ordinary people (n = 274). An apparent difference in response behaviour between the groups can be fully explained by a difference in the response behaviour of (...) men and women. When controlling for gender, no differences between bankers and other people remain. (shrink)
We review the literature on various approaches to modeling animal intergroup conflict behavior in theoretical biology, highlight the intricacies emerging in the process of adding due biological realism to such models, and point out recent empirical findings that can inspire future theorizing.
We report three studies which test a sexual selection hypothesis for male war heroism. Based on evolutionary theories of mate choice we hypothesize that men signal their fitness through displaying heroism in combat. First, we report the results of an archival study on US-American soldiers who fought in World War II. We compare proxies for reproductive success between a control sample of 449 regular veterans and 123 surviving Medal of Honor recipients of WWII. Results suggest that the heroes sired more (...) offspring than the regular veterans. Supporting a causal link between war heroism and mating success, we then report the results of two experimental studies. We find evidence that female participants specifically regard men more sexually attractive if they are war heroes. This effect is absent for male participants judging female war heroes, suggesting that bravery in war is a gender specific signal. Finally, we discuss possible implications of our results. (shrink)
Although humans qualify as one of the most cooperative animal species, the scale of violent intergroup conflict among them is unparalleled. Explanations of the underlying motivations to participate in an intergroup conflict, however, remain unsatisfactory. While previous research shows that intergroup conflict increases individually costly behavior to the benefit of the in-group, it has failed to identify robust triggers of aggressive behavior directed at out-groups. Here, we present a controlled laboratory experiment which demonstrates that such aggression can be provoked systematically (...) by manipulating the extent to which the own group is perceived to be on the offensive or the defensive side of a conflict. We find direct and causal evidence that the motivation to protect the in-group is not only a predictor of retaliatory aggression, but also promotes preemptive offensive actions against out-groups if they pose a potential threat. This finding improves our understanding of the escalation of intergroup conflicts and may have important implications for their prevention, as we find in our experiment that removing out-group threat substantially reduced intergroup aggression and led to full peace. (shrink)
Many studies show that punishment, although able to stabilize cooperation at high levels, destroys gains which makes it less efficient than alternatives with no punishment. Standard public goods games (PGGs) in fact show exactly these patterns. However, both evolutionary theory and real world institutions give reason to expect institutions with punishment to be more efficient, particularly in the long run. Long-term cooperative partnerships with punishment threats for non-cooperation should outperform defection prone non-punishing ones. This article demonstrates that fieldwork data from (...) hunter-gatherers, common pool resource management cases and even PGGs support this hypothesis. Although earnings in PGGs with a punishment option may be lower at the beginning, efficiency increases dramatically over time. Most ten-period PGGs cannot capture this change because their time horizon is too short. (shrink)
Phenomena like meat sharing in hunter-gatherers, altruistic self-sacrifice in intergroup conflicts, and contribution to the production of public goods in laboratory experiments have led to the development of numerous theories trying to explain human prosocial preferences and behavior. Many of these focus on direct and indirect reciprocity, assortment, or (cultural) group selection. Here, I investigate analytically how genetic relatedness changes the incentive structure of that paradigmatic game which is conventionally used to model and experimentally investigate collective action problems: the public (...) goods game. Using data on contemporary hunter-gatherer societies I then estimate a threshold value determining when biological altruism turns into maximizing inclusive fitness in this game. I find that, on average, contributing no less than about 40% of individual fitness to public goods production still is an optimal strategy from an inclusive fitness perspective under plausible socio-ecological conditions. (shrink)
Phenomena like meat sharing in hunter-gatherers, self-sacrifice in intergroup conflicts, and voluntary contribution to public goods provision in laboratory experiments have led to the development of numerous theories on the evolution of altruistic in-group beneficial behavior in humans. Many of these theories abstract away from the effects of kinship on the incentives for public goods provision, though. Here, it is investigated analytically how genetic relatedness changes the incentive structure of that paradigmatic game which is conventionally used to model and experimentally (...) investigate collective action problems: the linear public goods game. Using recent anthropological data sets on relatedness in 61 contemporary hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist societies the relevant parameters of this model are then estimated. It turns out that the kinship patterns observed in these societies substantially reduce the negative effect of increasing group size on incentives for public goods provision. It is suggested, therefore, that renewed attention should be given to inclusive fitness theory in the context of public goods provision also in sizable groups, because its explanatory power with respect to this central problem in the evolution of human cooperativeness and altruism might have been substantially underrated. (shrink)
The ten original studies included in this Research Topic investigate selected assumptions and predictions of parochial altruism theory in detail. We, the editors, are convinced that their highly instructive findings will help researchers interested in parochial altruism, but also in intergroup psychology more generally, to gain a much more fine-grained understanding of the interplay of altruistic and spiteful motives in human decision making in the context of intergroup relations. The broad range of disciplines represented by the authors contributing to this (...) Research Topic and the variety of methods used in their studies are representative for the current interdisciplinary interest in parochial altruism. The most important insight that, in our view, can be derived from the works collected here is that human decision making in intergroup contexts is more complex than suggested by current theory. Thus, we hope that future theorizing on parochial altruism will be stimulated by the evidence gathered in this Research Topic. In this editorial, we briefly highlight central findings reported here, which, to us, appear most informative for prospective enhancements of parochial altruism theory. (shrink)
Recent years have seen a continual rise of interest in the empirical study of questions traditionally located in moral philosophy, i.e., studies in Experimental Ethics. In this chapter we briefly outline the recent history of this field. To do so we have to cross disciplinary borders to quite some extent. Tracing the beginnings of Experimental Ethics back to early works in moral psychology, we delineate a sequence of theories which eventually flow into current Experimental Ethics. We then briefly review four (...) topics which are intensively investigated in Experimental Ethics at the moment: moral relativism, individual and cross-cultural differences in moral judgment, and interactions of moral evaluation with other philosophical concepts. We conclude with a short historically informed comment on the demarcation problem of Experimental Ethics. (shrink)
This chapter discusses future directions which the current developments within philosophy might take. It does so on the background of historical parallels to the controversy around experimental philosophy. Historical debates in psychology and economics contain astonishing similarities to today’s discussions in philosophy. After a brief historical overview, four central criticisms which experimental philosophy is subject to are systematically reviewed. It is shown that three of these are not specifically philosophical. Rather, they neccessarily accompany and drive every introduction of experimental methods (...) to a discipline. Only the question if experimental methods can actually capture the objects of philosophical research remains as a – weak – candidate for a specifically philosophical problem. This question is discussed separately. Finally, a constructively critical pluralism of methods is advocated and more serenity demanded: Introducing experimental methods to philosophy is an experiment itself. We will simply have to wait and see if it succeeds. (shrink)
The Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD) is widely used to model social interaction between unrelated individuals in the study of the evolution of cooperative behaviour in humans and other species. Many effective mechanisms and promotive scenarios have been studied which allow for small founding groups of cooperative individuals to prevail even when all social interaction is characterised as a PD. Here, a brief critical discussion of the role of the PD as the most prominent tool in cooperation research is presented, followed by (...) two new objections to such an exclusive focus on PD-based models of social interaction. It is highlighted that only 2 of the 726 combinatorially possible strategically unique ordinal 2x2 games have the detrimental characteristics of a PD and that the frequency of PD-type games in a space of games with random payoffs does not exceed about 3.5%. Although these purely mathematical considerations do not compellingly imply that the relevance of PDs is overestimated, it is proposed that, in the absence of convergent empirical information about the ancestral human social niche, this finding can be interpreted in favour of a so far rather neglected answer to the question of how the founding groups of human cooperation themselves came to cooperate: Behavioural and/or psychological mechanisms which evolved for other, possibly more frequent, social interaction situations might have been applied to PD-type dilemmas only later. Human cooperative behaviour might thus partly have begun as a cooptation. (shrink)
The Prisoner’s Dilemma is widely used to model interaction between unrelated individuals in the study of the evolution of cooperativeness. Many mechanisms have been studied which allow for small founding groups of cooperative individuals to prevail even when all social interaction is characterised as a PD. Here, a brief critical discussion of the role of the PD as the most prominent tool in cooperation research is presented, followed by two new objections to such an exclusive focus on PD-based models. It (...) is highlighted that only 2 of the 726 combinatorially possible strategically unique ordinal 2x2 games have the detrimental characteristics of a PD and that thefrequency of PD-type games in a space of games with random payoffs does not exceed about 3.5%. Although this does not compellingly imply that the relevance of PDs is overestimated, in the absence of convergent empirical information about the ancestral human social niche, this finding can be interpreted in favour of a rather neglected answer to the question of how the founding groups of human cooperation themselves came to cooperate: Behavioural and/or psychological mechanisms which evolved for other, possibly more frequent, social interaction situations might have been applied toPD-type dilemmas only later. (shrink)
In diesem Artikel stellen wir die Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie kurz vor. Wir gehen dazu in zwei Schritten vor: In Schritt 1 charakterisieren wir die Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie anhand ihrer Antworten auf die Grundfragen an jede Erkenntnistheorie. In Schritt 2 stellen wir all jene philosophischen Positionen dar, mit denen die Evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie eng verbunden ist.
Ethics is a field in which the gap between words and actions looms large. Game theory and the empirical methods it inspires look at behavior instead of the lip service people sometimes pay to norms. We believe that this special issue comprises several illustrations of the fruitful application of this approach to ethics.
Humans are one of the most cooperative and altruistic species on the planet. At the same time, humans have a long history of violent and deadly intergroup conflicts, i.e. wars. Recently, contemporary evolutionary theorists have revived Charles Darwin’s idea that human in-group altruism and out-group hostility might have co-evolved. Groups with more cooperatively aggressive men, they suggest, were more likely to prevail in the frequent lethal quarrels of human pre-history, and these men, therefore, more likely to have passed on their (...) genes. After a short introduction to evolutionary perspectives on war heroism, we describe selected characteristics of 988 modern war heroes, the US-American Medal of Honor recipients of WWI, WWII, the Korean and the Vietnam War, and discuss whether an evolutionary perspective can help us understand why these men risked their lives ‘beyond the call of duty’. (shrink)
In evolutionary models of indirect reciprocity, reputation mechanisms can stabilize cooperation even in severe cooperation problems like the prisoner’s dilemma. Under certain circumstances, conditionally cooperative strategies, which cooperate iff their partner has a good reputation, cannot be invaded by any other strategy that conditions behavior only on own and partner reputation. The first point of this paper is to show that an evolutionary version of backward induction can lead to a breakdown of this kind of indirectly reciprocal cooperation. Backward induction, (...) however, requires strategies that count and then cease to cooperate in the last, last but one, last but two, … game they play. These strategies are unlikely to exist in natural settings. We then present two new findings. (1) Surprisingly, the same kind of breakdown is also possible without counting. Strategies using rare golden opportunities for defection can invade conditional cooperators. This can create further golden opportunities, inviting the next wave of opportunists, and so on, until cooperation breaks down completely. (2) Cooperation can be stabilized against these opportunists, by letting an individual’s initial reputation be inherited from that individual’s parent. This ‘inclusive reputation’ mechanism can cope with any observably opportunistic strategy. Offspring of opportunists who successfully exploited a conditional cooperator cannot repeat their parents’ success because they inherit a bad reputation, which forewarns conditional cooperators in later generations. (shrink)
This article investigates the question of why there is emotional resistance to research results such as the theory of evolution and to philosophical naturalism. A depiction of how this emotional resistance expresses itself is followed by a brief account of the core theses of philosophical naturalism. The emotional reactions to research results then are differentiated from reactions to philosophical naturalism and a first overview of the irritant positions of naturalism is given. Finally two misunderstandings about the aims of philosophical naturalism (...) are addressed. (shrink)
Diese Arbeit untersucht die Frage, welche möglichen Auslöser für emotional bedingte Voreingenommenheit es auf Seiten der Kritiker des heutigen philosophischen Naturalismus gibt. Sie findet diese zum einen in bestimmten Ergebnissen einzelner wissenschaftlicher Disziplinen, den sogenannten ›Kränkungen‹, die fälschlicherweise dem philosophischen Naturalismus angelastet werden, und zum anderen in den programmatischen Voraussetzungen des philosophischen Naturalismus, den ›naturalistischen Zumutungen‹. Nach einer kurzen Darstellung des naturalistischen Programms werden diese beiden Gruppen exemplifiziert, voneinander abgegrenzt und zwei Ansätze zur Klärung von Missverständnissen der naturalistischen Position vorgeschlagen.
We argue that the roles of attacker and defender in asymmetric intergroup conflict are structurally ambiguous and their perception is likely to be subjectively biased. Although this allows for endogenous selection into each role, we argue that claiming the role of the defender likely is more advantageous for conflict participants.
The influence of many factors on ecological success in common pool resource management is still unclear. This may be due to methodological issues. These include causal complexity, a lack of large-N-studies and nonlinear relationships between factors. We address all three issues with a new methodological approach, artificial neural networks, which is discussed in detail. It allows us to develop a model with comparably high predictive power. In addition, two success factors are analyzed: legal security and institutional fairness. Both factors show (...) a positive impact on success in irrigation and fisheries supporting the view that there are sector-independent success factors. (shrink)
Sind Sie Naturalist, Metaphysikerin oder Rationalist? Existentialistin, Materialist oder Deterministin? Sie wissen es nicht? Der Philomat ist ein Apparat für weltanschauliche Diagnostik. Er sagt Ihnen, wie Sie denken, wenn Sie denken. Er stellt Ihnen Fragen aus ganz alltäglichen Zusammenhängen und ermittelt anhand Ihrer Antworten, welche philosophischen Überzeugungen Ihr Denken leiten. Sie erfahren, wie Ihre ganz persönliche Art zu denken in der Philosophie heißt, welche Konsequenzen mit ihr verbunden sind, welche Philosophen so denken wie Sie und wo Sie Ihre Überzeugungen vertiefen (...) können. (shrink)
Dieser Beitrag widmet sich der Darstellung des systematischen Zusammenhangs des mit dem Aufkommen der Experimentellen Philosophie neu entstandenen Teilbereichs der Experimentellen Ethik mit der spätestens seit den 1980er Jahren wieder populär gewordenen Evolutionären Ethik, einer Teildisziplin des philosophischen Naturalismus. Nach einer kurzen Charakterisierung beider ethischer Teilbereiche wird am Beispiel der metaethischen Frage nach der Objektivität moralischer Urteile dafür argumentiert, dass die partikulären Ergebnisse experimenteller Methoden in der Moralphilosophie erst in einer umfassenderen Perspektive auf menschliches Handeln vollständig interpretierbar werden: Ohne eine (...) rahmenbildende Hintergrundtheorie moralischen Urteilens, wie z.B. die Evolutionäre Ethik, liefert die Experimentelle Ethik nicht mehr als proximate Erklärungen moralischer Urteilsmechanismen. Zweifelsohne sind dies wertvolle Erkenntnisse über die Funktionsweise moralischer Urteilsfindung – ohne Ordnungsrahmen drohen sie jedoch unverbunden nebeneinander stehen zu bleiben. Andererseits beinhaltet gerade die Evolutionäre Ethik empirische Hintergrundannahmen über menschliches moralisches Urteilen, die erst mit den Methoden der Experimentellen Ethik ihre unabdingbare empirische Überprüfung finden können. Diese zwei Teilbereiche der Moralphilosophie stehen daher in enger systematischer Beziehung. (shrink)
The literature on common pool resource (CPR) governance lists numerous factors that influence whether a given CPR system achieves ecological long-term sustainability. Up to now there is no comprehensive model to integrate these factors or to explain success within or across cases and sectors. Difficulties include the absence of large-N-studies (Poteete 2008), the incomparability of single case studies, and the interdependence of factors (Agrawal and Chhatre 2006). We propose (1) a synthesis of 24 success factors based on the current SES (...) framework and a literature review; (2) the application of neural networks on a database of CPR management case studies in an attempt to test the viability of this synthesis. This method allows us to obtain an implicit quantitative and rather precise model of the interdependencies in CPR systems. Given such a model, every success factor in each case can be manipulated separately, yielding different predictions for success. This could become be a fast and inexpensive way to analyze, predict and optimize performance for communities world-wide facing CPR challenges. Existing theoretical frameworks could be improved as well. (shrink)
Commentary on J. Gowdy & L. Krall "The economic origins of ultrasociality": We question the sequence of evolutionary transitions leading to ultrasociality in humans proposed by Gowdy & Krall. Evidence indicates that families are, and likely always have been, the primary productive units in human agricultural economies, suggesting that genetic relatedness is key to understanding when the suppression of individual autonomy to the benefit of subsistence groups, i.e. extended families, evolved.
The question on how the diverse forms of cooperative behavior in humans and nonhuman animals could have evolved under the pressure of natural selection has been a challenge for evolutionary biology ever since Darwin himself. In this chapter, we briefly review and summarize results from the last 50 years of research on human and nonhuman cooperativeness from a theoretical (biology) and an experimental perspective (experimental economics). The first section presents six concepts from theoretical biology able to explain a variety of (...) forms of cooperativeness which evolved in many different species. These are kin selection, mutualism, reciprocity, green-beard altruism, costly signaling, and cultural group selection. These considerations are complemented by two short examples of evolved cooperative behavior, one from microbiology and one from ethology. The second main section focuses on recent experimental research on human cooperativeness. We present a brief review of factors known to impact individual human decision-making in social dilemmas, most prominently communication, punishment, reputation, and assortment. Our conclusion then draws attention to tasks for further research in this area. (shrink)
Communities, policy actors and conservationists benefit from understanding what institutions and land management regimes promote ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation. However, the definition of success depends on local conditions. Forests’ potential carbon stock, biodiversity, and rate of recovery following disturbance are known to vary with a broad suite of factors including temperature, precipitation, seasonality, species’ traits and land use history. Methods like forest changes over time , and comparison with 'pristine' reference forests have been proposed to compare (...) the structure and biodiversity of forests in the face of underlying differences. However, data from previous visits or reference forests may be unavailable or costly to obtain. Here, we introduce a new metric of locally weighted forest inter-comparison to mitigate the above shortcomings. This method is applied to an international database of nearly 300 community forests, and compared with previously published techniques. It is particularly suited to large databases where forests may be compared among one another. Further, it avoids problematic comparisons with old-growth forests which may not resemble the goal of forest management. In most cases, the different methods produce broadly congruent results, suggesting that researchers have the flexibility to compare forest conditions using whatever type of data is available. Forest structure and biodiversity are shown to be independently measurable axes of forest condition, although users’ and foresters’ estimations of seemingly unrelated attributes are highly correlated, perhaps reflecting an underlying sentiment about forest condition. These findings contribute new tools for large-scale analysis of ecosystem condition and natural resource policy assessment. Although applied here to forestry, these techniques have broader applications to classification and evaluation problems using crowdsourced or repurposed data for which baselines or external validations are not available. (shrink)
In this chapter, we present supporting arguments for the claim that Order Ethics is a school of thought within ethics which is especially open to empirical evidence. With its focus on order frameworks, i.e., incentive structures, Order Ethical advice automatically raises questions on implementability, efficacy, and efficiency of such recommended institutions, all of which are empirical questions to a good extent. We illustrate our arguments by presenting a small selection of experiments from economics that we consider highly informative for Order (...) Ethics. These experiments vary in their details but share one common theme: individual decision-making and its aggregate results are tested against the background of incentive structures. In particular, these studies provide first insights on how unregulated markets influence moral behavior over time, how trial-and-error experiences convince subjects to migrate to more efficient institutions, and how default rules can influence fundamental choices of people. We argue that Order Ethics, for which implementability of any moral claim is an essential requirement, can largely benefit from the use of such experimental methods. Finally, we suggest the provision of self-commitment devices as one example of smart policy design that avoids paternalistic intrusions into individual liberty. (shrink)