Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ How Did Altruism Evolve?

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

In my work on ethics I talk about things like the moral sentiment. That is, I say that ethics is based on subjective feelings, not some sort of rational choice, much less following a set of rules or principles. But where would this sentiment come from? One suggestion is that it originates in evolution. This article interviews "Stephanie Preston about the evolutionary, neurological and behavioral basis of altruism." There are numerous cases of self-sacrificing behaviour in nature. And there's an argument that we've evolved a sense of species preservation, a feeling of care for offspring, or empathy for individuals in distress. None of this offers a justification for ethics - as David Hume says, 'ought does not follow from is'. But it offers an explanation for why we feel the way we do.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: May 20, 2024 03:09 a.m.

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