simonperry955 OP t1_j60o76z wrote

I think you're right, and I can see that what I wrote is confusing. I meant, "in this altruistic act, I place your interests above my own." It says nothing about what you might do in return. It's not a moral precept.

On the other hand, there are many different kinds of reciprocity, in various contexts. If my survival depends on your survival, personally - then of course I am going to help you in any way I can, and I am repaid in the long term by your continued well being. This is the interdependence hypothesis of human non-kin altruism. It was the situation for the human family tree for most of 2 million years. So, unconditional altruism does exist in some circumstances.

But tit-for-tat belongs in a more impersonal environment where I depend on you only indirectly and there is no great reason for us to trust each other beyond the enforcement of our reciprocal agreement.


simonperry955 OP t1_j5xl4kk wrote

>face blindness

I think you're talking about narcissism. I believe it is responsible for a lot of extremist ideologies, and people are born like it if they are somewhere on the spectrum.

You're right, and I agree, there's not much further predictive power to be had in filling in the gaps between everyday and evolutionary goals. But it would be interesting.

Pleasure is a goal in itself. I think the function of pleasure is to reward us for achieving fitness benefits. There's a pressure to achieve fitness benefits, and hence, a pressure to seek pleasure. That's Freud's Pleasure Principle.

Like you say, I don't think goals can be moral in themselves. But some cause morality as we work jointly towards them, then others can lay claims on us and hold us accountable. Win-lose competition can't lead to morality as it's not a case of working jointly together.


simonperry955 OP t1_j5tn1av wrote

Evolution doesn't have to encode goals except thriving, surviving and reproducing. These goals have an in-built pressure to achieve them. So, evolution encodes the pressure to achieve goals - any goal we like. Not every goal is a good idea in the long term though.

Again it's a good question how we pick up morals. Michael Tomasello theorises that we are evolutionarily primed and prepared to pick up environmental input at appropriate ages. So, first we learn helping, then fairness and responsibility towards partners, then following society's norms. You might like to check out his "Becoming Human - a theory of ontogeny".

Rules of thumb are definitely useful for anybody. I'm sure you're right that a lot of people use these. Apparently we get more morally conscientious as we get older, if we are so inclined (i.e., prosocial in the first place).


simonperry955 OP t1_j5sjxa1 wrote

It's a very good question - how do we link "everyday" goals with evolutionary ones? In a way, it doesn't matter too much for the paradigm. We survive in order to reproduce; we thrive to survive. Each one is pursued for its own sake. Thriving covers everyday goals. It's not often that we are faced with survival or reproduction problems. That works well enough.

I feel we're at or close to the stage where any aspect of morality can be theorised if not mechanised or codified.

A goal that would "destroy the moral system" is win-lose competition rather than win-win mutualism. So we see this from Mr Putin for example, a completely amoral person.


simonperry955 OP t1_j5sjevi wrote

I think what you're talking about is promoting long term personal well-being - skillful action. Skillful action feels good.

Good point - if morality is about others, why do it? Where's the benefit for me? Because, like you say, what works for others works for me; and we live in a closely interdependent world, where what is good for you is good for me.

The version of utilitarianism that can be derived under this evolutionary paradigm specifies benefits for the self as well as others.


simonperry955 OP t1_ix9ld2u wrote

If you want me to be prescriptive, then I prescribe: if you want to be prosocial, then cultivate cognitive empathy (p. 163) and sympathetic joy (ps. 164, 165) and Perfect Compassion (ps. 33 and 42). These are based on the virtues of truth and compassion, or wisdom.

I think to figure out how multiple people can achieve their differing goals together, respect for the fact they want to thrive and flourish is a good place to start.

I don't prescribe being anti-social ("dark"). If you want to try it, see how far you get ...


simonperry955 OP t1_ix858o9 wrote

>You exclude by definition a personal morality,

But morality surely consists of my behaviour that affects others. If we both want to thrive, then our joint goal is thriving. If I aim to give the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to myself and all those affected by my actions, then it's a cooperative win-win and everyone is thriving to the maximum available extent. This is a "personal morality". See: ps. 33 & 42 of my e-book, "Perfect Compassion".

Tomasello posits four moral concerns: me-concerns (selfishness/self-interest); you-concerns (compassion/empathic concern); equality concerns (fairness); and we-concerns (following and enforcing group norms). These exist in any cultural group, and the first three don't vary much from group to group. Only group norms vary significantly from group to group - and the strictness and punitiveness/humaneness with which they are enforced. The individual is free to follow their own version of morality, which nonetheless is likely to be influenced by their in-group.

Kropotkin was I believe the first to write about the ideas of mutual aid and interdependence.


simonperry955 OP t1_ix2yj0n wrote

  1. I think you should state this "ultimate"/"proximate" distinction more clearly.

According to the theory or hypothesis of Michael Tomasello and others: there were evolutionary pressures on our ancient ancestors (beginning with Homo erectus, 2 million years ago) that caused them to behave strategically in ways that were encoded over later time as moral emotions and instincts. These evolutionary pressures were obligate collaborative foraging: "I must collaborate with others in order to survive". In turn, this leads to a situation of enforced interdependence , and this is what made morality evolve in humans (but not chimpanzees, bonobos, or arguably, any other species). Morality is defined here as that for which we are held accountable by others, when we work together towards joint goals. If we are not interdependent, then there is no need to hold others accountable. For example, interdependence requires that I help my partners to survive (empathic concern / compassion) and that I willingly share with others (proto-fairness).

I think your other questions are best decided in terms of modern-day moral psychology, which has its ultimate roots in evolution, rather than in terms of evolutionary pressures per se.

>2. Camus feels himself a "Stranger" in an absurd world. ...

I've read some Camus. He may consider himself a free agent, as do I, but there are times when he comes head to head with the cultural mores of the day.

>A monk's morality may be guided by the goal of achieving his own enlightenment, ...

Arguably, so is most people's, in their way. We all strive to grow and refine ourselves morally, if we are "light" enough (prosocial). See my ebook p. 194, "A quiet ego". I studied Buddhism when I was writing the book. Again, if a monk wants to immolate himself, that's up to him. Most people wouldn't do that.

>The morality of a Tang poet ...

Again, there's always going to be a tension between interpersonal and intrapersonal morality (the conscience and how we treat others, and behave) and cultural morality, which may dictate just the opposite of compassion and justice.


simonperry955 OP t1_iwym6ry wrote

>Would it not be better to start with the individual as they are at a specific moment and proceed to their goals, limitations and frustrations?

Do you mean, how does an individual make moral choices, within a certain environment? I choose what I think will bring me long term thriving: physical, psychological, social, moral. But think about the people who live in Iran. If they do the right thing, they end up in jail. To bring about the best long term thriving for me, is a prudential instrumental matter. To go against one's culture to stand up for what I believe in (e.g., human rights, women's rights) can lead to my thriving being curtailed, yet I still do it. I think that for certain people, some values are sacred: of infinite value. They see these values as more important than anything else, including popularity, or personal thriving.


simonperry955 OP t1_iwtpg3r wrote

I propose that it's "rooted" - evolved - in the context of a "we". But there are two classes of motivations: ultimate (evolutionary) and proximate (present-day). We can carry our ultimate instincts into the present day, where they do not have to be rooted in a "we". For example, we may help out-group members compassionately, using the same instinct we use to help in-group members.


simonperry955 OP t1_iwqzevl wrote

You're right, I take a descriptive approach. My personal view is that the world would be a better place (all concerned would thrive more) if everyone was prosocial and moral (i.e., enforced norms).

The descriptive case to be made depends on surely what you want to achieve. If it's mutual benefit, then prosociality is the way to go.

My understanding of the is-ought problem has moved on since I wrote the entry in the ebook. I provide a descriptive ought, not an imperative ought. I describe the fact that people feel they ought to X, and give natural reasons why they feel this way. To move to an imperative ought, one possible goal or imperative is the thriving or flourishing of the self and others, optimally. After all, each organism experiences a pressure or imperative to thrive or flourish.

Each entry in this list of features of morality, is a source of moral oughtness, including instrumental oughtness, which provides the original pressure to achieve goals. Moral oughtness is derived from the pressure to achieve goals jointly. So, moral oughtness comes from others towards me (partner control) as well as from me to others (responsibility).


simonperry955 OP t1_iwqmncq wrote

But arguably, "rightness" (upholding moral principles) evolved in the context of obligate collaborative hunting and gathering. From there, it's free to be used in any context. The morality of helping a cat in a tree is more basic: empathic concern or compassion evolved in the context of child care, but became available for strangers too in humans.

Michael Tomasello, in "A Natural History of Morality", holds that a moral principle is a general standard of behaviour that applies to any collaboration [and, as I propose: pair bond, or family, or doctor's practice] alike.

One is free not to uphold moral principles or to do a good job, but if other people are relying on me, then I owe them to do so, because we are a "we", and I identify with "us".


simonperry955 OP t1_iwn2tu0 wrote

But then, cooperation can be implicit, collective, and cultural as well as organised and/or interpersonal. We thrive and survive together with all those in our group - which can be as large as a country, at least.

So, there are a number of, say, moral psychological consequences of being part of a group. Group solidarity and loyalty is one of them, because I depend on everyone else in the group, and: 1) I am committed to helping the other group members; 2) I am sure they would do the same for me. You could say, the limits of my group mark the limits of my inclusive fitness - because all my fellow group members, together, are helping me to thrive and survive.

There may come a time where someone may try to save a drowning person. Who would he or she sacrifice him or herself for? Most probably, a child, or a loved one. I think this is the caring instinct rather than the group loyalty instinct. The caring instinct evolved as parental care in birds and mammals, and became available for use in humans for interdependent social living situations.


simonperry955 OP t1_iwn1cq3 wrote

>Suppose I do just want to make other people happy. I just want to help end suffering for other people.

That's being prosocial. You wish well for others. I have formalised this propensity in terms of evolutionary ethics, in "Perfect Compassion", p. 33. The opposite is to thrive at the expense of others, whether knowingly, or unknowingly, and whether or not it is enjoyable to do so, sought out, etc. That is called D, the Dark factor of personality ("Dark and light traits", p. 182).

The two extremes are joined by a continuum of how generous one is, or its opposite: how exploitative and harmful. See a diagram of sorts: "Unconditional love", p. 178.

I don't actually evaluate either one from any kind of viewpoint - I only describe them. Most people are prosocial (p. 193), and that's the way I personally like it.

>You are what you are. You will always do what you want to do. The question is only how should we structure our society around that, so that we are all most likely to succeed at our own goals.

I am sadly pessimistic that the corrupt and wicked will not end up killing the world. Narcissists rule the day and cause the most destruction and chaos.


simonperry955 OP t1_iwh80cp wrote

>You seem to make little distinction between the population of humans through time and an individual human being situated at specific moment such that the history of even that individual is secondary to an analysis of the specific subject.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. As for this point: on the contrary, I follow the premise that for a trait to evolve, it has to benefit the individual in some way (increase its fitness, ready for natural selection); and I believe that the individual is at the centre of morality, as the ultimate decision-maker. However, it's true that morality operates on intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cultural / collective levels.

To thrive is to increase one's viability, or ability to survive. There is pressure to survive because our ultimate genetic purpose is to reproduce, and we need to live long enough to do so. As such, we have a sexual instinct that orients us in the direction of reproduction, even if we never reproduce or even intend to. We just love sex because it's the way we can fulfil our ultimate purpose (that love being instilled by evolution, to make it attractive to do). This is Freud's Eros or the erotic insinct. Likewise, the Pleasure Principle exists because thriving makes us feel good, and there is a pressure to thrive, and therefore a pressure to feel good. See: p. 16, "Pleasure", and p. 243, "Emotions". Because of motivational autonomy, each pressure takes on a life of its own: e.g., we want to thrive, as an end in itself.

>Survival is a selection-oriented statistical drift within a population rather than in individuals.

Again, on the contrary: try asking any individual whether or not they want to survive, and fear death.


simonperry955 OP t1_iujxebr wrote

>We have not lived only to fulfill some ambiguous ”need” for millions of years now.

We all experience a pressure to thrive and survive, i.e., to do what will cause our inclusive thriving and surviving.


>ethical naturalism and nonmoralism

I looked it up: I think I'm an ethical non-naturalist. We feel we ought to fulfil ethical norms. I make a descriptive ought.

Morality has to evolve from the interplay between the needs and goals of humans, and their social and physical environment. Both of these are factual and non-moral.