Modeling Rationality, Morality, and Evolution

By Peter A. Danielson | Go to book overview

his reserve price is binding does improve his expected return. The auctioneer functions as an agent for the seller -- an enforcement mechanism for commitment -- in exactly the same sense as Hobbes' sovereign acts as an agent for the players in the state of nature.

Genuine agency, in the everyday sense, can thus be rationally effecfive. Moral agency, however, is perfectly useless. Morality is a deeply peculiar sort of constraint, quite unlike the Hobbesian sovereign or the seller's auctioneer. The moral agent -- if appeal to his morality is to serve any explanatory purpose not achieved by appeal to his rationality alone -- must be free to escape his self-constraint, that is, must be capable of abandoning the dictates of his moral disposition if he so chooses. But in that case he has not bound himself at all; if he "does the right thing," from the Pareto point of view, he has simply chosen to act co-operatively, and has thereby revealed that doing so is perceived by him to be in his own best interest. The contractarian seems to conceive of morality as a set of non-binding bonds. Put this way, the conception strikes us as simply absurd. This point has not escaped other critics of the contractarian moral concept (see, for example, Copp 1991). Most of these critics, however, have intended to show that the contractarians are wrong about morality. We suggest something else: that the contractarians have successfully regimented the folk concept of morality, and, in doing so, have exposed its ultimate incoherence. We find it entirely plausible to suppose that the idea of morality is, like the medieval economists' idea of a just price, a notion that makes sense only on the presupposition of objectively given values. Economists abandoned this presupposition many years ago, but the continuing existence of moral theory suggests that philosophers have not yet followed suit. We hope that their recent, but now widespread, contact with game theory may provide a useful push in the right direction.


Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Ig Horstmann and Wayne Norman for their suggestions and comments. Ross is also grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, for financially facilitating this research.


Notes
1
We say "a version of" moral scepticism because there are several actual and possible positions that go by that name. One might be a moral sceptic in a strictly epistemic sense, denying that people can know what is and what is not moral. We are sceptics in this sense, but trivially, since we deny that there is anything moral for people to know. In the contractarian literature that we will be discussing, a sceptic who more commonly serves as the foil

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Modeling Rationality, Morality, and Evolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Series Editors ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Contributors ix
  • 1: Introduction 3
  • References 9
  • Rationality 11
  • 2: Rationality and Rules 13
  • Notes 34
  • 3: Intention and Deliberation 41
  • References 54
  • 4: Following Through with One's Plans: Reply to David Gauthier 55
  • Notes 64
  • Notes 65
  • 5: How Braess' Paradox Solves Newcomb's Problem 67
  • Notes 86
  • 6: Economics of the Prisoner's Dilemma: A Background 92
  • Notes 111
  • Notes 115
  • 7: Modeling Rationality: A Normative or Descriptive Task? 119
  • References 132
  • Modeling Social Interaction 135
  • 8: Theorem 1 137
  • References 158
  • 9: The Failure of Success: Intrafamilial Exploitation in the Prisoner's Dilemma 161
  • References 184
  • 10: Transforming Social Dilemmas: Group Identity and Co-Operation 185
  • Conclusion 206
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Notes 207
  • Notes 208
  • 11: Beliefs and Co-Operation 210
  • References 234
  • 12: The Neural Representation of the Social World 236
  • References 253
  • Morality 255
  • 13: Moral Dualism 257
  • Notes 278
  • Notes 281
  • 14: Categorically Rational Preferences and the Structure of Morality 282
  • Notes 301
  • References 301
  • 15: Why We Need a Moral Equilibrium Theory 302
  • Notes 330
  • Notes 338
  • 16: Morality's Last Chance 340
  • Notes 371
  • Notes 374
  • Evolution 377
  • 17: Mutual Aid: Darwin Meets the Logic of Decision 379
  • Notes 403
  • Notes 404
  • 18: Three Differences Between Deliberation and Evolution 408
  • Notes 420
  • Notes 421
  • 19: Evolutionary Models of Co-Operative Mechanisms: Artificial Morality and Genetic Programming 423
  • Acknowledgments 439
  • Notes 439
  • Notes 441
  • 20: Norms as Emergent Properties of Adaptive Learning: The Case of Economic Routines 442
  • Notes 459
  • Notes 461
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