Posted: October 27th, 2022

Philosophy of Mind – Reading Reflection

Based on the two chapters attached answer the following questions:

1.  What is the issue the author is concerned with and the main point the authors are trying to make about that issue? What are the reasons the authors give for thinking that this point is worth serious consideration?

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2.  How do the assigned readings relate to other readings we have discussed (or will discuss)? What do they agree or disagree about?

3.  Identify an example from the news, controversial issue, or personal experience that the reading(s) made you think about. How does it relate to the reading and/or illuminate the issues the reading raises?

4.  What do you find interesting or confusing about the reading(s)?

5.  The question in the chapter on Moral Motivation is about whether there is a form of distinctively moral motivation, that motivates people to act morally.  Of the four models of moral motivation presented (instrumentalism, cognitivism, sentimentalism, personalism), which seemed initially most plausible and why?  How does the neuropsychology research presented in the paper affect your assessment of the plausibility of that (and other) models?

6.  When we say that human moral psychology “evolved” what do you think we (should) mean by that?  What interesting lessons can we draw, from the analysis of moral evolution, about human morality and moral practices and judgments, or about our understanding of the reasons why people act morally (or fail to do so)?

Evolution of Moralitys 1

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The Moral Psychology Handbook
John M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group

Print publication date: 2010
Print ISBN-13: 9780199582143
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010
DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582143.001.0001

Evolution of Moralitys 1
Edouard Machery (Contributor Webpage)
Ron Mallon

DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582143.003.0002

  • Abstract and Keywords
  • This chapter examines whether morality really evolved, as many philosophers,
    psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists claim. It distinguishes three
    possible versions of this claim and reviews the evidence in support of each. It
    concludes that two versions of the claim that morality evolved are relatively well
    supported, but that they are unlikely to have significant philosophical
    consequences, while the stronger version, which is of real interest to
    philosophers, is in fact empirically unsupported.

    Keywords:   fairness, adaptation, moral emotions, guilt, shame, norms, moral, conventional distinction,
    cultural variation, cooperation

    Biology provides a broad source of information about humans that has no
    substitute. It clarifies long‐standing paradoxes. It shows that some things
    have indeed been missing from the debates about morality, and that they
    have been missing because the process of organic evolution that gave rise
    to all forms of life has been left out of the discussions.

    (Alexander, 1987: xvii)

    Walking in Darwin’s footsteps, numerous philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists,
    and biologists have turned toward evolutionary theory to provide a scientific
    understanding of morality.2 In spite of their differences, these thinkers concur on the
    provocative claim that morality is an evolved part of human nature, much like a
    tendency to weave nets is an evolved part of spiders’ nature.

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    This claim is supposed to have far‐reaching implications in moral philosophy
    (e.g. Gibbard, 1990; D’Arms, ms). Proponents of evolutionary ethics have often
    attempted to justify specific moral norms by appealing to the evolution of
    morality (e.g. Spencer, 1892; Richards, 1986, 1989; Rottschaefer & Martinsen,
    1990; Rottschaefer, 1991, 1998; Casebeer, 2003a).3 The claim that morality
    evolved has also been used as a premise for various skeptical arguments about
    (p.4) morality (Ruse, 1986; Woolcock, 2000; Joyce, 2000, 2006; Street, 2006,
    2008; for critical discussion, see, e.g., Sober, 1994; Copp, 2008).

    While it matters philosophically whether or not morality is a product of
    evolution, we find ourselves agreeing with Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton’s
    complaint that “more careful and empirically informed work on the nature or
    history or function of morality is needed ( . . . ) [p]erhaps unsurprisingly, very
    little such work has been done even by some of those who have recommended it
    most firmly” (1992: 34). Fifteen years after they expressed this complaint in
    their well‐known article “Toward fin de siècle ethics: Some trends,” it remains
    unclear whether, and in which sense, morality evolved. Our goal in this chapter
    is to answer these questions. Specifically, we propose to clarify the claim that
    morality evolved by distinguishing three possible versions of this claim and to
    review the evidence in support of each. We conclude that two versions of the
    claim that morality evolved are relatively well supported, but that they are
    unlikely to yield significant philosophical payoffs, while the stronger version,
    which is of real interest to philosophers, is in fact empirically unsupported.

    Here is how we proceed. In Section 1, we examine a First interpretation of the
    claim that morality evolved—one on which some components of moral
    psychology have evolved. We argue that this claim is uncontroversial although it
    can be very difficult to show that some particular components of moral
    psychology really evolved. In Section 2, we turn to a second interpretation of the
    claim that morality evolved, the claim that normative cognition—that is, the
    capacity to grasp norms and to make normative judgments—is a product of
    evolution. We argue that normative cognition might well have evolved, and that
    it may even be an adaptation. Finally, we turn to the philosophically most
    interesting interpretation of the claim that morality evolved. In Section 3, we set
    out the view that moral cognition, understood as a special sort of normative
    cognition, is the product of evolution, and we argue that the evidence adduced in
    support of the view is unpersuasive.4 We conclude by expressing our skepticism
    about the philosophical implications that can be drawn from the literature on the
    evolution of morality. (p.5)

  • 1. The Evolution of Components of Moral Psychology
  • 1.1. The Project

    As noted in the introduction, the claim that morality evolved can be interpreted
    in at least three different ways. The first interpretation asserts that specific
    components (e.g. emotions, dispositions, rule‐based reasoning systems, or

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    concepts) of moral psychology or specific behaviors typically associated with
    morality evolved. Some evolutionary theorists ask whether some of these
    components or behaviors evolved, whether they are adaptations, how they could
    have contributed to fitness, and whether they evolved exclusively in the hominid
    taxon or in other taxa.

    Frans de Waal’s work is a good illustration of this approach (e.g. de Waal, 1996;
    Preston & de Waal, 2002; see also Darwin, 1871; Bekoff, 2004). He is interested
    in whether some of the emotions, dispositions, and cognitive competences that
    underlie moral behaviors—e.g. empathy and the recognition of norms—are
    present in our closest extant relatives, the apes, as well as in more distant
    relatives, such as old‐world and new‐world monkeys. Thus, when he defines his
    project at the beginning of Good Natured, he asks, “Do animals show behavior
    that parallels the benevolence as well as the rules and regulations of human
    moral conduct? If so, what motivates them to act this way? And do they realize
    how their behaviors affect others?” (1996: 3).

    This interpretation of the claim that morality evolved strikes us as not at all
    contentious although specific hypotheses about the evolution of particular
    components of moral psychology may be controversial. It is highly plausible that
    some moral emotions have an evolutionary history because many emotions have
    a long evolutionary history (e.g. Fessler & Haley, 2003). And the cognitive
    architecture of morality also relies on various components of social cognition,
    many of which also have a long evolutionary history (e.g. Fessler, 1999; Stone,
    2006).

    Although the idea is fairly uncontroversial, showing that a specific component of
    moral psychology evolved is difficult. In the remainder of this section, we focus
    on what is perhaps the main difficulty: before looking for (p.6) the homologues5

    of human moral traits6 in other species, such as chimpanzees, researchers
    should establish that these traits are good candidates for being evolved traits.

    1.2. Fairness in Non‐Human Primates?

    De Waal has long argued that many important components of moral psychology,
    such as the sense of fairness and numerous fairness‐related emotions, e.g.
    gratitude (Brosnan & de Waal, 2002) and inequity aversion (Brosnan & de Waal,
    2003; Brosnan, 2006), are homologous to psychological systems in other
    primates.7 Here, we focus critically on de Waal’s claim that there is evidence for
    a precursor of the human sense of fairness among female brown capuchins
    (Brosnan & de Waal, 2003; for related results with chimpanzees, see Brosnan,
    Schiff, & de Waal, 2005; and for dogs, see Rangea, Horna, Viranyi, & Hubera,
    2009). Our goal is not to challenge the idea that many components of our moral
    psychology (psychological systems, emotions, etc.) evolved: as noted above, this
    claim strikes us as non‐controversial. Rather, focusing on the example of the
    sense of fairness, our goal is to illustrate how difficult it is to show that some

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    particular component evolved because some traits that might seem to be good
    candidates for being evolved traits might, on further examination, turn out to be
    poor ones.

    Brosnan and de Waal’s experimental design is clever. Capuchins, which have
    been trained to exchange coins for foods, are put in two adjacent cages. They
    are given a coin and have to give it back in order to receive a piece of food,
    which is visible in a transparent bowl in front of them. In one condition, the two
    capuchins are given a similar recompense, a piece of cucumber. In a second
    condition, one monkey receives a piece of cucumber, while the second monkey
    receives a piece of grape (a highly valued food). In a third condition, one monkey
    receives a piece of cucumber, while the second monkey is given a piece of grape
    without having to exchange it for a coin. Brosnan and de Waal measure the rate
    of rejection by monkeys, i.e. the number of cases where the monkeys do not
    exchange the coin or throw it. The results are surprising: (p.7) female
    capuchins reject at a much higher rate the piece of cucumber when the other
    capuchin is given a grape for a coin and at an even higher rate when the other
    capuchin is given a grape for free.8

    Brosnan and de Waal argue that this is tentative evidence for expectations about
    fair distributions of food, that is, for norms of fair distribution, as well as
    evidence for social emotions similar and homologous to human moral outrage.
    They write (2003: 299):

    People judge fairness based both on the distribution of gains and on the
    possible alternatives to a given outcome. Capuchin monkeys, too, seem to
    measure reward in relative terms, comparing their own rewards with those
    available, and their own efforts with those of others. They respond
    negatively to previously acceptable rewards if a partner gets a better deal.
    Although our data cannot elucidate the precise motivations underlying
    these responses, one possibility is that monkeys, similarly to humans, are
    guided by social emotions. These emotions, known as ‘passions’ by
    economists, guide human reactions to the efforts, gains, losses and
    attitudes of others.

    And, in a related paper (2004: 140), they add:
    [C]apuchin monkeys react negatively when another individual gets a better
    reward for the same or less effort on a specific task. This finding suggests
    that precursors to inequity aversion are present in animals from which our
    lineage split millions of years ago.

    We are skeptical, and we now argue that it is unlikely that capuchins obey a
    norm of fair distribution of windfall gains that is homologous with any human
    fairness norm. Let us emphasize that we are not denying that the sense of
    fairness—the tendency to find some actions fair and others unfair—has plausibly

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    evolved. Our claim is more specific: we question whether Brosnan and de Waal’s
    work provides evidence that a specific norm of fairness—the equal distribution
    of windfall profits—is a homologue present among capuchins and humans. We
    then use the example of Brosnan and de Waal’s research to draw some
    cautionary conclusions about the search for homologues of the components of
    human morality.

    First, Brosnan and de Waal (2003) found no effect for male capuchins (but see
    van Wolkenten et al., 2007). This is curious if Brosnan and de Waal have really
    identified a homologue of a human norm of fair distribution of windfall gains.
    Among humans, there is some variation in how males and females (p.8) behave
    in similar situations (e.g. Andreoni & Vesterlund, 2001; Solnick, 2001). However,
    in an economic game called “the dictator game,” both males and females are
    disposed to reject low offers (Solnick, 2001), suggesting that both get upset
    when windfall gains are shared unequally.9

    In addition, Henrich (2004) has noted two problems with Brosnan and de Waal’s
    proposal (but see Brosnan & de Waal’s [2004] reply). First, in similar conditions,
    humans tend to react very differently from female capuchins. When they are
    offered a deal that they judge to be unfair, humans in many cultures reject this
    deal, when such a rejection hurts the person who offered the deal (Henrich et
    al., 2004). However, when rejecting the deal does not hurt the person who
    offered it, which is a situation analogous to the second and third conditions in
    Brosnan and de Waal’s experiment, people tend to accept the deal, in sharp
    contrast with capuchins (Bolton & Zwick, 1995).

    One could argue on behalf of Brosnan and de Waal that Henrich’s first objection
    is unconvincing. Henrich is certainly correct that humans do not behave
    similarly to capuchin monkeys. However, it is plausible that in situations that are
    analogous to Brosnan and de Waal’s experiments, humans in many cultures feel
    annoyed and angry. But because they are able to control their anger and to act
    in their best interest, humans accept the offer, when rejecting the offer would
    not hurt its author. By contrast, capuchins are not able to control their anger
    and are thus unable to act in their best interest. It would be easy to test the
    hypothesis that in situations that are similar to Brosnan and de Waal’s conditions
    2 and 3, humans and capuchins react similarly in that they both feel anger. In
    particular, focusing on humans, one could examine whether there is any facial
    micro‐expression of anger (micro‐expressions are facial expressions of emotions
    that last only a fraction of second because the agent tries to suppress or control
    her emotion). One could also examine whether the brain areas involved in
    negative emotions (particularly the insula) and in executive control (the
    dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex) are activated in
    these situations.

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    More troubling is Henrich’s second criticism. Henrich and colleagues have
    documented that there is much cross‐cultural normative diversity in the norms
    bearing on the distribution of windfall gains (Henrich et al., 2004, 2005). For
    instance, Americans believe that a fair distribution of such gains consists in
    splitting them equally. By contrast, in a few small‐scale societies, such (p.9) as
    the Machiguengas of the Peruvian Amazon, people seem to expect the
    beneficiaries of windfall gains to keep the gain for themselves.

    Of course, by itself, variation, including cultural variation, does not show that a
    trait (i.e., in the present case, the norm of splitting windfall gains equally) has
    not evolved. To begin with, different adaptations can be selected for in different
    human populations. Moreover, a trait can also be designed so as to take different
    forms in different environments, including different social environments (see,
    e.g., Draper & Belsky, 1990). Finally, a given adaptation often varies across
    environments because the environment in which organisms develop influences
    its development.

    However, in this specific case, cultural variation suggests that the norm about
    the fair allocation of windfall gains was not selected for. If this norm is really
    present in capuchins (as de Waal and colleagues would have it), then it is very
    ancient: it had already evolved 30 million years ago, before the platyrrhines (the
    phylum to which capuchins belong) and the catarrhines (the phylum to which
    humans belong) split. If it is that ancient, then it should plausibly be species‐
    typical, exactly like vision is. However, the cross‐cultural research suggests that
    it varies across cultures, undermining the hypothesis that the norm of splitting
    windfall gains equally is an evolved trait that is homologous in capuchins and
    humans. Rather than being a trait homologous to old‐world monkeys and
    humans, what is fair in the kind of situations considered by Brosnan and de Waal
    or by Henrich and colleagues is determined by the culture‐specific norms
    governing economic interactions.

    Henrich’s second comment illustrates what is maybe the most important
    difficulty that accompanies attempts to discover homologues of human moral
    traits. Suppose that one is interested, as de Waal or Bekoff are, in finding
    homologues of some of the traits (emotions, norms, concepts, etc.) that
    constitute human moral cognition (and not in establishing that these traits are
    themselves evolved). Because two traits are homologues only if they evolved
    from a common ancestor trait, such a research project assumes that the relevant
    components of human moral cognition have evolved or, at least, that they are
    good candidates for being evolved traits. Thus, before looking for homologues of
    a given component of human moral cognition, it would seem important to ensure
    that there are no strong reasons to doubt that this component really evolved.10

    The existence of a trait in only a few cultures, its emergence in (p.10) some
    recent, historical times, or its acquisition by means of a domain‐general learning
    mechanism are strong reasons to doubt that this trait evolved. Thus the cross‐

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    cultural variation of how windfall gains should be shared suggests that the norm
    of splitting windfall gains equally is unlikely to be an evolved trait. It is then
    pointless to look for homologues of this norm.

    1.3. Summary: The Evolution of Psychological Components of Moral Psychology

    Researchers often focus on some components of moral psychology, such as the
    norm of fairness. Then they attempt to determine the evolutionary history of
    these components, by studying whether other species, particularly other
    primates, also possess the relevant traits. We have argued that this first
    interpretation is uncontroversial: some, and perhaps many, components of moral
    psychology evolved. At the same time, hypotheses about the evolution of specific
    components are difficult to establish, in part because some traits that might
    seem to be good candidates for having evolved may, on further examination, turn
    out to be poor candidates. Looking for homologues of the components of moral
    psychology requires careful attention to a range of data from multiple fields of
    scientific inquiry to ensure that there are no strong reasons to doubt that these
    components evolved. Cultural psychology and anthropology are needed to
    establish that this trait is not culturally local while developmental psychology is
    needed to show that it is not acquired by means of a domain‐general learning
    mechanism. In this section, we illustrated this difficulty by discussing Brosnan
    and de Waal’s claim to have found a homologue of the human fairness norm
    about windfall gains.

    As noted in the introduction, the claim that morality evolved is often supposed to
    have far‐reaching implications in moral philosophy, but little attention has been
    dedicated to examining whether and in which sense morality evolved. Now, we
    have just argued that, under at least one interpretation, it is uncontroversial that
    it did: some components of moral cognition evolved. So, one might ask, what
    follows from the evolution of morality in this sense? As we shall now see, very
    little.

    It is important to distinguish three strategies for answering this question. First,
    one might ask whether anything of interest in moral philosophy follows from the
    claim that some components of moral cognition evolved. We believe that the
    answer is probably negative since we do not see how the argument would go,
    and indeed we know of no philosopher who argued to significant philosophical
    conclusion from this premise. Second, one might attempt to derive moral
    conclusions from the evolution of specific components of moral cognition. For
    instance, D’Arms (ms) argues that research on the evolution (p.11) of “self‐
    righteous anger”—the anger directed at people who are not angered by others’
    moral violations—has moral consequences. Arguments of this kind can take one
    of the following two forms. First, one could propose to derive moral norms about
    dispositions to act, character traits, etc. from facts about the functions of these
    dispositions and character traits.11 For instance, Casebeer contends that “moral
    facts are reducible to functional facts” (2003b: 67). Although we do not have the

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    space to discuss this first kind of argument at length, we are not sanguine about
    it. Although some normative propositions might be reducible to functional
    propositions—e.g. the claim that an organ is working as it should might be
    reducible to the claim that it fulfilled its function—we doubt that this can be
    done from moral propositions without falling prey to some version of the open
    question argument (see Joyce, 2006 for further criticism of Casebeer). The
    second type of argument is illustrated by D’Arms’s discussion of the normative
    consequences of the evolution of self‐righteous anger. D’Arms correctly notes
    that research on the evolution of a morally relevant trait can improve our
    knowledge about what this trait is or what it does. For instance, research on the
    evolution of self‐righteous anger improves our understanding of the effect of
    self‐righteous anger on the social stability of norms. And what a trait is or does
    is surely relevant to whether one should morally have this trait. Although this
    kind of argument is the most promising way of deriving moral consequences
    from some evolutionary findings about a specific component of morality, it is
    noteworthy that these consequences are not derived from the fact that this
    component evolved, but rather from what it is or what it does. So, just like the
    two strategies discussed above, this argumentative strategy does not establish
    that moral consequences follow from the evolution of the components of moral
    cognition.

  • 2. The Evolution of Normative Cognition
  • We now turn to the second interpretation of the claim that morality evolved.
    Researchers interested in this second interpretation focus on normative
    cognition in general: they contend that normative cognition evolved (and often,
    that it is an adaptation). In this section, we explain this claim in more detail, and
    we argue that there is a small, but suggestive, body of evidence that normative
    cognition is an adaptation. (p.12)

    2.1. Normative Cognition

    Although the nature of norms is a controversial topic in the social sciences (e.g.
    McAdams, 1997), we offer an informal account that should be acceptable to
    many social scientists. As we shall understand them, norms are attitudes toward
    types of actions, emotions, thoughts, or other traits. These norms are typically
    shared by many members of a given group and regulate people’s behaviors,
    thoughts, emotions, characters, and so on. Their content essentially involves
    deontic concepts, such as SHOULD or OUGHT. Such norms can prescribe or
    forbid a thought, behavior, or any other characteristic, and may be associated
    with a disposition to punish those individuals who do not comply with the norms.

    Normative cognition is underwritten by a complex cognitive architecture. People
    learn and assimilate, explicitly and implicitly, numerous norms; they are
    motivated to comply with them; and they typically expect others to comply with
    them. Emotions are also a key component of this cognitive architecture. Several
    negative emotions are triggered by norm violations (Haidt, 2003; Fessler &

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    Haley, 2003). Norm violators are likely to feel shame or guilt (depending on
    which emotion is emphasized in their culture).12 Victims of norm violations and
    third parties are likely to feel anger or disgust toward norm violators. These
    emotions motivate behavior: the anticipation of feeling ashamed and guilty
    motivates avoiding the violation of norms, shame and guilt motivate reparative
    behavior, and anger motivates punishment (e.g. Fehr & Gächter, 2002; Haidt &
    Sabini, 2000). Disgust causes third parties to distance themselves from norm
    violators, which results in the loss of cooperative opportunities for the norm
    violators. Anticipatory fear of shame or guilt often motivates norm compliance
    (Fessler, 2007).13 In addition to these negative emotions, positive emotions are
    caused by norm compliance. People feel elevation when others endure some cost
    to comply with certain norms (Haidt, 2003).

    It is remarkable, however, there has been little systematic work on human
    normative cognition. One exception is Chandra Sripada and Stephen Stich’s
    (2006) article. Sripada and Stich argue for the existence of two cognitive
    systems subserving the psychology of norms: an acquisition mechanism and an
    implementation mechanism. The function of the acquisition mechanism is to
    learn the norms that are prevalent in one’s culture, while the function (p.13) of
    the implementation mechanism is to store representations of these norms, to
    produce some intrinsic desires to comply with them, and to motivate people to
    punish norm violators. While their hypothesis is consistent with the existence of
    innate representations of norms, Sripada and Stich speculate that the
    implementation mechanism does not store any innate representation of norms.
    Rather, children, and sometimes adults, need to learn the prevalent norms of
    their social community.

    2.2. How to Study the Evolution of Normative Cognition?

    Many researchers’ work on the evolution of morality is best understood as being
    about the evolution of normative cognition in general, since they do not single
    out a specific kind of norms (i.e. moral norms).14

    Before going any further, it is worth noting that there are many ways to
    investigate the evolution of a trait. It is particularly useful to distinguish two
    related claims. To claim that a trait evolved is simply to claim that the trait has a
    phylogenetic history, and one project would be to inquire into this history.15 That
    is, one can study what changes took place in the psychology of our primate
    ancestors during the evolution of normative cognition (just as one can study the
    evolution of the human eye by identifying the changes that took place during the
    evolution of the mammalian eye). A stronger claim is that normative cognition
    constitutes an adaptation. An adaptation is a specific sort of evolved trait—i.e. a
    trait whose evolution is the result of natural selection. Since not all products of
    evolution are adaptations, someone who conjectures that normative cognition is
    an evolved trait can also examine whether it is an adaptation, the by‐product of
    another adaptation, or an evolutionary accident. In addition, if one proposes that

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    normative cognition is an adaptation, one should consider what its evolutionary
    function might be—that is, what selective forces might have driven its evolution.

    2.3. Evidence that Normative Cognition is an Adaptation

    Sociological and psychological evidence suggests that normative cognition is an
    adaptation. We consider these two types of evidence in turn (for further
    evidence, see Cummins, 1996b).

    Norms, either informal or formal, are ancient: the historical record has no trace
    of a society without norms. Furthermore, norms are universal (although (p.14)
    the content of norms varies tremendously across cultures). Small‐scale societies
    are typically regulated by informal norms, while large‐scale societies are
    typically regulated by informal and formal norms. All known societies also have
    policing mechanisms that ensure people’s compliance with the prevalent norms
    (Brown, 1991). These policing mechanisms naturally vary across cultures. In
    some societies, but not in all, policing is the socially sanctioned role of a
    dedicated group of individuals (e.g. policemen, Iran’s “moral” police [a branch of
    the Islamic Revolutionary Guard], etc.). In addition, in all societies, informal
    social practices contribute to ensure people’s compliance with the prevalent
    norms (Boehm, 1999). These include gossip (Dunbar, 1996) and various forms of
    ostracism (Brown, 1991). Finally, as noted by Sripada and Stich (2006), norms
    permeate people’s life: few behaviors and decisions are immune to the influence
    of some norm or other.

    The antiquity and universality of norms is evidence that normative cognition
    evolved. When a trait is ancient and universal, it is either because it can be
    easily acquired by individual learning or by social learning, or because a
    developmental system is designed to ensure its regular development. In the
    latter case, but not in the former case, the universality and antiquity of a trait is
    evidence that it evolved. Ancient and universal traits that are not evolved, such
    as the belief that the sun rises every morning, are easy to acquire from one’s
    physical and social environment (Dennett, 1995). Since it is difficult to see how
    one could acquire the capacity for normative attitudes toward thoughts,
    behaviors, and other traits—i.e. a capacity for norms—from one’s environment
    (in contrast to acquiring specific norms, which can obviously be learned), it is
    plausible that normative cognition evolved.

    Turning from sociological to psychological considerations, evidence suggests
    that people are endowed with a reasoning capacity that is specific to the domain
    of norms. While people reason poorly about non normative matters, they are
    adept at reasoning about normative matters (for review, see Cosmides & Tooby,
    2005). Both Western and non‐literate Shuar Amazonian subjects easily
    determine in which situations deontic conditionals, such as “If you eat
    mongongo nut (described as an aphrodisiac in the cover story), then you must
    have a tattoo on your chest” (described as a mark denoting married status), are

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    violated, while they are surprisingly poor at determining in which situations
    indicative conditionals, such as (“If there is a red bird in the drawing on top,
    then there is an orange on the drawing below”), are false (Cosmides, 1989;
    Sugiyama, Tooby, & Cosmides, 2002). Although the interpretation of these
    findings remains somewhat controversial (e.g. Sperber, Cara, & Girotto, 1995),
    they suggest to us that people are distinctively adept at detecting norm
    violation. (p.15)

    Furthermore, just like adults, young children are much better at reasoning about
    the violations of deontic conditionals than about the falsity of indicative
    conditionals (Cummins, 1996a; Harris & Núñez, 1996). For instance, Cummins
    (1996a) showed 3‐year‐old children some toy mice and told them that some, but
    not all, could squeak. She also told them that some squeaky mice were inside the
    house, while others were outside. Finally, she told children that a cat was
    hunting mice outside the house, but only when they squeaked. Half of the
    children were told that Queen Minnie Mouse had told the mice, “It’s not safe
    outside for the squeaky mouse, so all squeaky mice are in the house.” Those
    children were then asked to say which mice must be examined to see whether
    Minnie Mouse was right. The other half was told that Queen Minnie Mouse had
    told the mice, “It’s not safe outside for the squeaky mouse, so all squeaky mice
    must stay in the house.” Those children were then asked to say which mice must
    be examined to see whether Minnie Mouse’s rule has been broken. While almost
    65% of 3‐year‐olds answered correctly the second question, only 30% of them
    answered correctly the first question. These findings suggest that the capacity to
    reason about norms develops early (as early as children’s fourth year) and in a
    distinctive manner (since it seems independent from children’s capacity to
    reason about conditionals in general).

    The existence of a cognitive system that seems dedicated specifically to produce
    good reasoning about norms from an early age on provides some suggestive
    evidence that normative cognition is an adaptation.16 Generally, the functional
    specificity of a trait is (defeasible) evidence that it is an adaptation.
    Furthermore, the fact that a trait develops early and that its development is
    distinctive—it is independent from the development of other traits—suggests
    that natural selection acted on its developmental pathway. The early
    development of a psychological trait suggests that it is not acquired as a result
    of our domain‐general learning capacity; the distinctive development of a
    psychological trait suggests that it is not acquired as a by‐product of the
    acquisition of another psychological capacity (for further discussion, see
    Machery, forthcoming). Thus, evidence tentatively suggests not only that
    normative cognition is an evolved trait, but also that it is an adaptation.

    The findings just considered provide suggestive (though inconclusive) evidence
    that normative cognition is an adaptation. It is instructive to anticipate (p.16)
    Section 3 and to compare these findings with the body of evidence typically

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    adduced to support the claim that moral cognition, conceived as a specific kind
    of normative cognition, evolved. While researchers often claim that moral
    cognition, conceived as a specific kind of normative cognition, is universal, we
    shall argue in the next section that the evidence for this claim is lacking. By
    contrast, the evidence for the antiquity and universality of norms is extremely
    solid. We shall also challenge the claim that a key component of moral cognition
    —i.e. grasping the distinction between properly moral norms and conventional
    norms—develops early and reliably. By contrast, although the research on adults’
    and children’s capacity to reason with deontic conditionals is not entirely
    uncontroversial, it is on safer ground. In this case, psychologists have indeed
    typically not challenged the claim that people reason better with deontic
    conditionals than with indicative conditions; rather, they have focused on how
    this difference is to be explained.

    2.4. “How‐Possible” Models of the Selection of Normative Cognition

    In addition to this small, but suggestive, body of evidence that normative
    cognition in general is an adaptation, several models show how normative
    cognition could have been selected for during the evolution of hominids.17 These
    “how‐possible” models (Brandon, 1990) do not establish how normative
    cognition actually evolved: evidence is lacking to answer this question. But these
    models show, first, that the hypothesis that normative cognition was selected for
    is consistent with our knowledge of evolution; second, the selection of normative
    cognition in evolutionary models is robust: in several possible evolutionary
    situations—those represented by the how‐possible models—normative cognition
    would have been selected for.18

    Since the 1980s, Robert Boyd, Peter Richerson, and their colleagues have
    developed a series of models explaining how norms can be stable in a
    community. Here, we present two of their models informally. In a well‐known
    model, Boyd and Richerson (1992) have shown that punishment (actions
    inflicting a cost on norm violators) can stabilize any norm, including norms that
    prescribe costly behaviors such as cooperation. Suppose for an instant that
    punishment is cost‐free—the punisher does not endure any cost when she
    punishes. By violating a norm, norm violators might get some (p.17) benefit or
    might avoid some cost, when norm compliance is costly. However, because they
    are punished, violators suffer a cost and do less well than those who comply with
    norms, but avoid punishing (“lazy norm compliers”) and those who comply with
    norms and enforce them (“punishers”). If successful behaviors tend to become
    common in a population (maybe because they are imitated by others), then
    compliance with norms will prevail. Thus punishment can stabilize norms.
    Importantly, in this model, norm compliance does not depend on the content of
    the norms, only on the punishment of norm violators. Thus different norms might
    be stabilized in different societies, consistent with the diversity of norms across
    cultures.

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    But, of course, punishment is not cost‐free, although, in humans, it might be low‐
    cost because of the development of weapons and of language (which allows
    people to hurt others by gossiping negatively about them). Because punishment
    is not cost‐free, lazy norm compliers do better than punishers. Thus compliance
    without punishment might become more common in a population at the expense
    of compliance with punishment (Boyd & Richerson, 1992). However, if lazy norm
    compliers become more common, norm violators will in turn increase in
    frequency, because they will be less often punished. This will prevent the
    stabilization of norms. How, then, is norm compliance obtained?

    This problem has been addressed in various ways. One could first suggest that
    punishment itself is a norm, and that lazy norm compliers get punished when
    they fail to punish norm violators, a type of punishment called
    “metapunishment” or “second‐order punishment” (Boyd & Richerson, 1992).
    However, this suggestion only pushes the problem one step further, because
    metapunishment is itself costly.

    Henrich and Boyd (2001) have proposed an alternative solution (for a different
    model, see Boyd et al., 2003). In their model, behaviors are transmitted
    culturally, but biased by conformism and prestige. Conformist bias means that
    common behaviors are more likely to be transmitted than rare behaviors, while
    prestige bias means that high‐payoff behaviors are more likely to be transmitted
    than low‐payoff behaviors. Conformism favors the cultural transmission of the
    prevalent behaviors, whatever these are, while prestige‐biased transmission can
    undermine norm compliance, punishment, and metapunishment, because these
    can be costly. Suppose now that, in a population, everybody complies with the
    norms, but fails to punish norm violators (everybody is a lazy norm complier). An
    intruder who fails to comply with the norms (a norm violator) would be better off
    than these lazy norm compliers, and prestige bias would tend to lead others to
    become norm violators, providing that this bias was stronger than the
    countervailing bias to conform with the more common (p.18) compliant
    behavior. So, where conformism is weak, norm violation will become common.

    Consider now a second case. Everybody complies with the norms and punishes
    violators (everybody is a punisher). An intruder norm violator would not be
    better off than the common punishers, because she would be punished. But an
    intruder lazy norm complier would be better off than the common punishers,
    since she would not get punished (since she complies with the norms) and would
    avoid the cost of punishing others. By contrast, punishers would pay the cost of
    punishing the other punishers who would fail by mistake to comply with the
    prevalent norms. The extent of a lazy norm complier’s advantage over the
    punishers depends on how costly it is to punish and on how often punishers fail
    to comply by accident with the prevalent norms.19 If this advantage is large
    enough to offset the advantage conformism gives to punishers’ common behavior
    (that is, to offset the fact that due to people’s conformism, common behaviors

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    are more likely to be imitated by others than rare behavior), compliance with the
    norms without punishing would become common. If lazy norm compliers replace
    the punishers in a population, the norm violators will ultimately invade this
    population.

    Now, consider a third case. Everybody complies with norms, punishes violators,
    and punishes non‐punishers (everybody is a metapunisher). An intruder lazy
    norm complier would not be better off than the common metapunishers, because
    she would be punished for non‐punishing the metapunishers’ accidental norm
    violations. But an intruder who would comply with the prevalent norms, punish
    violators, but fail to punish those who fail to punish (a lazy punisher) would be
    better off than the common metapunishers because she would not be punished
    (she complies with the norms) and because she would avoid the cost of
    punishing the failure to punish. By contrast, metapunishers would pay the cost
    of punishing those metapunishers who would fail by mistake to punish the
    metapunishers who by mistake violate a norm. However, the advantage of a lazy
    punisher over the metapunishers is smaller than the advantage of a lazy norm
    complier over the punishers, for the former advantage depends on two mistakes,
    i.e. a metapunisher failing by accident to comply with a prevalent norm and
    another metapunisher failing by accident to punish the accidental non‐
    compliance. The lazy punisher’s advantage is thus less likely to offset the
    advantage conformism gives to the common metapunishing behavior. Of course,
    the same argument applies at further orders of punishment. Thus, even if
    conformism is weak, it can stabilize punishment at some order (p.19) of
    punishment. If punishment is stable, then norm compliance is itself stable. Thus
    Henrich and Boyd show that with a small amount of conformism that stabilizes
    metapunishment (or some higher‐order punishment), costly norm compliance is
    stable: compliance with the prevalent norms, even at one’s own cost, is more
    likely to be culturally transmitted than non‐compliance with these norms.

    Now, suppose that, as this and other models suggest is possible, cultural
    transmission stabilized norms during human evolution. Because norm violators
    were punished for violating the prevalent norms and because lazy norm
    compliers were punished for not punishing norm violators, both norm violators
    and lazy norm compliers incurred costs that punishers (who comply with the
    norms and punish) did not incur. Our ancestors who were good at learning the
    prevalent norms and who were motivated to comply with them and to punish
    norm violators might thus have had a fitness advantage over people who learned
    badly the prevalent norms or had a weak (if any) motivation to comply with
    them. Thus natural selection might have favored some important elements of the
    architecture of normative cognition—a disposition to learn prevalent norms, a
    disposition to comply with norms, and a disposition to punish norm violators.

    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    2.4. Summary: The Evolution of Normativity

    In this section, we have focused on a second interpretation of the claim that
    morality evolved: normative cognition—the capacity to grasp and apply norms—
    evolved. A small body of evidence suggests that normative cognition evolved by
    natural selection. Furthermore, several how‐possible models show how
    normative cognition could have been selected for during the evolution of the
    human species.

    Importantly, this conclusion is cold comfort to those philosophers who want to
    get some philosophical mileage out of evolutionary findings. This is particularly
    clear when one focuses on the argument that the evolution of morality would
    undermine the authority of moral norms (e.g. Ruse, 1986; Joyce, 2006). Suppose
    that this argument from the evolution of morality is meant to hang on the
    reading of the claim that morality evolved considered in this section: normative
    cognition in general evolved. While this argument would then rest on a premise
    that is supported by a small, but convincing body of evidence, it would have very
    troubling consequences. If the evolution of normative cognition really
    undermines the authority of moral norms, then it should also undermine the
    authority of any kind of norms (including epistemic norms), for there is no
    reason why only the authority of moral norms would be undermined by the
    evolution of the capacity to grasp norms tout court. (p.20) The unpalatable
    nature of this conclusion would plausibly give grounds for concluding that the
    argument from the evolution of morality is flawed. The upshot should be clear: if
    the claim that the evolution of morality undermines the authority of morality is
    to be plausible at all, it has to be based on an interpretation of the claim that
    morality evolved different from the one considered in this section. In our view, it
    is no accident that when philosophers have attempted to derive philosophical
    implications from the hypothesis that morality evolved, they have typically
    focused on a third reading of this hypothesis. We now turn to this reading.

  • 3. The Evolution of Moral Normativity
  • 3.1. The Project

    Researchers who endorse the third version of the claim that morality evolved
    start by drawing a distinction among different types of normative cognition and
    by singling out one specific type of normative cognition, which they call
    “morality.” They then proceed to argue for the evolution of this type of normative
    cognition. Consider each step of this project.

    3.1.1. Morality as a Type of Normativity

    As we saw in Section 2, normative cognition includes the capacity to grasp
    norms, to make normative judgments, and to be motivated to act according to
    the norms that one endorses.20 Norms have to do with the regulation of people’s
    actions, emotions, thoughts, or other traits. They specify what kinds of
    behaviors, emotions, thoughts, or other characteristics are mandatory,
    permissible, or recommended.21 In turn, normative judgments consist in judging

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    that behaviors, emotions, and thoughts (one’s own or others’) are
    unconditionally mandatory, permissible, or recommended.22

    Turn now to the claim that moral cognition is a distinctive type of normative
    cognition. The basic idea is that moral norms are a distinct type of (p.21) norm
    and that related entities like moral judgments, moral motivations, and moral
    behaviors and thoughts are similarly distinct. For the sake of simplicity, we focus
    our discussion here especially on norms and normative judgments. There are
    many kinds of normative judgments, and moral judgments are only one of them.
    Other kinds of normative judgments might include judgments about what is
    rational (e.g. “you shouldn’t believe that, given what else you believe”),
    aesthetically appropriate (“one should never wear green pants with a yellow
    shirt”), prudent (“if you want to live a long life, you should wear your seatbelt”),
    and conventionally expected (“if you are satisfied with the service, the tip should
    be at least 20%”). The first interpretation of the claim that morality is the
    product of evolution rests on the idea that moral judgments provide a distinctive
    means of regulating or evaluating actions, emotions, intentions, or character.

    Richard Joyce’s (2006) book The Evolution of Morality provides a particularly
    clear illustration of the kind of research considered here (see also Ruse, 1986;
    D’Arms, 2000; Joyce, 2008a, b). Focusing on moral judgments, he proposes that
    seven properties distinguish moral judgments and moral behaviors from other
    kinds of normative judgments:

    • Moral judgments (as public utterances) are often ways of
    expressing conative attitudes, such as approval, contempt, or, more
    generally, subscription to standards; moral judgments nevertheless
    also express beliefs; i.e., they are assertions.
    • Moral judgments pertaining to action purport to be deliberative
    considerations irrespective of the interests/ends of those to whom
    they are directed; thus they are not pieces of prudential advice.
    • Moral judgments purport to be inescapable; there is no “opting
    out.”
    • Moral judgments purport to transcend human conventions.
    • Moral judgments centrally govern interpersonal relations; they
    seem designed to combat rampant individualism in particular.
    • Moral judgments imply notions of desert and justice (a system of
    “punishments and rewards”).
    • For creatures like us, the emotion of guilt (or “a moral conscience”)
    is an important mechanism for regulating one’s moral conduct. (2006:
    70–71)

    He adds that “so long as a kind of value system satisfies enough of the above, then it
    counts as a moral system” (71).

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    While Joyce clearly intends his list to function not as a checklist of necessary and
    sufficient conditions, but rather as something like a cluster concept, it is worth
    emphasizing that his claim is substantive and provocative precisely because of
    the rich characterization of moral judgments that he offers. That is, (p.22)
    according to his account, moral judgments have many distinctive properties that
    differentiate them from other sorts of normative judgments. In expressing
    skepticism about whether the capacity to make moral judgments is a product of
    evolution, we mean specifically to doubt Joyce’s view and others like it. We do
    not doubt that there exists some thin description of the class of moral judgments
    that could be offered such that, under this description, the capacity to make
    moral judgments would be the product of evolution.23 We deny the claim that
    when moral judgments are richly described, the capacity to make them is a
    product of evolution.

    3.1.2. Morality as an Evolved Trait

    After characterizing distinctively moral cognition—for example, after
    characterizing moral norms as a distinct kind of norm or moral judgments as a
    distinct kind of normative judgment—researchers conjecture that such
    distinctively moral cognition is an evolved trait. Remember that in Section 2 we
    distinguished two related ways of studying the evolution of a trait. One could
    simply claim that morality, as a specific kind of normative cognition, evolved.
    One would then study what changes took place in the psychology of our primate
    ancestors during the evolution of the grasp of distinctively moral norms and of
    the capacity to make moral judgments. Since, as noted in Section 2.2, not all
    products of evolution are adaptations, someone who conjectures that the
    capacity to grasp moral norms and the capacity to make moral judgments are
    evolved traits can also examine whether they constitute an adaptation (as
    Dennett, 1995, Kitcher, 1998, and Joyce, 2006 have claimed), whether it is a by‐
    product of another adaptation, or whether it is an evolutionary accident
    (Williams, 1988). In addition, if one proposes that the grasp of moral norms and
    the capacity to make moral judgments constitute an adaptation, one should
    consider what its evolutionary function might be—that is, what selective forces
    might have driven its evolution.

    Joyce, for example, suggests that the capacity to make moral judgments is a
    specifically human adaptation for motivating us to act in a prosocial way. In
    essence, moral judgments provided our ancestors with compelling reasons to act
    in ways that typically favor others and that can be detrimental to themselves
    (see also Dennett, 1995). As a result, moral judgments reliably caused prosocial
    behavior. Moreover, loosely following Robert Frank (1988), Joyce contends that
    because moral judgments can be linguistically expressed, they signal to (p.23)
    others that we are committed to act in a prosocial way. The capacity to make
    moral judgments was favored by natural selection because reliable prosocial
    behavior and the signaling of one’s dispositions to act in a prosocial way were

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    favored during the evolution of the human species, possibly because prosocial
    behaviors were reciprocated.

    Joyce is not the only researcher to claim that the capacity to make moral
    judgments, understood as a distinct type of normative judgment, is an
    adaptation. In Moral Minds, Marc Hauser (2006) contends that, like the
    language faculty, the moral faculty is a distinct psychological adaptation,
    although he has little to say about its evolutionary function (2006: xvii):

    The central idea of this book is simple: we evolved a moral instinct, a
    capacity that naturally grows within each child, designed to generate rapid
    judgments about what is morally right or wrong based on an unconscious
    grammar of action.24

    In contrast to these projects, we see little reason to believe that the grasp of
    distinctively moral norms and the capacity to make moral judgments, understood as a
    specific kind of normative judgments, evolved at all, and so we doubt that they
    constitute an adaptation, a by‐product, or an evolutionary accident. We conjecture that
    in this respect, the capacity to grasp moral norms and the capacity to make moral
    judgments might be similar to chess or handwriting. The capacities to play chess and
    to write involve various evolved cognitive traits (e.g. visual recognition and
    memorization of rules for the former), but they did not evolve. Similarly, we conjecture
    that the capacity to grasp moral norms and the capacity to make moral judgments
    involve various evolved cognitive traits (including, as we proposed in Section 2, a
    disposition to grasp norms in general), but they themselves did not evolve. In any case,
    as we shall argue now, none of the available evidence suggests that they did.
    In the remainder of Section 3, we look critically at two different forms of
    argument for the claim that moral cognition evolved:

    (1) There are plausible adaptationist models that predict its selection.
    Thus the grasp of moral norms and the capacity to make moral judgments
    are likely to be an adaptation and, a fortiori, to have evolved.
    (2) The universality and innateness of the capacity to grasp moral norms
    and to make moral judgments is evidence that it is an evolved trait.

    (p.24)
    3.2. Adaptationist Models of the Evolution of Morality

    It is common to argue that a trait is an adaptation by showing that there are
    plausible adaptationist models that predict the selection of this trait. For
    instance, some sociobiologists have provided this kind of argument in support of
    the hypothesis that female orgasm is an adaptation: they have argued this
    because it is plausible that, among our ancestors, those females who were able
    to have orgasms were more motivated to have sex and, as a result, were more
    likely to have descendants than those females who had no orgasm (for review
    and criticism, see Lloyd, 2005). This kind of argument has been severely
    criticized in the philosophy of biology because it involves telling just‐so stories
    that cannot be supported by any available evidence (Gould & Lewontin, 1979;

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    Figure 1.1. Reciprocal altruism

    Note: c and c′ stand for the costs of the
    altruistic actions for the agents A and B, b
    and b′ for the benefits bestowed upon the
    beneficiaries of the actions, A and B (c < b′, b > c′), and t and t′ for the times of the
    actions.

    Kitcher, 1985).25 Here, we do not discuss the value of this kind of argument in
    general. Rather, we criticize specific adaptationist models of the evolution of
    morality. We argue that these models do not support the claim that moral
    cognition, conceived as a distinct kind of normative cognition, was selected for.
    We first consider models that appeal to reciprocal altruism, then we consider
    models that are based on indirect reciprocity, before finally raising a general
    problem for all current adaptationist models of the evolution of morality.

    Many adaptationist models of the evolution of morality appeal to a specific
    evolutionary mechanism, reciprocal altruism (Figure 1.1). The notion of
    reciprocal altruism was developed by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers as a
    possible explanation of altruistic behavior among non‐related organisms
    (Trivers, 1971).26 The idea goes roughly as follows: a gene G for an altruistic
    trait T is favored by natural selection if T benefits discriminatively recipients
    who are likely to reciprocate in the future. Reciprocation is delayed and may be
    of a different kind (as happens, e.g., when chimps exchange grooming for
    political support, a phenomenon reported in Foster et al., 2009). To use a toy
    example, a gene G for sharing food is favored by natural selection if the bearer
    of G shares food with individuals that are likely, at some point in the future, to
    reciprocate by acting in a way that increases the fitness of the bearer (p.25)

    of G. According to Triver’s model,
    three conditions have to be met
    for reciprocal altruism to explain
    the evolution of altruism. First, for
    the two individuals involved in a
    reciprocal interaction, the cost of
    being altruistic (in units of fitness)
    must be lower than the benefit
    received from the reciprocator’s
    altruism. The cost of sharing food
    for the bearer of G must be lower
    than the benefit taken from the
    reciprocation at a later time.
    Second, the benefit of altruism
    must be withheld from those
    individuals who did not
    reciprocate in the past—usually
    called “cheaters.” The bearer of G
    should refrain from sharing food with those individuals who did not reciprocate in the
    past. Third, individuals must interact repeatedly, so that the cost to cheaters of
    foregone protracted reciprocal interactions (in units of fitness) is greater than the
    benefit cheaters take from non‐reciprocating. The bearer of G must share food with
    individuals with whom she is likely to interact often, so that not benefiting from food
    sharing over a long period of time is more costly than avoiding the cost of
    reciprocating a past benefit.

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    It is likely that reciprocal altruism fails to explain a range of human altruistic
    behaviors. As we saw, Trivers’s idea is that if interactions between two
    individuals last for long enough, traits that benefit discriminatively those
    individuals that are likely to reciprocate will be favored by natural selection.
    This hypothesis fails to explain why people are disposed to benefit individuals
    with whom they will probably have no further interaction. For instance, people
    regularly tip waiters while on vacations, even though they will have no further
    interactions with them.

    To explain away this difficulty, one might suggest that our ancestors lived in
    close‐knit societies, where interactions were typically repeated. As a result, we
    evolved cooperative dispositions that do not distinguish between interactions
    that are likely and interactions that are unlikely to be repeated. In substance, we
    evolved to treat every interaction as if it was likely to be repeated (e.g. Johnson,
    Stopka, & Knights, 2003). This reply won’t do, however (Fehr & (p.26) Henrich,
    2003). Anecdotal reports and experimental evidence in behavioral economics
    show that people effortlessly distinguish between interactions that are unlikely
    to be repeated and long‐term cooperative situations, and that they behave
    differently in these two types of situations. For instance, in experimental
    contexts, people tend to be less generous and helpful in the first type of
    situations than in the later type of situations (e.g. Gächter & Falk, 2002). Thus it
    does not seem to be the case that we behave cooperatively in some non‐repeated
    interactions (e.g. when we tip strangers) because we evolved to treat every
    interaction as if it is likely to be repeated.27

    Moreover, it is unclear whether our ancestors really lived in small and close‐knit
    communities. Reciprocal altruism can explain the selection of altruistic
    behaviors only if our ancestors were able to discriminate between those
    individuals who failed to reciprocate altruistic acts (“cheaters”) and those who
    did reciprocate, that is, only if they were able to remember who did what. The
    larger the group in which our ancestors belonged and the more fluid
    membership in residential units was,28 the less likely it is that this condition was
    met. Paleoanthropological evidence suggests that at least for the last 50,000
    years, our ancestors have lived in large groups of several thousands of members
    —too large for them to have been able to remember who did what (see
    Richerson & Boyd, 1998, 1999 for a detailed review of the evidence).
    Furthermore, as Richerson and Boyd write (1999: 254), “Foraging societies are
    simple by comparison with modern societies, but even the simplest
    contemporary hunting and gathering peoples, like !Kung San and the peoples of
    Central Australia, link residential units of a few tens of people to create societies
    of a few hundred to a few thousand people.” Migrations and long‐distance
    economic exchanges have also characterized the life of our ancestors for maybe
    several hundreds of thousands of years (McBrearty & Brooks, 2000). Finally, in

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    Figure 1.2. Indirect reciprocity

    Note: c and c′ stand for the costs of the
    altruistic actions for the agents A and D,
    b and b′ for the benefits bestowed upon
    the beneficiaries of the actions, B and A
    (c < b′), and t and t′ for the times of the actions.

    many modern hunter‐gatherer societies, membership in residential units is fluid
    (see, e.g., Hill, 2003 on the Ache; Smith, 2004 on the Hadza).

    Clearly, these findings do not establish beyond doubt that reciprocal altruism
    could not explain the evolution of altruism. Morality could have evolved before
    our ancestors lived in large and fluid groups. Furthermore, even if our ancestors
    lived in large and fluid groups, they might have interacted altruistically only with
    a small number of group members. Nonetheless, the body of evidence about the
    size and fluidity of the social groups that have been common during (p.27)

    part of the evolution of our species
    casts at least some doubt on the
    importance of reciprocal altruism
    for understanding the evolution of
    altruism.
    A better reply to the charge that
    reciprocal altruism fails to
    explain a range of human
    altruistic behaviors consists in
    extending the notion of
    reciprocal altruism.
    Evolutionary biologist Richard
    Alexander (1987) has done
    precisely this with the notion of
    indirect reciprocity.29 Roughly,
    the idea is that a trait that
    benefits another individual will
    be favored by natural selection
    if the possession of this trait
    increases the probability of
    benefiting from the altruism of
    a third party. One way to characterize indirect reciprocity is in terms of
    reputation. The possessor of the altruistic trait increases her reputation and
    people with a good reputation are the target of others’ altruism (see Figure 1.2).

    Prominent researchers, including Trivers himself, have proposed that while
    originally developed to explain altruism in a large range of species (including
    some species of fish), reciprocal altruism and indirect reciprocity also explain
    the evolution of morality in humans. Alexander puts it succinctly (1987: 77):
    “Moral systems are systems of indirect reciprocity.”30 ,31 (p.28)

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    Figure 1.3. Public goods

    Note: c stands for the cost of the
    altruistic action for the agent A, b for the
    benefit bestowed upon the beneficiaries
    of the actions, B and C, and t for the time
    of the action.

    In spite of its impressive
    pedigree, the hypothesis that
    reciprocal altruism or indirect
    reciprocity selected for moral
    cognition, as a distinct kind of
    normative cognition, faces
    serious challenges. Following
    Sripada (2005), we highlight
    three shortcomings of this
    hypothesis. First, reciprocal
    altruism and indirect reciprocity
    are supposed to explain the
    evolution of behaviors in
    pairwise interactions, while
    moral behavior does not always
    take place in the context of
    pairwise interactions. For
    instance, morally sanctioned altruistic behaviors often benefit a large number of
    people, as is illustrated by the sacrifice of soldiers for their country.

    One could propose to extend Trivers’s reciprocal altruism to interactions that do
    not take place in pairs. This kind of situation is typically modeled by means of a
    public‐goods game (aka, n‐person prisoner’s dilemma) (Figure 1.3).

    Thus one could examine whether a trait that benefits the other members of the
    group conditional on the altruism of all the other members (or of a specific
    proportion of these group members) could be favored by natural selection, if
    interactions between the members of this group lasted long enough.32 However,
    Boyd and Richerson (1988) have shown that natural selection is unlikely to favor
    this kind of trait (for critical discussion, see Johnson, Price, & Takezawa, 2008).
    Their model presents a dilemma. On the one hand, if altruists were to benefit
    others only when every other member of the group they belong to behaves
    altruistically, they would be unlikely to ever behave altruistically when this
    group is large and they would not reap the benefits of long‐term cooperation.
    Their fitness would then not be higher than the fitness of non‐altruists. On the
    other hand, if altruists were to behave altruistically when most (in contrast to
    all) members of their group behave altruistically, (p.29) they would then
    behave altruistically even when their group included some non‐altruists. The
    fitness of altruists would then be lower than the fitness of non‐altruists. Thus, on
    both horns of this dilemma, altruists have a lower fitness than non‐altruists.
    Consequently, reciprocal altruism cannot explain the evolution of altruism in
    large groups.

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    Second, reciprocal altruism and indirect reciprocity are designed to explain the
    evolution of altruism (in a biological sense: acting in a way that increases others’
    fitness) while many moral norms have little to do with altruism because they do
    not regulate social interactions. For example, there are various apparently moral
    prohibitions against eating particular types of food. But it is very unclear how
    one can extend these two evolutionary mechanisms to account for the evolution
    of moral norms—like food taboos—that are not related to altruism.33

    Third, neither reciprocal altruism nor indirect reciprocity can account for the
    link between morality and punishment. If reciprocal altruism or indirect
    reciprocity really explained the evolution of morality, people would be disposed
    to exclude from cooperation agents who violate moral norms. However, when an
    agent commits morally reprehensible actions, rather than merely terminating
    cooperation with this agent, people are disposed to punish her.34 A large body of
    evidence in psychology and in behavioral economics highlights the link between
    punishment and morality. For instance, Haidt and Sabini (2000) showed subjects
    several videos of unjust actions. When asked to decide between various endings,
    subjects were more satisfied when the agent suffered for her action than when
    the victim pardoned the agent (see Fehr & Fischbacher, 2004 for consistent
    behavioral evidence).

    To summarize, because the main adaptationist models of the evolution of
    morality appeal to direct or indirect reciprocity, they seem badly tailored to
    account for three key properties of moral cognition: moral norms do not
    exclusively (nor even primarily) bear on pairwise interactions; many moral
    norms have nothing to do with altruism; and violations of norms are punished.
    (p.30) For these three reasons, we view these models with skepticism. Their
    existence provides little support to the claim that moral cognition evolved.

    3.3. Distinctive Properties of Evolved Traits

    In addition to providing adaptationist models, it is also common to argue for the
    evolution of a trait by showing that this trait possesses some properties that are
    distinctive either of evolved traits or of adaptations. Here we focus successively
    on three alleged properties: moral norms are a cultural universal; complex moral
    norms are acquired in spite of impoverished stimuli; and very young children
    reason about norms and have harm‐related emotions.

    3.3.1. Universality of Moral Norms

    It is often said that there is no culture without a system of moral norms. Joyce
    writes (2006: 134): “[m]orality (by which I mean the tendency to make moral
    judgments) exists in all human societies we have ever heard of.” Similarly,
    Hauser contends that “[t]he principles [of the moral faculty] constitute the
    universal moral grammar, a signature of the species” (2006: 53). And the
    universality of moral norms is taken to be evidence that it evolved.35

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    To evaluate this argument properly, it is important to keep in mind that the claim
    that morality is present in every culture is not just the assertion that one finds
    norms in every culture. Rather, it asserts that in every culture, one finds norms
    that possess the properties that distinguish moral norms from other kinds of
    norms according to the characterization used by a given evolutionary
    researcher. Thus, when Joyce asserts that morality is present in every culture, he
    is claiming that in every known culture, one finds norms that have most of the
    seven properties he uses to single out moral norms from other kinds of norms
    (see above).

    But why should we believe that moral norms are present in all known cultures?
    Researchers often bluntly assert this claim (e.g. Dwyer, 2006: 237) or illustrate it
    with ancient or exotic codes of norms. Thus Joyce refers to the norms in the
    Egyptian Book of the Dead and in the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh (2006:
    134–135). We find this casual use of the anthropological and historical literature
    problematic. The problem is not so much that these researchers have not
    examined a large number of cultures and historical periods to substantiate the
    claim that moral norms are ancient and pancultural. Rather, the problem is that
    because they fail to clearly distinguish norms from moral (p.31) norms, the
    evidence they allude to merely supports the claim that norms are universal, but
    not the much more controversial claim that moral norms are universal (see
    Stich, 2008 for a similar point).

    What anthropology and history show beyond reasonable doubt is that all known
    cultures have norms. In all cultures, some actions are prohibited while others
    are mandatory and some character traits are disvalued while others valued.
    Sanctions and rewards for behaviors and personal attributes are good
    candidates for being cultural universals. But because moral norms are conceived
    as a distinct type of norm and moral judgments as a distinct kind of normative
    judgment, the universality of norms should not be confused with the universality
    of moral norms. For a given researcher (e.g. Hauser, Dwyer or Joyce) to support
    the hypothesis that moral norms are universal thus requires far more than citing
    exotic and ancient codes. It requires him or her to show that such codes amount
    to an expression of morality, that is, to show that the norms in these codes
    possess the properties that distinguish moral norms from other kinds of norms
    according to the researcher’s rich characterization of moral norms and
    judgments. However, to our knowledge, the relevant research has not been
    done. Furthermore, the richer the characterization of moral norms and
    judgments is, the less likely it is that norms in other cultures will count as moral
    norms and thus that moral norms will be a universal.

    Let’s illustrate this point with an example. In the sixth century, the Catholic
    Church prohibited Christians from being buried with their wealth and it
    recommended (but did not require) that part of one’s wealth be given to the
    Church (Duby, 1996: 56–58). This is a clear example of a norm. But the existence

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    of this norm in Europe fifteen centuries ago provides no support whatsoever for
    the hypothesis that moral norms are universal since it is unclear whether it is a
    moral norm—that is, since it is unclear whether it possesses the properties that
    distinguish moral norms. Instead of merely noting that this norm exists, Joyce
    and other researchers would have to show that it possesses the properties that
    (for them) distinguish moral cognition from other kinds of normative cognition.
    This is a very difficult task, and it is far from obvious whether the norms found in
    other cultures possess the properties that characterize moral norms according
    to their rich characterization.36 (p.32)

    What might explain philosophers’, psychologists’, and anthropologists’ confusion
    between the universality of norms and the universality of moral norms is the fact
    that they find in various cultures and times some norms that are somewhat
    similar to the norms they themselves view as moral. For instance, many cultures
    have norms against harming others, such as prohibition against in‐group harm.
    But this fact does not show that all cultures have a system of moral norms, for,
    again, it is unclear whether these norms are moral norms in all the cultures in
    which they hold.

    3.3.2. The Moral/Conventional Distinction

    The second piece of evidence adduced to support the hypothesis that morality
    evolved relies on the research on the moral/conventional distinction by
    developmental psychologist Elliot Turiel (Dwyer, 2006: 239–242; Joyce, 2006:
    134–137; Hauser, 2006: 291).37 In substance, Turiel and colleagues argue that
    very early on, and panculturally, children distinguish two types of norms, called
    “moral norms” and “conventional norms.” Moral norms are those norms that are
    judged to hold independently from the authority of any individual or institution,
    that are judged to be universally applicable, that are justified by appeal to the
    harm done to others, to their rights, or to justice, and whose violations are
    judged to be serious. Conventional norms are those norms whose force depends
    on authority, that are judged to be only locally applicable, that are justified by
    reference to convention, and whose violations are judged to be less serious than
    the violations of moral norms.

    Joyce concludes that “[t]hese results from developmental psychology strongly
    suggest that the tendency to make moral judgments is innate” (2006: 137). The
    argument from the universality and early development of the so‐called moral/
    conventional distinction to the evolution of morality is best viewed as a poverty
    of the stimulus argument (Dwyer, 1999, 2006; Mikhail, 2000). According to this
    type of argument, developed most famously by Chomsky (1975), the fact that a
    trait, such as the capacity to speak a language, develops reliably, while the
    environmental stimuli are variable and impoverished, is evidence that this trait
    is innate (for discussion, see Cowie, 1999; Laurence & Margolis, 2001; Pullum &
    Scholz, 2002). Innateness is then often taken to be evidence that the trait under
    consideration is the product of evolution or sometimes that it is an adaptation.38

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    It is tempting to apply this form of argument (p.33) to the distinction between
    moral norms and conventional norms. Turiel and others have argued that even
    very young children grasp the distinction between moral norms and other kinds
    of norms. It is dubious whether young children could have learned this
    distinction because the evidence needed to learn is often missing and because,
    when it is not missing, it is unreliable. For instance, Dwyer notes that caregivers’
    reactions to norms violations are unlikely to distinguish the two types of norms
    because, as she puts it (2006: 240), “(s)ome parents get just as hot under the
    collar about conventional transgressions as they do about moral transgressions.”
    Furthermore, explicit moral instruction would not distinguish between different
    kinds of norms because moral norms are not linguistically distinguished from
    other norms: consider, e.g., “You ought to put your fork on the left of your plate”
    and “You ought to keep your promises.” One might then conclude that the
    distinction between moral norms and conventional norms is innate.

    The poverty of the stimulus argument about the so‐called moral/conventional
    distinction is unsound. The research on this distinction has a long and
    respectable history, and it is received wisdom in much of contemporary
    psychology. Recently, however, a growing body of evidence has emerged that
    challenges the research tradition on the distinction between moral and
    conventional norms in psychology (Gabennesch, 1990; Haidt et al., 1993; Kelly et
    al., 2007).39

    First, as Gabennesch (1990) has convincingly argued, the common wisdom—
    endorsed by Dwyer and others—that very early on, children view some norms as
    social conventions is poorly supported by the evidence. Carter and Patterson
    (1982) found that half of their second‐ and fourth‐grader subjects judged that
    table manners (e.g. eating with one’s fingers) were not variable across cultures
    and that they were authority‐independent. Similarly, Shweder and colleagues
    (1987: 35) concluded that among American children under 10, “there [was] not a
    single practice in [their] study that is viewed predominantly in conventional
    terms” (see Gabennesch, 1990 for many other references). Because many
    children do not understand early on that some norms are conventional, the
    poverty of the stimulus argument about the moral/conventional distinction
    mischaracterizes the nature of the moral knowledge of young children.
    Furthermore, because people come to understand slowly and rather late (p.34)
    in their adolescence that some norms are mere social conventions, the amount
    of evidence children and adolescents might rely on to come to understand this
    distinction (whatever it amounts to—see below) is much less impoverished than
    is assumed by the poverty of the stimulus argument.

    More important, the research on the so‐called moral/conventional distinction
    assumes that being authority‐independent, being universal, being associated
    with serious violations, and being justified by appeal to harm, justice, or rights
    form a cluster of co‐occurring properties (Kelly et al., 2007). That is, it is

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    assumed that when a norm is judged to be authority‐independent, it is also
    judged to be universal, it is justified by appeal to harm, justice, or rights, and the
    violations of this norm are judged to be serious. By contrast, when a norm is
    judged to be authority‐dependent, it is not judged to be generalizable to other
    cultures, it is justified by appeal to conventions, and the violations of this norm
    are judged to be less serious. However, research shows that this assumption is
    unsubstantiated. People judge some actions (e.g. having sex with a dead chicken
    before eating it or cleaning the bathroom with the national flag) to be serious
    and authority‐independent, but do not justify the relevant norms by appeal to
    harm, justice, or rights (Haidt et al., 1993). People are also sometimes reluctant
    to generalize to other cultures norms that are justified by appeal to harms, and
    they sometimes view these norms as authority‐dependent (Kelly et al., 2007; but
    see Sousa, 2009; Sousa, Holbrook, & Piazza, 2009 for discussion). It thus
    appears that the four properties assumed to set apart moral norms may not form
    a cluster of co‐occurring properties at all.40 If this is the case, it is unclear what
    the claim that early on children distinguish moral norms from conventional
    norms amounts to, putting into jeopardy the poverty of the stimulus argument
    about the moral/conventional distinction.

    3.3.3. Developmental Evidence

    In addition to the two alleged pieces of evidence discussed above (the presence
    of moral norms in every culture and the early development of the moral/
    conventional distinction), other aspects of human psychological development
    have been mentioned as evidence for the evolution of morality. However, as we
    now argue, they do not constitute evidence that moral cognition, understood
    again as a specific kind of normative cognition, evolved, rather than evidence
    that normative cognition evolved.

    We have seen in Section 2 that children understand deontic conditionals, such as
    “It’s not safe outside for the squeaky mouse, so all squeaky mice must (p.35)
    stay in the house” much earlier and much better than indicative conditionals,
    such as “It’s not safe outside for the squeaky mouse, so all squeaky mice are in
    the house” (Cummins, 1996a; Harris & Núñez, 1996). One might be tempted to
    argue that the capacity to identify the violation of deontic conditionals early on
    provides evidence for the evolution of morality (Joyce, 2006; Dwyer, 2006).

    This is certainly a very interesting finding, one that suggests that normative
    cognition might be the product of evolution by natural selection (as noted in
    Section 2). However, it is unclear how this finding is supposed to support the
    idea that moral cognition proper, understood as a specific kind of normative
    cognition, rather than normative cognition in general, evolved, since the norms
    in the stories presented to children by Cummins and by Harris and Núñez were
    not moral. More generally, deontic conditionals are not exclusively used in
    specifically moral reasoning.

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    One could perhaps argue that infants’ empathic reaction to others’ suffering and
    the early development of helping behaviors in children provide evidence for the
    evolution of morality. For instance, Dwyer concludes that “this work strongly
    suggests that some basic moral capacities are in place quite early in
    development” (2006: 237). However, again, it is unclear how the early
    development of empathy and of helping behaviors is supposed to support the
    hypothesis that morality is a product of evolution. Certainly, empathy is morally
    sanctioned in modern, Western cultures and helping is often morally prescribed.
    But all this shows is that empathy and some behavioral tendencies that are
    morally sanctioned in modern, Western cultures are present at an early stage of
    children’s psychological and behavioral development. This is perfectly consistent
    with moral norms being a culture‐specific kind of norms and with moral
    cognition being a culture‐specific kind of normative cognition that recruits early
    developing, maybe evolved psychological traits, such as empathy and some
    behavioral tendencies.

    To summarize, while many philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists have
    claimed that morality is a product of the evolution of the human species, the
    evidence for this claim is weak at best. First, we do not know whether moral
    norms are present in every culture: because researchers endorse rich
    characterizations of what moral norms are, it is not obvious that norms that have
    the distinctive properties of moral norms will be found in every culture, and, in
    any case, researchers have simply not shown that, in numerous cultures, there
    are norms that fit some rich characterization of moral norms. Second, the claim
    that early on children display some complex moral knowledge in spite of variable
    and impoverished environmental stimuli is based on the research on the moral/
    conventional distinction. Although this research remains widely (p.36)
    accepted in much of psychology, a growing body of evidence has highlighted its
    shortcomings. Third, the other pieces of evidence often cited in the literature on
    the evolution of morality do not constitute evidence that moral norms and moral
    judgments, understood as a specific type of norms and normative judgments,
    evolved, rather than evidence that normative cognition evolved.

    3.4. Summary: The Evolution of a Specifically Moral Normativity

    In this section, we have focused on the idea that moral cognition, conceived as a
    distinct kind of normative cognition, evolved. We have argued that the scenarios
    typically advanced to explain the selection of this specific form of normative
    cognition are unconvincing, and that the arguments and evidence commonly
    adduced to support the hypothesis that morality evolved are at best
    inconclusive.

    This conclusion is philosophically significant. As noted already, it is commonly
    argued that the evolution of morality undermines the authority of moral norms.
    At the end of Section 2, we noted that this argument cannot plausibly hang on
    the hypothesis that normative cognition in general evolved (the second

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    interpretation of the claim that morality evolved) although this hypothesis is
    supported by a small, but suggestive, body of evidence. Rather, it should hang on
    the third interpretation that morality evolved—i.e. moral cognition, conceived as
    a distinct kind of normative cognition, is the product of evolution—and this is
    indeed the way it has typically been presented.

    Most philosophers have focused on evaluating the truth of the conditional, “If
    morality (understood as a particular type of normative cognition) evolved, the
    authority of moral norms is undermined” (e.g. Joyce, 2006; Street, 2006, 2008;
    Copp, 2008). However, no agreement has been reached on whether this
    conditional should be accepted. Our discussion shows that this lack of
    agreement might not matter since it turns out that there is little reason to
    believe that moral cognition, understood as a particular type of normative
    cognition, evolved. The claim that the authority of moral norms is undermined by
    the evolution of morality therefore depends on an unsupported premise, and so
    it does not threaten the authority of moral norms.

  • 4. Conclusion
  • So, did morality evolve? We have shown that this question has no single answer,
    because it is understood in various ways. Some researchers focus on the
    evolutionary history of specific components of moral psychology. So (p.37)
    understood, it is uncontroversial that morality evolved: although establishing
    that some particular morally relevant trait has evolved can be especially
    difficult, there is little doubt that numerous traits have a long evolutionary
    history. However, philosophers are unlikely to be moved by this conclusion, since
    it is unclear whether it has any philosophically significant implication.

    By arguing that morality evolved, other researchers contend that normative
    cognition is an adaptation. We have argued that, although somewhat speculative,
    this claim is supported by a small, but suggestive, body of sociological and
    psychological evidence as well as by a robust set of how‐possible evolutionary
    models. We view the fact that norms are ancient and universal and that from a
    very early age on, people are distinctively adept at reasoning about normative
    matters, as evidence that normative cognition evolved by natural selection. But
    again, we argued that this conclusion is cold comfort to philosophers hoping to
    draw conclusions undermining the authority of moral norms from the evolution
    of morality.

    Finally, other researchers characterize moral cognition as a distinct kind of
    normative cognition, which includes the grasp of a specific kind of norms (i.e.
    moral norms) and a capacity to make a specific kind of normative judgments (i.e.
    moral judgments). They then endorse the provocative claim that we evolved to
    grasp this specific kind of norms and to make this specific kind of normative
    judgments. By contrast, we have argued that the evidence usually adduced to
    support the hypothesis that morality (so characterized) evolved is far from

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    conclusive. While some adaptationist models, inspired by evolutionary biologists’
    research on altruism, are touted as suggesting that morality is an adaptation, we
    have argued that they are not well tailored to explain how morality evolved.
    Researchers also assert that the universality and innateness of morality show
    that it evolved. But a critical look at the evidence reveals that it is unclear
    whether morality is universal and innate.

    As we noted in the introduction, the hypothesis that morality evolved is often
    assumed to have significant philosophical implications. The evolution of morality
    features in arguments attempting to justify specific norms and in various
    skeptical arguments about morality. Although our discussion has not directly
    focused on evaluating these arguments, it has led us to skepticism about a
    crucial premise. While the first reading of the claim that morality evolved is
    uncontroversial, and while its second reading is supported by a small, but
    suggestive, body of evidence, these two readings do not seem to yield significant
    philosophical payoffs. While the third reading—morality, understood as a distinct
    type of normative cognition, evolved—is more likely to yield such payoffs, on
    close consideration, it turns out to be empirically unsupported.

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    Notes:

    (1) We would like to thank Steve Downes, Richard Joyce, Stefan Linquist, and
    particularly John Doris and Stephen Stich for their comments on previous
    versions of this chapter.

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    (2) Darwin (1871); Kropotkin (1902); Huxley (1894/1989); Waddington (1942);
    Trivers (1971); Singer (1981, 2000); Boehm (1982, 1999); Alexander (1987);
    Ruse & Wilson (1985); Frank (1988); Gibbard (1990); Irons (1991); Fiske (1991);
    Wright (1994); Cronk (1994); Dennett (1995); Kitcher (1998, 2006a, b); Wilson
    (2002); Levy (2004); Allen & Bekoff (2005); Krebs (2005); Joyce (2006); Hauser
    (2006). Lahti (2003) and Prinz (2008: ch. 7) are more skeptical.

    (3) Evolutionary ethics is a specific philosophical tradition. In spite of their
    diversity, evolutionary ethicists concur that evolutionary theory leads to specific
    conclusions in normative ethics (i.e. that some particular moral norms are
    justified or unjustified). For a historical overview of this philosophical tradition,
    see Farber (1994).

    (4) We do not tackle here a whole range of issues that are often associated with
    the topic “evolution and morality.” In particular, we do not discuss the
    philosophical tradition of evolutionary ethics, and we only indirectly examine the
    meta‐ethical implications of the evolution of morality.

    (5) As a first approximation, two traits are homologues if they are modifications
    of a single ancestor trait (see, e.g., the human eye and the chimpanzee eye) or if
    one is the modification of the other (see, e.g., the human eye and the eye of
    humans’ and chimpanzees’ last common ancestor) (for discussion, see Brigandt,
    2003; Griffiths, 2006). Homologues are not necessarily very similar: for instance,
    mammals’ arms and bats’ wings are homologous, although they look quite
    different (at least superficially).

    (6) “Trait” is a term of art in evolutionary biology. It refers to the physiological,
    behavioral, psychological, etc. properties of organisms (e.g. bipedality or a
    specific skull structure). This use is obviously different from the use of “trait” in
    the controversy about character in psychology and in ethics.

    (7) De Waal (1996); Flack & de Waal (2000). See also Trivers (1971); Bekoff
    (2001, 2004).

    (8) A control condition ensures that this result is not a mere effect of the
    presence of highly valued food. Note however that Brosnan, Freeman, & de Waal
    (2006) failed to replicate capuchin monkeys’ aversion to inequity in a different
    experimental design, and that Bräuer, Call, & Tomasello (2006) failed to
    replicate chimpanzees’ aversion to inequity. Brosnan and de Waal’s design has
    also been severely criticized (Dubreuil, Gentile, & Visalberghi, 2006; but see van
    Wolkenten, Brosnan, & de Waal, 2007). We will bracket these issues here.

    (9) A “dictator game” is one in which a windfall is divided by one person (“the
    dictator”), and the resulting distribution can be accepted or rejected by the
    other. If it is rejected, the two persons get nothing. Because even a small share

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    of a windfall is better than nothing, economic rationality suggests that parties
    should accept even small shares rather than reject an unfair distribution.

    (10) If one’s interest does not lie in finding homologues of the components of
    human moral cognition, but in showing that these components themselves
    evolved, then it is appropriate to look for plausible homologues even if there are
    some reasons to doubt that the relevant components really evolved. For finding
    plausible homologues of some components of human moral cognition would
    provide very strong evidence that these components evolved.

    (11) In this context, functions are understood etiologically: roughly, y is the
    function of x if and only if the fact that x does y explains why x exists. For
    instance, the function of shame is to motivate people to apologize for having
    broken some norms if shame was selected for during evolution (and as a result,
    exists nowadays) because of this effect.

    (12) Research shows that in some cultures (e.g. Indonesia), people are more
    prone to feel shame than guilt when they violate a norm, while in other cultures
    (e.g. the USA), they are more prone to feel guilt than shame (Benedict, 1946;
    Fessler, 2004).

    (13) For instance, according to J. Heinrich (personal communication,
    10/21/2007), Fijians are constantly weighing the prospects of feeling shame
    when they make decisions.

    (14) See, particularly, Fiske (1991); Bowles & Gintis (1998); Richerson, Boyd, &
    Henrich (2003); Gintis, Bowles, Boyd, & Fehr (2003); Nowak & Sigmund (2005).

    (15) Phylogeny is the change of lineages through time. One looks at an evolved
    trait in a given species from a phylogenetic perspective when one considers how
    this trait results from changes to the traits possessed by the ancestor species of
    the species under consideration.

    (16) Note that this claim is independent of Cosmides and Tooby’s more specific
    claims about the form the adaptation takes (e.g. Cosmides & Tooby, 2005). It
    might even be compatible with critiques of Cosmides and Tooby (Fodor, 2000)
    according to which differential reasoning about norm violations is due to the use
    of deontic concepts in the norms themselves (see Cosmides & Tooby, 2008a,
    2008b, 2008c; Fodor, 2008; Mallon, 2008).

    (17) By contrast, the models that account for the evolution of morality,
    understood as a specific form of normative cognition, are not particularly
    plausible (see Section 3).

    (18) Boyd & Richerson (1992); Henrich & Boyd (2001); Boyd et al. (2003); Gintis
    et al. (2003); Richerson et al. (2003); Richerson & Boyd (2005); Boyd & Mathew
    (2007); Hauert et al. (2007).

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    (19) This punisher is a cooperator who fails to cooperate by accident. Think for
    instance of someone who was unable to fulfill her promise to pick up a friend at
    the airport because her car failed to start.

    (20) We distinguish grasping a norm from making a normative judgment because
    research on psychopathy suggests that it is possible to grasp a norm without
    endorsing it (Roskies, 2003; but see Levy, 2007; Prinz, 2008, ch. 1).

    (21) For a discussion of normativity, see, e.g., Gibbard (1990: 61–80) and Railton
    (1999).

    (22) Note that saying that a behavior (emotion, etc.) is unconditionally
    mandatory (permissible, etc.) is not the same as saying that it is universally
    mandatory (permissible, etc.)—that is, that it is mandatory for everybody. One
    can make unconditional normative judgments that apply only to some groups of
    people. For instance, one could judge that some actions are permissible for
    adults, but not for children, that some actions are forbidden for some particular
    social groups, such as a caste, etc.

    (23) Indeed, as we have seen in Section 2, we allow that normative cognition tout
    court—as opposed to distinctively moral normative cognition—may well be a
    product of evolution.

    (24) For other approaches to the evolution of moral cognition, understood as a
    distinct type of normative cognition, see Darwin (1871), Ruse & Wilson (1985),
    Ruse (1986), Dennett (1995: chs. 16–17), Kitcher (1998), Singer (2000), and
    Levy (2004).

    (25) Gould and Lewontin illustrated just‐so stories with sociobiologist David
    Barash’s work on bluebirds (but see Alcock, 2001: 65–68). Having observed that
    male bluebirds attack significantly more stuffed males near their nets before
    than after the eggs were laid, Barash speculated that males’ aggressiveness
    toward other males was an evolved disposition for avoiding cuckoldry. Although
    this hypothesis seems to make sense of the trait under consideration, Gould and
    Lewontin argued that it was simply an untestable speculation. Research on the
    evolution of human brain size or human language offers numerous other
    examples.

    (26) In evolutionary biology, a trait is said to be altruistic if it reduces the
    individual relative fitness of the bearer of the trait (the cost of the trait for the
    bearer) while increasing the individual relative fitness of another individual (see
    Chapter 5 of this volume on altruism).

    (27) One could object that people might have learned to override their tendency
    to behave altruistically, a tendency that could have been selected for by

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    Evolution of Moralitys 1

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    reciprocal altruism. We concede that this is a possibility, but we believe that
    some evidence would be required to substantiate this hypothesis.

    (28) Membership is fluid when people can easily join and leave residential
    groups. When membership is fluid, people are more likely to interact with
    strangers.

    (29) The theory of indirect reciprocity has been developed by, among others, the
    mathematician Karl Sigmund and the theoretical biologist Martin Nowak, but a
    detailed discussion of their work is beyond the scope of this chapter (see, e.g.,
    Nowak & Sigmund, 1998, 2005; Panchanathan & Boyd, 2004; for critical
    discussion, see Leimar & Hammerstein, 2001; Panchanathan & Boyd, 2003).

    (30) Alexander’s view is in fact more complex. For him, group selection is
    another cause of the evolution of morality.

    (31) Joyce concurs, writing: “My own judgment is that . . . the process that most
    probably lies behind [the emergence of an innate faculty for making moral
    judgments] is indirect reciprocity, but it is not an objective of this book to
    advocate this hypothesis with any conviction” (2006: 44). Nowak & Sigmund
    (2005) make a similar claim, but their work is perhaps better interpreted as an
    instance of the second explanatory project that goes under the heading “the
    evolution of morality” (Section 2).

    (32) Altruistic behavior is often called “cooperation,” and altruists are often
    called “cooperators” in the literature about the evolution of altruism.

    (33) One might object that morality evolved for governing reciprocal interactions
    and, once present, came to govern other behaviors, such as incest avoidance. It
    is indeed common that a trait that was selected for a given function is put to
    other uses. Although we do not know any decisive reason to reject this
    hypothesis, it strikes us as an ad hoc extension of the hypothesis that reciprocal
    altruism or indirect reciprocity explains the evolution of morality.

    (34) One could perhaps reject the distinction between punishing a norm violator
    and terminating cooperative interactions with a norm violator by arguing that
    the latter is a form of punishment. In reply, we highlight the importance of the
    distinction between punishing and terminating a cooperative relation. The
    former consists in imposing a cost on the norm violator, the latter in preventing
    the norm violator from gaining future benefits. Given that imposing a cost on the
    norm violator is typically costly (see Section 2), it is puzzling that people would
    go out of their way to punish others, while there is no mystery why people would
    stop cooperating when cooperating is not in their best interest.

    (35) For a brief discussion of the evidential connection between universality and
    evolution, see Section 2.3.

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    (36) Joyce has recently defended the claim that morality is universal (Joyce,
    2008b). He asserts that there is probably no society where all the norms are
    prudential or hypothetical, noting that whenever norm violations are viewed as
    transgressions and as punishable, the norms violated are not merely
    hypothetical or prudential. He views this as evidence that moral norms are
    universal. We are not convinced by this argument, for one cannot infer that
    moral norms are universal from the fact that categorical norms are universal.

    (37) See, e.g., Turiel (1983); Nucci (2001); Smetana (1981); Blair (1995);
    Smetana et al. (1999).

    (38) The evidential connection between being innate and having evolved (or
    being an adaptation) is not straightforward. The acquisition of some evolved
    traits involves learning, while some innate traits (such as some genetic diseases)
    are not evolved. For the sake of the argument, we take for granted here that this
    connection can be drawn. In addition, we bracket the debate about what
    innateness is and about whether the notion of innateness is confused (for
    discussion, see, e.g., Samuels, 2002; Mallon & Weinberg, 2006; Griffiths,
    Machery, & Linquist, 2009).

    (39) For further critical discussion of the poverty of the stimulus argument under
    consideration, see Nichols (2005) and Prinz (2008). We also note that we do not
    reject poverty of the stimulus arguments in general.

    (40) One could object that although the four properties assumed to set apart
    moral norms do not necessarily occur together, they still tend to co‐occur,
    forming something like a homeostatic cluster (Boyd, 1991). However, Kelly and
    colleagues’ work tentatively suggests that these properties do not tend to co‐
    occur, since most possible combinations seem to occur.

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    • Evolution of Moralitys 1
    • John M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Edouard Machery (Contributor Webpage)
      Ron Mallon
      Abstract and Keywords
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      1. The Evolution of Components of Moral Psychology
      1.1. The Project
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      1.2. Fairness in Non‐Human Primates?
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      1.3. Summary: The Evolution of Psychological Components of Moral Psychology
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      2. The Evolution of Normative Cognition
      2.1. Normative Cognition
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      2.2. How to Study the Evolution of Normative Cognition?
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      2.3. Evidence that Normative Cognition is an Adaptation
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      2.4. “How‐Possible” Models of the Selection of Normative Cognition
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      2.4. Summary: The Evolution of Normativity
      3. The Evolution of Moral Normativity
      3.1. The Project
      3.1.1. Morality as a Type of Normativity

      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      3.1.2. Morality as an Evolved Trait
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      3.2. Adaptationist Models of the Evolution of Morality
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      3.3. Distinctive Properties of Evolved Traits
      3.3.1. Universality of Moral Norms

      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      3.3.2. The Moral/Conventional Distinction
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      3.3.3. Developmental Evidence
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      3.4. Summary: The Evolution of a Specifically Moral Normativity
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      4. Conclusion
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Notes:
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1
      Evolution of Moralitys 1

    Moral Motivation

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    The Moral Psychology Handbook
    John M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group

    Print publication date: 2010
    Print ISBN-13: 9780199582143
    Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010
    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582143.001.0001

    Moral Motivation
    Timothy Schroeder
    Adina L. Roskies
    Shaun Nichols

    DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582143.003.0004

  • Abstract and Keywords
  • To understand the nature of moral motivation, it is important first to understand
    the nature of motivation. This chapter begins with a discussion of motivation
    itself and then sketches four possible theories of distinctively moral motivation:
    instrumentalist, cognitivist, sentimentalist, and personalist theories. It then
    evaluates these theories in light of recent evidence from neuroscience and allied
    fields.

    Keywords:   moral worth, pain, motivation, desire, reward, sentimentalism, cognitivism,
    instrumentalism, personalism, neurophysiology

    Jen is walking down the street when a homeless man asks her for money. She
    stops and gives him a dollar, wishes him well, and walks on. Jen appears to have
    done a morally good deed. But now, what motivated her to do it? Perhaps she
    was motivated by the thought that the man needed the money more than she
    did. Perhaps she was motivated by a desire to look like a nice person to the
    people around her. Perhaps she was motivated by an irrational surge of fear at
    the thought of what the homeless man might do if not appeased. And on we
    could speculate, for every action has many possible motivations.

    In this chapter, we begin with a discussion of motivation itself, and use that
    discussion to sketch four possible theories of distinctively moral motivation:
    caricature versions of familiar instrumentalist, cognitivist, sentimentalist, and
    personalist theories about morally worthy motivation. To test these theories, we

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    Moral Motivation

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    turn to a wealth of scientific, particularly neuroscientific, evidence. Our
    conclusions are that (1) although the scientific evidence does not at present
    mandate a unique philosophical conclusion, it does present formidable obstacles
    to a number of popular philosophical approaches, and (2) theories of morally
    worthy motivation that best fit the current scientific picture are ones that owe
    much more to Hume or Aristotle than to Kant.

  • 1. Motivation
  • Motivation plays a prominent role in discussions of action, practical reason, and
    moral psychology. Despite its frequent appearance in philosophical discussions,
    philosophers have generally not been clear about what motivation is. In this first
    section, we redress this.

    Is motivation psychologically real? Is there a state or process that can be
    identified as motivation? Some, like Alston (1967), deny that motivation has (p.
    73) psychological reality, suggesting instead that “the concept of motivation is
    an abstraction from the concept of a motivational explanation, and the task of
    specifying the nature of motivation is the task of bringing out the salient
    features of this explanation” (p. 400). But we postulate that motivation is not
    merely an abstraction, and that it plays a causal role in the production of action.

    To get an idea of what motivation as a causally efficacious independent mental
    state would have to be like, consider some apparent features of motivation.

    (I) Motivation is closely related to action, yet distinct from it. When we
    intentionally perform action A, we are motivated to so act. However, not
    all motivation results in action: we can be motivated to A, yet fail to A for
    a variety of reasons.1

    (II) Motivation is a causally efficacious kind of state. We A because we are
    motivated to A; that is, our motivational states are causally related to
    action‐production. It might well be that there exist factors that can block
    motivation from bringing about action (e.g. motivation not to do what one
    is also motivated to do, habits, phobias, lassitude, etc.) but motivation
    makes a causal contribution that promotes the production of action.
    (III) Motivation is occurrent. If someone has a standing desire for global
    peace, one might say she is motivated to bring about world peace. But we
    understand this to mean that, in appropriate circumstances, she would
    display an occurrent motivation—motivation properly so called—to bring
    about world peace. Because motivation is occurrent, it is distinct from
    standing—that is, dispositional and causally inert—desires. And since any
    desire can be a standing desire (if only briefly), there is something to
    motivation that is distinct from desire as such. This is obvious with
    desires such as a desire to create philosophical ideas, for it is often the
    case that a person with such a desire has it without being motivated at
    that moment to carry it out.

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    (IV) Motivation is commonly associated with certain feelings. We have no
    strong claims to make about these feelings, and nothing hangs on this in
    what follows, but it seems helpful to acknowledge the potential range of
    feelings that go with motivation. These feelings cluster around two sorts
    of cases. In the first sort, one is motivated to achieve some larger goal,
    and feels “up to the challenge,” “bursting with energy,” or otherwise (p.
    74) inspired. This first sort of feeling—feeling motivated in general—is
    non‐specific, and feels the same regardless of what one is motivated to
    do. In the second sort of case, one is motivated to perform some specific
    action by means of some specific bodily movement. In such cases, one
    might feel muscular tension preparing one for the action, or have an
    image of oneself performing it, or experience anticipatory pleasure at the
    thought of the action, or suffer from one’s current non‐performance of the
    action. These feelings are, obviously, much more closely tied to the
    specific end one is motivated to bring about.

    An investigation of moral motivation, then, is first an investigation of motivation:
    an investigation of an occurrent state, capable of causing actions, and associated
    with certain feelings. But it is also an investigation of something specifically
    moral. To the moral side we turn next.

    2. Philosophical Approaches to

  • Moral Motivation
  • Theories of moral motivation are almost as numerous as the number of
    philosophers writing on the subject. Accordingly, in this section we shall not
    survey them comprehensively. Instead, our approach will be to sketch
    caricatures of four familiar approaches, those of the instrumentalist, the
    cognitivist, the sentimentalist, and the personalist, indicating as we go how
    these caricatures fit better or worse with the views of particular theorists. We
    have chosen to sketch our characters as starkly as possible, simplifying away
    many of the subtle features that would appear in a fleshed‐out theory in order to
    highlight what is fundamentally different in these approaches. These sketches
    will help make clear the significance of the scientific findings that follow in the
    next section.2

    The Instrumentalist

    Our instrumentalist holds that people are motivated when they form beliefs
    about how to satisfy pre‐existing desires.3 Motivation, says the instrumentalist,
    (p.75) begins with intrinsic desires. And desires are intrinsic just in the sense
    that what is desired is desired for its own sake, and neither merely as a realizer
    of what was antecedently desired, nor merely as a means to what was
    antecedently desired. Typical examples of intrinsic desires might include desires
    for pleasure, for the welfare of loved ones, for the will of God to be done on
    Earth, for the Montreal Canadians to win the Stanley Cup, and so on (compare
    Stich et al., Chapter 5, this volume).4

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    Having intrinsic desires is necessary for motivation, holds the instrumentalist,
    but not sufficient. These desires lurk in the minds of their possessors like buried
    land mines, waiting for the right conditions in order to explode into occurrent
    motivation. And the right conditions are conditions of occurrent belief. When a
    person has an intrinsic desire that P, and then occurrently believes that she can
    bring it about that P by taking action A, then she becomes motivated to take
    action A. Becoming so motivated is a matter of forming a new, non‐intrinsic pro‐
    attitude toward taking action A. That is, motivation on the instrumentalist’s view
    is a matter of having non‐intrinsic desires (or intentions, or the like) to do what
    is believed to be instrumental to (or a realization of) an intrinsic desire.

    The instrumentalist’s view is sometimes labeled ‘Humean’ by philosophers,
    though many have pointed out that the view is only loosely related to that of
    Hume himself. Most decision theorists are instrumentalists of our sort or
    something recognizably related,5 but relatively few ethicists seem to be. The
    best‐known self‐styled neo‐Humean at present is perhaps Michael Smith, and
    Smith’s own view of moral motivation is decidedly non‐instrumentalist (see
    Smith, 1994).6

    On the instrumental view, the story of Jen is straightforward. She desires to do
    what is right, and forms the belief that by giving the homeless man before her a
    dollar, she will be doing the right thing.7 She thus comes to have an occurrent
    instrumental desire to give the man a dollar. This new desire is her motivation to
    give the man a dollar. She then acts on her instrumental desire (p.76) and
    gives the man a dollar, thereby also acting on her intrinsic desire to do what is
    right. In so doing, she does what is right because it is right, and acts with moral
    worth.

    The Cognitivist

    The cognitivist rejects the thesis that moral motivation begins with desire and
    the thesis that belief plays a merely instrumental or realizational role in guiding
    moral action. The cognitivist—our sort of cognitivist, at any rate—is led to this
    rejection not least because she holds that to desire is merely to be in a state that
    generates a behavioral impulse. And how, she asks, can a behavioral impulse
    ever be the source of morally worthy action?8

    What, then, is left? The cognitivist holds the view that moral motivation begins
    with occurrent belief. In particular, it begins with beliefs about what actions
    would be right. The cognitivist holds that, at least in cases of morally worthy
    action, such beliefs lead to motivation to perform those actions, quite
    independently of any antecedent desires. The cognitivist is happy to call this
    motivational state “a desire,” but thinks of it as entirely dependent upon the
    moral belief that created it.

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    The cognitivist position has recognizable affinities to familiar positions in the
    philosophical literature (e.g. Korsgaard, 1994; McDowell, 1998: ch. 4; Smith,
    1994). These philosophers, of course, hold that much more is going on in the
    mind of a morally worthy agent than the simple picture painted by our
    cognitivist.

    They generally agree, however, that morally worthy action is not dependent
    upon antecedent desires, but stems in the first instance from one’s judgments.

    On the cognitivist’s view, Jen’s desires are not irrelevant to her action, but they
    are not the initiating engines of her action either. Instead, her desires are mere
    data that she considers (perhaps) in coming to be motivated. Given what is
    available to her, perhaps she comes to believe that it would be right to give the
    homeless man money, and it never occurs to her to even consider her desires.
    This consideration of the rightness of giving money to the homeless man
    motivates Jen to give him some money, and she does. Because she is moved by
    the right sort of belief, her action has moral worth.

    The Sentimentalist

    Emotions have not yet been featured in the above accounts of morally worthy
    action, but they are central to the account given by the sentimentalist. (p.77)
    According to all sentimentalists, the emotions typically play a key causal role in
    motivating moral behavior. Our caricature sentimentalist, like many real
    sentimentalists, takes a stronger view. Our sentimentalist maintains that an
    action can’t count as being morally motivated unless it is driven by certain
    emotions. Of course it can’t be any old emotion. If a person is motivated to save
    a drowning person only because he hates him and wishes to see him die a
    slower, more painful death at his own hand, this is emotional motivation, to be
    sure, but it is hardly moral motivation.

    Our sentimentalist might opt for several different emotions as the right kind of
    emotion for producing moral motivation, and compassion is an obvious
    candidate. When a person is motivated to help an injured child because of a
    feeling of compassion, that counts as genuine moral motivation. Saying exactly
    why particular emotion‐driven motivations are moral is a controversial issue
    even among sentimentalists who agree with our sentimentalist, but this needn’t
    detain us here.

    The sentimentalist story about Jen is easy to tell. When Jen sees the homeless
    man, she feels compassion toward him. This feeling of compassion provides the
    motivation that leads her to treat him kindly. Since sentimentalists typically
    acknowledge that compassion is a type of emotion that can provide moral
    motivation, Jen’s action was morally worthy.

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    The Personalist

    The previous three views have all highlighted specific mental states as central to
    morally worthy action, but the personalist holds a more holistic position. She
    holds that morally worthy action stems from good character. Good character
    involves knowledge of the good, wanting what is good for its own sake, long‐
    standing emotional dispositions that favor good action, and long‐standing habits
    of responding to one’s knowledge, desires, and emotions with good actions.

    On the view of the personalist, morally worthy action begins with knowledge of
    the good. This knowledge is unlikely to be retained in a person in the form of an
    explicit theory, or in the form of a disposition to test one’s possible principles of
    action against particular standards such as universalizability. Instead, it is likely
    to be retained through a combination of moral heuristics (lying is generally a
    bad idea, generosity does not require even‐handedness, and so on) and a learned
    sensitivity to particular sorts of situations as calling for one heuristic or another,
    or for a novel approach that nonetheless extends more familiar moral thought.9
    (p.78) This moral knowledge leads through inference (often unconscious) to an
    occurrent belief that action A is the morally superior action in a given context.
    But this belief is impotent without a suitably responsive character. Such a
    character involves long‐standing conative dispositions, emotional dispositions,
    and behavioral dispositions (i.e. habits), with these complexes of dispositions
    generally being named “virtues.” Thus, if action A is one that requires facing a
    significant threat of harm for a good cause, then the conative emotional and
    behavioral dispositions required to perform A in a praiseworthy manner10 will be
    that complex known as “courage”; if A amounts to telling the truth against one’s
    immediate interests, then the conative, emotional, and behavioral dispositions
    required will be that complex known as “honesty”; and so on. The personalist
    holds that neither the emotional dispositions nor the habits that make up good
    character are reducible to long‐standing intrinsic desires, and in this way she
    opposes the instrumentalist. The personalist’s view has affinities to Aristotle’s in
    Nicomachean Ethics, and also to contemporary neo‐Aristotelians such as
    Hursthouse and Slote (Aristotle, 2000; Hursthouse, 1999; Slote, 2001).

    Jen’s story begins with her moral cognitive capacities, on the personalist’s
    account. Although she holds no explicit belief about what is right in every case,
    her sensitivity to moral patterns and her explicit (if generally unconscious)
    heuristics lead her to the view that it would be good to give the homeless man a
    dollar. Because of her character, Jen’s moral thoughts engage her standing
    desires, lead her to feel relevant emotions, and—because of her habits as well—
    lead her to take the right action, and so she gives the homeless man a dollar.
    This amounts to the exercise of at least a partial virtue on Jen’s part:
    compassion, as it might be. She thus does what is right for the right reason and
    is morally worthy.

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  • 3. The Neurophysiology of Moral Motivation
  • The previous section sketched four familiar accounts of doing the right thing
    with genuinely moral motivations. These accounts, though philosophical, should
    lead one to make certain empirical predictions. As should already be evident,
    accounts of moral motivation typically presuppose commitments (p.79)
    regarding the nature of psychological states such as beliefs, desires, choices,
    emotions, and so on, together with commitments regarding the functional and
    causal roles they play. Observations about the nature and the functional and
    causal roles of psychological states, it seems to us, are as much empirical as
    they are philosophical. At least, it is rather obscure how such claims are to be
    understood, if they are not to be understood as involving substantial empirical
    elements, and we shall not attempt such an exposition here. Instead, we shall
    adopt what seems to us a more natural and theoretically fertile approach, first
    laying out what is known from empirical work on the neurophysiology of
    motivation, then interpreting the neuroscience in psychological terms, and
    finally examining the consequences of the empirical work for those philosophical
    accounts we have just described.

    To minimize the perils of reliance on cutting‐edge scientific work, most of this
    section will deal in textbook neuroscience. Thus, while we remain aware that
    neuroscience is as vulnerable to revolution as any science, we also remain
    moderately confident that the fundamentals of the empirical picture we sketch
    will remain substantially intact in the future. Our default source for textbook
    neuroscience is a very standard textbook: Kandel, Schwartz, and Jessell (2000);
    neuroscientific claims with references not otherwise cited are drawn from this
    work.

    Moral motivation must connect in the right way to voluntary action (or inaction),
    for no morally worthy action is performed involuntarily. Thus we focus on the
    neural realization of voluntary movement. The basic fact with which we begin is
    that, as complex as the brain is, all activity in the brain that eventuates in
    voluntary movement must eventually stimulate the spinal cord, and to do so
    must stimulate the parts of the brain that have exclusive control over the spinal
    cord: the motor cortex and pre‐motor cortical areas.11 Moreover, because the
    pre‐motor cortical areas have control over the motor cortex (except for some
    minor reflexes), any activity in the brain that eventuates in voluntary behavior
    must eventually stimulate pre‐motor cortex. The pre‐motor cortex will thus be
    the first focus of our interest. (Throughout this section, it will be helpful to refer
    to Figure 3.1.)

    The pre‐motor cortex is divided into numerous sub‐regions that have control
    over different sub‐regions of the motor cortex, and thus control over different
    spinal neurons, and thus ultimately control over different possible bodily

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    Figure 3.1.

    movements. This control can be thought of as the pre‐motor cortex being
    designed like the keyboards of an organ, with each region capable of (p.80)

    playing “notes” of simple
    movements and “chords” of
    slightly more complex movements.
    Many neuroscientists working on
    motor and pre‐motor cortex write
    of the different regions of pre‐
    motor cortex as having the ability
    to issue various motor
    “commands”: commands to the
    body to move this way or that, for
    various possible movements (e.g.
    Jeannerod, 1997). Thus, activity in
    one part of the pre‐motor cortex
    can cause the utterance of a
    syllable, while activity in another
    part can cause a strumming
    movement, activity in another part
    can cause the opening of a hand,
    and so on. Because these possible
    movements are fairly simple in
    character, the pre‐motor cortex
    needs to be under higher control if
    complex actions are to be
    performed.
    What, then, controls the pre‐
    motor cortex? It turns out that
    almost every part of the brain contributes to such control. There is no uniquely
    behavioral higher‐level control system; instead, a whole host of factors
    simultaneously (p.81) bears down upon the pre‐motor cortex. These factors can
    usefully be divided into two categories based on their origins: cortical and sub‐
    cortical.

    Cortical inputs to the pre‐motor cortex come from perceptual structures in the
    brain and from higher‐level cognitive structures. Perceptual input can be quite
    simple (input carrying information about touch to the pad of one finger, for
    instance) or quite complex (input carrying information about whether or not one
    is looking at something that looks like one’s father, for example). Higher‐level
    cognitive structures can have features as complex and diverse as that vague
    label “higher‐level” suggests. For instance, higher‐level structures in the brain
    include those responsible for precisely guiding reaching and grasping
    movements based on visual, somatic, and proprioceptive inputs. Although this
    turns out to be a very complex computational task, requiring quite a large region
    of cortex, it is also not the sort of thing that philosophers are likely to think of as
    “higher‐level,” and it will not be the focus of our attention here.12 More

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    stereotypically higher‐level structures in the brain include those responsible for
    grasping the syntax of sentences one reads, those responsible for grasping the
    social significance of situations, structures capable of holding motor commands
    at the ready until some pre‐set condition is met, and so on. Neuroscience does
    not have fully detailed accounts of how the brain realizes complex moral beliefs,
    moral deliberations, one’s principles of action, values, or choices. Nonetheless, if
    these things are real (as we have no reason to doubt), then they are realized in
    the higher‐level structures of the cortex.13 And all of these structures, when
    active, send output to the pre‐motor cortex.

    Sub‐cortical input to the pre‐motor cortex comes largely from the motor output
    structures of the basal ganglia, in the form of global suppression of all activation
    in the pre‐motor cortex, and selective release of that suppression that permits
    the production of action. Think of the pre‐motor cortex as being full of young
    schoolchildren. Stimulated by cortical centers of perception and higher‐level
    cognition, some of the schoolchildren agitate for doing one thing (producing one
    movement), others of the schoolchildren agitate for another (producing another
    movement), and so on. Without further guidance, chaos is the result. Sub‐
    cortical input from the motor basal ganglia prevents this chaos; it is like a
    teacher, quieting all the children except for a few, who are allowed to “do as they
    wish.” That is, the subcortical input literally blocks (p.82) the production of
    many possible motor commands, but selectively allows certain possible motor
    commands to go ahead and be turned into bodily movements.

    On what basis do the motor basal ganglia selectively release actions? The
    answer is that four sources of influence combine. First, all the cortical regions
    that send input to the pre‐motor cortex also send input to the motor basal
    ganglia. Second, the active portions of motor and pre‐motor cortex send signals
    down to the motor basal ganglia. Third, there is input from the brain’s reward
    system. And fourth, there is the internal organization of the motor basal ganglia
    themselves.

    The first source of influence over action selection is simply perception and
    cognition. There is nothing too surprising here. Obviously, actions cannot be
    selected unless information about what is going on in the world is provided to
    the action selection system.

    The second source of influence is a little more interesting. Why should active
    parts of motor and pre‐motor cortex send signals down to the brain’s action
    selection system? The answer seems to be that the brain’s action selection
    system responds differentially based upon information about what actions it has
    released, and what actions are more or less prepared to be performed (what
    motor commands are even partly activated) in order to select new appropriate

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    actions. Seen in this light, this input is no more surprising than input from
    perception and cognition.

    The third source of influence is input from the brain’s reward system. The
    reward system is identified as such by neuroscientists because it possesses a
    number of properties: it is selectively activated by what are, intuitively, rewards
    (food, cooperation from partners in a game of prisoner’s dilemma, and so on
    [see, e.g., Stellar and Stellar, 1985; Rilling et al., 2004]), its signaling properties
    carry exactly the information required of a reward signal by the mathematical
    theory of reward learning (Montague, Dayan, & Sejnowski, 1996), it is
    responsible for reward‐based learning but not for other forms of learning
    (Packard & Knowlton, 2002), its activity causes pleasure (Kandel, Schwartz, &
    Jessell, 2000), and if allowed to electrically stimulate it, rats have been known to
    do so to the exclusion of all other activities (Stellar & Stellar, 1985). Because it
    has these features, we are inclined to follow the scientists in speaking of this
    system as the “reward system.” (There is a natural tendency to think of the
    reward system as a pleasure‐causing system. The reader should suspend this
    tendency, however; we shall return to the topic below.)

    The reward system influences action selection on a moment‐to‐moment basis.
    The reward system has a baseline level of activity, but it can increase or reduce
    its activity. So long as activity is within a biologically normal range, (p.83)
    actions can be produced regardless of activity level, but changes in activity level
    change the likelihood of different actions being performed. Positive reward
    information in the form of dopamine appears to increase the likelihood of actions
    being produced in general, and to play an important role in selecting which
    action is produced in particular (Mink, 1996).

    There are two main influences upon reward signals. There are connections from
    select perceptual and higher cognitive representational capacities that make
    certain contents into rewards (that I get money, or food, for instance), and other
    possible contents into punishments (that I get pinched, or that I smell rotting
    meat, for instance). Representations of the contents exist in perceptual and
    higher cognitive centers, and send signals forward via the ventromedial portions
    of prefrontal cortex down to the reward system or to the (hypothesized, but not
    yet clearly demonstrated) punishment system (Schultz, Tremblay, & Hollerman,
    2000). And then there is input to the reward system from the amygdala, a well‐
    known structure that is responsible for many of the brain’s strong emotional
    responses. Its best‐studied function is the production of classical fear
    conditioning, but it is known to be involved in anger and other emotions as well.
    In the case of fear conditioning, it is the amygdala that learns the association
    between a previously neutral stimulus (such as the presence of a bee) and an
    aversive stimulus (being stung), so that when one encounters the previously
    neutral stimulus again in the future, one’s heart rate rises, one sweats, one’s

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    Moral Motivation

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    stomach churns and tightens, one feels displeasure, and one becomes motivated
    to avoid the stimulus: that is, one is subject to the familiar syndrome of fear.

    Finally, the fourth influence upon the selection of action by the motor basal
    ganglia is the internal structure of the motor basal ganglia themselves. This
    internal structure is the locus of our habits and related behavioral inclinations.
    Scientific research on habit learning and habit retention in human and non‐
    human animals has shown that the internal structure of the basal ganglia is
    where our unconscious behavioral habits get stored, while consciously
    retrievable memory (for instance) is localized elsewhere (Knowlton, Mangles, &
    Squire, 1996; Packard & Knowlton, 2002).

  • 4. Initial Implications of Neurophysiology
  • Perhaps the above neuroscience has been taxing for the reader. This material is
    certainly unfamiliar to many moral philosophers, and indeed to many
    philosophers of any stripe, and as a result it can be pretty tough going. In (p.
    84) this section, we hope to repay the reader’s patience by interpreting some of
    the neuroscientific story in terms that make its philosophical significance more
    apparent.

    Implications for Instrumentalism

    Consider first what the instrumentalist might make of the neuroscience. The
    instrumentalist needs there to be intrinsic desires realized somewhere in the
    neural architecture. But where? The brain’s reward system makes an excellent
    candidate, as has been argued by a pair of philosophers (Morillo, 1990;
    Schroeder, 2004). When one desires that P intrinsically, one has a representation
    that P (the content of the desire); by having the desire one both tends to become
    motivated to bring it about that P and tends to feel pleasure at the prospect of P,
    or if it comes to be the case that P. The only structure poised to play all of these
    roles in the brain is the reward system. The reward system also begins with a
    representation that P (more carefully, a capacity to represent that P), and when
    triggered (when the representation is occurrent), the reward signals that are
    caused tend to cause motivational states and to cause pleasure.14 And further,
    no other system in the brain could plausibly represent the contents of desires
    while also causing both motivational states and pleasure. The instrumentalist,
    then, should hold that intrinsic desires are realized by the reward system.

    The instrumentalist holds that intrinsic desires combine with beliefs: beliefs
    about what actions would be instrumental to satisfying intrinsic desires (or
    would realize the satisfaction of intrinsic desires). Where will these beliefs be
    realized? Presumably, in the higher cognitive centers of the brain, for what is a
    belief if not a higher cognitive state? So the instrumentalist hopes to find brain
    structures by which the reward system (intrinsic desire) can interact with
    certain higher cognitions (beliefs about instrumental actions). Fortunately for
    the instrumentalist, such a structure exists: it is the motor basal ganglia. In the

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    Moral Motivation

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    motor basal ganglia, information from higher cognitive centers combines with
    reward information, and also with information from perception and from current
    motor commands. Thus the instrumentalist should tentatively accept that the
    beliefs relevant to motivation are found in higher cognitive centers, for if they
    are, then they are capable of playing something much like the role he requires,
    and no other candidates present themselves. (p.85)

    Furthermore, the instrumentalist holds that intrinsic desires, when combined
    with relevant beliefs, produce motivational states. Once again, he can be happy
    with the neuroscience. Intrinsic desires (realized by the reward system) combine
    with beliefs (in higher cognitive centers) to produce activity in the motor basal
    ganglia that releases motor commands and ultimately, if all is working normally,
    produces behavior. So long as the instrumentalist is willing to say that
    motivation is realized by either activity in the motor basal ganglia, or by activity
    in its immediate downstream structures, pre‐motor or motor cortex, then his
    picture would seem to be realized very much as he imagined it would be.15 And
    there seems to be no good reason for the instrumentalist to deny that motivation
    is realized in one or more of these structures. These structures have the
    properties mentioned in Section 1 above: they have occurrent states that are
    causally real, distinct from intrinsic desires and beliefs, and necessary for the
    production of voluntary action under normal conditions.

    Still, a little more than this is needed. These states of the motor basal ganglia
    and pre‐motor and motor cortex should also have the right contents. Suppose
    Jesse wants to raise her hand. Activity in the motor basal ganglia will release the
    appropriate motor program for raising her hand, and so cause her hand to rise.
    In such a scenario, it would seem reasonable to say both that Jesse was
    motivated to raise her hand and that the content of the motor basal ganglia state
    that initiated her hand raising (or the state of her pre‐motor cortex that was also
    crucial to her hand raising, or both) was that she raise her hand. But not every
    case will go as smoothly. If Jesse has a desire to look good for the party, we
    might be similarly tempted to say that Jesse is therefore motivated to look good
    for the party. However, as we have discussed, commands issued by the motor
    cortex and pre‐motor cortex are commands for fairly specific bodily movements
    or otherwise very simple actions, and looking good for the party is not a simple
    movement or action. What should the instrumentalist say? We suggest that there
    is no need to throw out his picture. He can maintain, first, that Jesse is also
    motivated to thrust her left arm into the sleeve of the sweater she is putting on,
    motivated because she desires to look good and believes that getting her arm
    into the sweater will be instrumental to that. This very elemental motivation is
    one that has a content that can credibly be attributed to motor or pre‐motor
    cortex, or to the motor basal ganglia, for it is the sort of content that is reliably
    made true by the activity of such structures. Second, the instrumentalist can
    maintain that any other motivation to bring it about (p.86) that Q attributable
    to Jesse on the basis of her intrinsic desire to look good for the party—such as a

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    Moral Motivation

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    motivation to wear interestingly contrasting colors—is simply a recognition of
    the fact that Jesse believes that bringing it about that Q would be instrumental
    to her intrinsic desire (or a realizer of it) and that Jesse’s belief in this
    instrumentality is in the process of guiding her basic motivations: motivations to
    thrust this arm into this sleeve, to grasp that pair of pants and this boot, and so
    on.

    Or, the instrumentalist can follow Davidson (1980: ch. 1) in holding that because
    actions are always “actions under a description,” it is correct to maintain that
    among the proper descriptions of the content of motivational states is the
    description of their goal, or of the content of the desires that cause them. Thus,
    although a particular brain state might command for a thrust of an arm, this
    command might equally be described, in context, as an attempt at “putting on an
    appealing sweater,” and under this description make sense as the motivation to
    put on an appealing sweater. Whichever route the instrumentalist prefers, it
    seems that there is a way for the instrumentalist to treat the brain structures
    that are the immediate causes of bodily movement as the realizers of
    instrumentalist motivation, which should be just what he wants.

    We have so far assumed that what we would ordinarily think of as a motivational
    state exists either in the motor basal ganglia, or downstream of the motor basal
    ganglia, in the pre‐motor cortex (which seems to realize immediate intentions to
    act). This assumption is required in order for beliefs and desires to be possible
    causes of motivation, as the instrumentalist holds: after all, these are the
    structures that produce actions that are “downstream,” so to speak, from
    association cortex, which realizes belief, and from the reward system, which
    realizes desire. Can this assumption be defended?

    Evidence suggests that localized lesions to parts of the basal ganglia result in
    the elimination of motivation, both motor and intellectual, in the absence of
    intellectual impairment. Though imperfect, this is certainly some evidence that
    we are localizing motivation in the right place. Consider one case of localized
    bilateral damage to the head of the caudate nucleus (part of the motor basal
    ganglia). A case report relates:

    On admission, [the patient] was clearly hypokinetic with decreased
    spontaneous movements, facial amimia and Parkinson‐like gait.
    Neurological examination was otherwise normal, except for a moderate
    limb stiffness. EEG showed mild nonspecific diffuse slowing and CT scan
    was interpreted as normal for the patient’s age. His general behavior was
    characterized by a dramatic decrease in spontaneous activity. Totally
    abulic, he made no plans, showed no evidence of needs, will, or desires. He
    showed obvious lack of concern about relatives’ as well as his own
    condition. When questioned (p.87) about his mood, he reported no
    sadness or anxiety. Also noteworthy were a loss of appetite (he never asked

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    for food, even if left more than 24 hours without eating) and food
    preferences (he would eat with the same apparent satisfaction dishes he
    did or did not like before). Finally, on every instance he was questioned
    about the content of his mind, he reported a striking absence of thoughts
    or spontaneous mental activity. Contrasting with these massive behavioral
    changes, purely cognitive functions seemed relatively spared.–(Habib,
    2004: 511)

    In many cases it is difficult to differentiate between motor impairment and
    motivational impairment. However, this patient with damage to the caudate nucleus of
    the basal ganglia provides reason to think that severe damage to motor basal ganglia
    results in a thoroughgoing motivational deficit, encompassing both motivation to act
    and to think.
    Similar profiles have been described in cases of discrete lesions of the globus
    pallidus, another component of the motor basal ganglia (Strub, 1989; Levy &
    Dubois, 2006; Vijayaraghavan et al., 2008). Patients with lesions in these regions
    appear to lack desire and motivation. These case reports are reminiscent of
    cases of akinetic mutism, in which patients have preserved motor and verbal
    abilities, but lose the motivation to act in any way. Akinetic mutism is usually
    caused by bilateral lesions to portions of pre‐motor cortex, a target of the output
    of the motor basal ganglia, but also results from damage to parts of the motor
    basal ganglia and, more rarely, from lesions to other parts of the fronto‐striatal
    circuit we are considering. All this seems to show fairly clearly that ordinary
    motivation is massively dependent on the motor basal ganglia.

    Implications for Cognitivism

    Consider next what the cognitivist might make of the neuroscientific picture. It
    might seem bleak for her, since the instrumentalist seems to have been given
    everything he wants. But this impression would be premature, for the cognitivist
    also has reason to be happy with the neuroscientific picture.

    The cognitivist needs for beliefs to have the power to produce motivational
    states independently of antecedent desires. Given what was just said about
    motivation, it then seems that the cognitivist needs her beliefs, realized in
    higher cognitive centers, to directly influence motivational states, realized in the
    basal ganglia or in the pre‐motor or motor cortex. But this is indeed possible.
    Although the instrumentalist took comfort from the knowledge that intrinsic
    desires, in the form of reward signals, contribute to motivation, the cognitivist
    can also take comfort from the knowledge that this contribution made by
    intrinsic desire is not the only contribution to motivational systems. (p.88) In
    fact, simply looking at Figure 3.1, it is evident that there are direct anatomical
    connections between the neural realization of higher cognitions and motivational
    systems, connections that might conceivably by pass the influences of desires.
    Because of this, the cognitivist and the instrumentalist ought to be ready to
    agree on the interpretation of the neurophysiology, and simply disagree over

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    how moral action production will proceed in human beings (which is, after all, an
    empirical question). While the instrumentalist will bet on the pervasive influence
    of intrinsic desires, the cognitivist will predict that this ancient system, shared
    with rats and other animals, will by and large be suppressed in human beings in
    favor of the power of reason, at least in cases of morally motivated behavior. The
    details of the neural wiring so far canvassed do not decide in favor of either
    position all on their own.

    Implications for Sentimentalism

    Consider next the sentimentalist. Emotions are at the center of our
    sentimentalist’s picture of motivation, rather than desires. But there is room in
    our neuroscientific picture for this, because the reward system gets inputs from
    brain regions making up the limbic system, thought to be critical neural
    structures for emotion. For instance, the amygdala receives input from
    perceptual and cognitive centers, and it can produce a diverse assortment of
    outputs: it can produce the bodily changes associated with strong emotions
    (changes in heart rate, breathing, vasoconstriction, digestion, and so on), it can
    produce bodily changes that are hard to consciously perceive (pupil dilation,
    galvanic skin response), it influences characteristic emotional facial expressions,
    it influences felt pleasure and displeasure, and it sends output to the reward
    system, influencing the release of dopamine (and hence— it would seem—
    influencing desire).16 The role of the amygdala in fear has been especially well
    studied, but it seems to play an important role in other emotions involving fairly
    consistent patterns of bodily changes, emotions such as anger, disgust, joy, and
    others. This simple picture will need to be augmented, for it is recognized that a
    number of brain regions contribute differentially to the various emotions. Some
    philosophers have been ready to localize certain emotions to the activity of the
    brain regions themselves (Griffiths, 1997), while others have preferred to
    identify emotions, following William James, with the feelings of bodily changes
    that are typically brought about by the amygdala and other brain regions (Prinz,
    2004). The sentimentalist might prefer the former account, however, since
    activity in the limbic system has more direct influence over reward signals, and
    (p.89) so behavior, than sensory perceptions of changes in bodily states seem
    to have. Influence from sensory perceptions of changes in bodily states would
    seem to influence behavior primarily through connections between such
    perceptions and the reward system, and so be of a piece with influences on
    behavior that are central to the instrumentalist’s account. To retain a truly
    distinctive account, our sort of sentimentalist treats the limbic system, especially
    the amygdala, as central to the emotions.

    Implications for Personalism

    Consider finally the personalist. Again, there is room for optimism on the
    personalist’s part. Like the instrumentalist and cognitivist, the personalist has a
    particular idea of what sorts of cognitive inputs drive morally worthy motivation.
    But once again, because higher cognitive centers in the brain are diverse, there

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    is no reason to doubt that the personalist can find what is needed in this domain.
    Implicit knowledge of the good, explicit knowledge of heuristics, perceptually
    driven judgments of the differences between apparently similar situations—all of
    these can be expected to be realized in perceptual and higher cognitive centers,
    and all of them can be expected to feed into motivational systems.

    The personalist holds that moral perceptions and thoughts combine with morally
    decent desires and emotions to create moral motivation only in the presence of
    appropriate habits: that is, only when one has a good character. The personalist
    will thus be pleased that there is a good candidate for the neural realization of
    behavioral habits that is poised to take input from perception, thought, desire,
    and emotion, and deliver motivation as output. This is all possible because the
    internal structures of the motor basal ganglia are the best candidate realizers
    for such habits—as discussed in the previous section—and the motor basal
    ganglia take input from perception and cognition (perceptual and higher
    cognitive centers), and from emotions (e.g from the amygdala, via the reward
    signal). On the basis of input plus internal structure, the motor basal ganglia
    send signals causing the release of motor commands, and these processes
    constitute motivation. Hence the personalist can for the moment rest content in
    the knowledge that the brain realizes a system for producing motivation very
    much in keeping with personalist thinking, with every influence identified by the
    personalist coming together in action. As things stand, the personalist is in a
    reasonable position to make an empirical bet with the instrumentalist,
    cognitivist, and sentimentalist that the story of paradigmatic morally worthy
    actions will favor the totality of structures central to the personalist story and
    not the proper subsets of these structures that are held to be uniquely important
    by the other stories. (p.90)

  • 5. Some Pressing Questions
  • At this point, the groundwork has been laid for asking and answering some
    pressing questions. We shall take up seven: (1) Does neuroscience really bear on
    the truth of theories of moral motivation? (2) What problems does neuroscience
    pose for the instrumentalist? (3) What problems does neuroscience pose for the
    cognitivist? (4) What problems does neuroscience pose for the sentimentalist?
    (5) What problems does neuroscience pose for the personalist? (6) What does
    neuroscience reveal about weakness of will? and (7) What does neuroscience
    reveal about altruism?

    Does Neuroscience Bear on the Truth of Theories of Moral Motivation?

    We think so. Any theory of moral motivation should include a theory of how
    moral motivation is instantiated—or at least approximated—in human beings, or
    provide a compelling argument as to why a theory of moral motivation need not
    undertake this burden. We know of no such argument, so we shall continue to
    assume that such theories need to provide an account of psychological
    phenomena such as moral perceptions, moral beliefs, instrumental beliefs, moral

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    desires, instrumental desires, intentions, moral emotions, and habits. Any
    plausible theory of moral motivation will thus have to be consistent with what we
    know about such things as they are instantiated in human beings, and
    neuroscience has something to say about this.

    It might be thought that neuroscience is incapable of imposing significant
    constraints on moral theorizing, because it is always open to the philosopher to
    interpret brain activity as she likes. If the instrumentalist sees the motor basal
    ganglia as combining beliefs and desires, the cognitivist can always interpret it
    as combining non‐moral beliefs and moral beliefs, it might be said. But whatever
    the merits of this particular idea, we disagree with the claim that there is no
    limit to such interpretative strategies. This is because philosophical theories of
    the mental states involved in moral motivation are theories that include causal
    claims.

    Consider pleasure. There are limits to where a reasonable interpretation can
    localize pleasure in the brain, given the facts about what sorts of damage to the
    brain provoke and what sorts impede pleasure, given the facts about brain
    stimulation and pleasure, and so on. Suppose that, for these reasons, one has
    tentatively localized pleasure to structure P. And now suppose that one has
    causal claims about desire that can be realized in the brain only by structure D.
    The question now arises: is structure D a structure that is causally connected to
    structure P, in a way that supports the observation that desires (when (p.91)
    satisfied) are normal causes of pleasure? If it is, then the idea that D realizes
    desires and P realizes pleasure is consistent, and in fact somewhat confirmed.
    But if it is not, then something has gone wrong: either P does not realize
    pleasure, or D does not realize desire, or we were wrong in thinking that desire
    satisfaction is a common cause of pleasure. If the localization of P is well
    supported, but the grounds on which D was identified as the realizer of desires
    are highly contested, then there is going to be good reason to think that the
    mistake was with identifying D as the realizer of desires.

    Of course, if one is absolutely determined to hold on to the idea that D realizes
    at least some desires, then one can always do so. Perhaps D realizes desires that
    play all the functional roles of immediate intentions to act, and none of the
    standard functional roles of desires that differ from those of immediate
    intentions to act, but nonetheless realizes desires all the same, a theorist might
    hold. Well, it’s always a possibility! But of course this will look like special
    pleading to most philosophers. And the fact that the interpretation of the brain is
    as open to special pleading as any other kind of interpretation is no reason to
    think that there is no constraint on theorizing that comes from neuroscience.

    For these sorts of reasons, we are convinced that there are important
    conclusions to draw from the neuroscience described earlier. We now turn to
    drawing some of them.

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    What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Instrumentalist?

    The neuroscience already described seems to make things easy for the
    instrumentalist, as one of us has suggested (Schroeder, 2004: ch. 5). Candidate
    belief structures send output to the same place as candidate desire structures,
    these converging streams of information then generate candidate immediate
    intentions to act, and these lead to bodily movement. What more could the
    instrumentalist want?

    One lurking problem for the instrumentalist is the incompleteness of this
    account. There are more influences on the production of action than recognized
    by the instrumentalist, and this might prove troublesome. For instance, the
    intrinsic connections of the motor basal ganglia are important to the production
    of movement, and one reasonable way to interpret these connections is as
    realizing habits, according to the research cited earlier. If correct, then it would
    seem to follow that no action is ever taken entirely independently of one’s habits.
    Similarly, there seem to be influences upon the motor basal ganglia that stem
    from the amygdala, a candidate for the realizer of certain emotions. If this is
    correct, then it would seem to follow (p.92) that actions produced when one is
    subject to such emotions are not produced independently of such emotions.

    What should the instrumentalist make of all this? The instrumentalist might hold
    that these constant (in the case of habits) or sporadic (in the case of emotions)
    causal contributors to moral motivation make no contribution to the moral worth
    of moral motivation. If so, then they can be safely ignored, as much as the details
    of the neurotransmitters involved can be safely ignored. Pursuing this line of
    thought, the instrumentalist might hold that motivation that makes one morally
    worthy is simply moral motivation that stems from a desire to do what is right
    and a belief that a certain action A is necessary to doing what is right.17 If this
    motivation also happens to rely on a weak or strong habit of doing what one
    takes to be necessary to doing what is right, that makes no difference—positive
    or negative—to the moral worth of any instance of moral motivation. Likewise,
    the instrumentalist might hold that a particular instance of moral motivation is
    neither impugned nor improved by being caused in part by activity in the
    amygdala realizing stereotypical anger. All that matters, the instrumentalist
    might hold, is that the right belief and the right desire are at least a part of the
    cause of the motivation in question.

    The instrumentalist might, however, be made queasy by the facts that have come
    to light about how many different factors are at work in the production of moral
    motivation. For instance, the idea that habit always plays some role in the
    production of moral motivation might be in tension with another view she might
    hold, that moral motivation is only fully worthy when it follows exclusively from
    the right beliefs and desires. This sort of thought might come from thinking
    about cases of mixed motives: a person who helps a mother struggling with a
    toddler, a bicycle, and a bag of groceries just because of believing it is the right

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    thing to do and wanting to do the right thing seems like a case of fully worthy
    moral motivation, whereas a person who is similarly motivated but also partly
    motivated by wanting to help pretty young women and believing the mother in
    question to be pretty and young seems rather less fully worthy. If being moved
    partly by habits is like being moved partly by morally irrelevant desires, then
    there is a threat in the neuroscientific data that no action will ever be fully
    morally worthy, because every action is performed partly out of habit
    (specifically, the habit of doing what seems required to do what is right). And it
    might not appeal to the instrumentalist to hold this conclusion, if it conflicts with
    other ideas the instrumentalist had at the outset about moral worth.18 (p.93)

    For at least these reasons, it is not obvious that the instrumentalist should be
    happy with the details of the neuroscience of moral motivation. But perhaps the
    instrumentalist need have no worries at all—it seems to depend as much on the
    details of the particular instrumentalist view as on the neuroscience.

    What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Cognitivist?

    Of our four caricature theorists, it is obviously our cognitivist who is most likely
    to have difficulties accommodating the neuroscientific evidence. Although it was
    pointed out earlier that the theoretical possibility exists that moral cognition can
    lead directly to moral motivation independently of the reward system (and so
    independently of desire), this theoretical possibility proves to be problematic
    upon closer inspection.

    We begin with evidence from Parkinson disease. As will be familiar to many,
    Parkinson disease is a disorder that results in a number of effects, including
    tremor, difficulty in initiating movement, and (if taken to its limit) total paralysis.
    Parkinson disease is caused by the death of the dopamine‐producing cells of the
    substantia nigra pars compacta (the SNpc in Figure 3.1), the very cells that
    make up the reward system’s output to the motor basal ganglia. Thus, on the
    interpretation of the reward system advocated earlier, Parkinson disease is a
    disorder in which intrinsic desires slowly lose their capacity to causally influence
    motivation. As it turns out, Parkinson disease impairs or prevents action
    regardless of whether the action is morally worthy or not, regardless of whether
    it is intuitively desired or intuitively done out of duty, regardless of whether the
    individual trying to act gives a law to herself. Thus Parkinson disease appears to
    show that intrinsic desires are necessary to the production of motivation in
    normal human beings, and this would seem to put serious pressure on the
    cognitivist’s position.

    The cognitivist might allow that intrinsic desires must exist in order for
    motivation to be possible, but hold that intrinsic desires normally play no
    significant role in producing motivation. After all, Parkinson disease shows that
    intrinsic desires are necessary for motivation, but it does not clearly reveal the
    role played by intrinsic desires in producing motivation when the desires exist. If

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    Moral Motivation

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    sustainable, this would be just a minor concession, and so it is well worth
    investigating.

    What might motivation of the cognitivist’s sort look like, if desires play no
    substantive role in it? It was suggested in the previous section that it might (p.
    94) look like motivation that stems directly from activity in the higher cognitive
    centers—like motivation that stems from choosing a law for one’s action, in other
    words. And it turns out that motivation derived from higher cognitive centers
    independently of desire is possible—but also that the only known model of it is
    pathological. It is the sort of motivation found in Tourette syndrome.

    Tourette syndrome is a disorder characterized by tics: eye blinks, shoulder jerks,
    barks, obscenities, profanities, and so on. Something like 70–90% of sufferers
    report that they often voluntarily produce their tics, because the effort of not
    ticcing is unpleasant and often doomed to failure in any case. But a typical
    sufferer from Tourette syndrome will also report that tics are quite capable of
    forcing themselves out regardless of how fiercely they are resisted. Tourette
    syndrome appears to be caused by a dysfunction in the motor basal ganglia, in
    which the motor basal ganglia inhibit most motor commands initiated by
    perceptual and higher cognitive centers, but not quite all. Some motor
    commands initiated by perceptual or higher cognitive centers get through in
    spite of the inhibition, and in spite of the fact that reward signals (intrinsic
    desires) have not released these inhibitions. A tic is the result (Schroeder, 2005).
    Thus direct causation of motivation by higher cognition via this pathway, quite
    independently of desire, is the sort of thing that results in a Tourettic tic, but a
    Tourettic tic is anything but the paradigm of morally worthy action. This seems a
    very unpromising parallel to be drawn for a cognitivist picture of motivation.

    There are other ways to investigate the biological plausibility of our cognitivist’s
    position as well. If reason alone were responsible for moral motivation, one
    would expect that injuries that spare reason would also spare moral motivation,
    but there are clinical case studies that suggest otherwise. Damage to the
    ventromedial (VM) region of prefrontal cortex (located in the OFC in Figure 3.1),
    a form of brain damage studied extensively by Damasio and colleagues (see, e.g.,
    Damasio, 1994), impairs cognitive input to the reward system, and so alters the
    output of the reward system to the motor basal ganglia. Such damage seems to
    render subjects incapable of acting on their better judgments in certain cases—a
    finding that we think ought to capture the imagination of any moral
    psychologist.

    In a well‐known non‐moral experimental task, subjects with this sort of injury
    were asked to draw cards from any of four decks of cards. Each card was
    marked with a number indicating a number of dollars won or lost, and subjects
    were asked to draw as they liked from the four decks, attempting to maximize
    their winnings. Normal control subjects tended to draw at first from two of the

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    Moral Motivation

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    decks, which quickly revealed themselves to have high‐paying cards when (p.
    95) drawn from. But those same decks also had high‐costing cards in them, and
    normal subjects soon enough learned to stay away from these decks and shift to
    the other two decks, where returns were lower but penalties less punitive
    (Bechara et al., 1997). Subjects with VM prefrontal injuries—with injuries to
    structures that are crucial input to the reward system—started their play just as
    normal subjects did, but strongly tended not to switch to the safer decks, instead
    staying with the high‐paying, high‐costing decks until they ran out of money.
    Fascinatingly, these same subjects sometimes reported being aware of what the
    better strategy would be, but they nonetheless failed to follow it (Bechara et al.,
    2000).

    This sort of finding should once again give our cognitivist pause, for it suggests
    that, at least in non‐moral contexts, reason alone does not suffice to guide action
    independently of reward information; it is reasonable to speculate that reason
    may fail to produce motivation in moral cases as well. Damasio himself
    interprets these findings as specifically vindicating the role of felt emotional
    responses in decision‐making, a more personalist than instrumentalist
    conclusion. However, the precise interpretation of the mechanism by which VM
    prefrontal cortical injury leads to its own peculiar effects is not yet well
    understood. We return to a discussion of these people with VM damage after
    exploring the consequences for the cognitivist thesis of another population of
    people with disorders of moral motivation: psychopaths.

    Psychopaths are people who seem cognitively normal, but evince little remorse
    or guilt for morally wrong actions. Psychopaths are identified by scoring high on
    a standard psychopathy checklist (Hare, 1991), and seem to be deficient in two
    respects: (1) emotional dysfunction, and (2) antisocial behavior. Psychopaths
    seem able to comprehend social and moral rules, and they typically do not seem
    to have impaired reasoning abilities. (Recent studies suggest that limbic system
    damage is correlated with psychopathy, and this is consistent with the fact that
    psychopaths show diminished affective response to cues of suffering in others,
    but it does not suggest any particularly cognitive impairment [Kiehl, 2006; but
    see Maibom, 2005].)

    As a population apparently capable of making moral judgments but not at all
    motivated by them, psychopaths present an obvious challenge to the cognitivist.
    However, research suggests that psychopaths’ moral cognition is deficient in at
    least the following respect: they show a diminished capacity to distinguish moral
    from conventional violations (Blair, 1995, 1997). For instance, children with
    psychopathic tendencies are more likely to judge moral violations as authority‐
    dependent (so the morality of hitting another child in a classroom will be held to
    depend on whether or not the teacher permits it, rather than held to be
    independent of such rules, as it is by normally developing (p.96) children). This
    deficit has led some to argue that psychopaths have impaired moral concepts

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    Moral Motivation

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    (Nichols, 2004: 113). Although they are able to say whether an action is right or
    wrong, permitted or prohibited, philosophers such as these suggest that
    psychopaths merely mouth the words, or make moral judgments in the “inverted
    commas” sense: judgments of what is called “moral” by others.

    The ability of psychopaths to stand as counter‐examples to cognitivism rests
    upon some argument to the effect that psychopaths really do make moral
    judgments. If psychopaths indeed lack moral concepts or moral knowledge, then
    their failure to act morally or to appear to lack motivation is no challenge to
    cognitivism, for it can plausibly be argued that to make moral judgments at all,
    one must have moral concepts and possess some modicum of moral knowledge
    (Kennett & Fine, 2007). However, if the ability to make the moral/conventional
    distinction is not required for moral concepts or moral knowledge, then
    psychopaths appear to be candidate counter‐examples to our cognitivist (see,
    e.g., Kelly et al., 2007). Although some arguments have been offered to suggest
    that psychopaths have requisite abilities to make moral judgments (Roskies,
    2007), these arguments remain indecisive. On our view, it remains unclear
    whether psychopaths are competent moral judges.

    Many of the objections that have been raised against the psychopath as a
    challenge to internalism are moot when it comes to people who have sustained
    damage to their VM frontal cortex (see above). Subjects with VM damage exhibit
    a fascinating pattern of behavioral deficits often referred to as “acquired
    sociopathy.” Cognitive tests indicate that VM patients have no deficits in
    reasoning, nor is their knowledge of the world affected by their injury. In
    particular, on a variety of measures, the moral reasoning of VM patients is
    unimpaired: they reason at a normal level on Kohlberg’s moral reasoning scale
    (Saver & Damasio, 1991), and make normal moral judgments in a variety of
    hypothetical scenarios (Koenigs et al., 2007).19 Nonetheless, case reports
    suggest that people who had been normal and responsible adults prior to their
    injury exhibit dramatic changes in their manners and their actions, and among
    their (p.97) deficits is a moral one. The following case study, of patient EVR,
    illustrates the deficits:

    By age 35, in 1975, EVR was a successful professional, happily married,
    and the father of two. He led an impeccable social life, and was a role
    model to younger siblings. In that year, an orbitofrontal meningioma was
    diagnosed and, in order to achieve its successful surgical resection, a
    bilateral excision of orbital and lower mesial cortices was necessary. EVR’s
    basic intelligence and standard memory were not compromised by the
    ablation. His performances on standardized IQ and memory tests are
    uniformly in the superior range (97th–99th percentile). He passes all
    formal neuropsychological probes. Standing in sharp contrast to this
    pattern of neuropsychological test performance, EVR’s social conduct was
    profoundly affected by his brain injury. Over a brief period of time, he

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    Moral Motivation

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    entered disastrous business ventures (one of which led to predictable
    bankruptcy), and was divorced twice (the second marriage, which was to a
    prostitute, only lasted 6 months). He has been unable to hold any paying
    job since the time of the surgery, and his plans for future activity are
    defective.–(Damasio et al., 1990)

    VM patients with damage late in life exhibit a number of deficits in navigating complex
    social demands. Although the case reports of these patients do not specifically examine
    their moral behavior, it has been suggested that among their deficits is a deficit in
    acting in accord with what they take to be right or best. Although VM patients
    apparently know what is right and wrong, they do not appear motivated to do what
    they apparently judge the right thing in a number of quotidian situations. These
    deficits do not appear to be specifically moral, but this does not impugn them as
    challenges to cognitivism, since the deficits appear—if anything—broader than those
    necessary to pose a serious threat to cognitivism. Recently, however, it has been
    argued that people exhibiting acquired sociopathy do not exhibit moral deficits at all,
    but that their deficits in non‐moral aspects of life merely manifest occasionally in
    moral situations (Kennett & Fine, 2007). Resolution of this issue must await further
    studies on these patients, since the available literature does not resolve the question.20

    Some insight into the role VM cortex plays in moral judgment and motivation
    can be gained from considering the effects of damage to VM cortex early in life.
    These people are more like psychopaths in their profile: they are violent and
    pursue their own ends without regard to others’ welfare (Anderson et al., 1999).
    Therefore it seems that an intact VM cortex is necessary for acquisition but not
    retention of moral knowledge; the sociopathic behavior of these early damage
    patients is explained by the fact that they never acquire moral knowledge.
    Kennett and Fine (2007) have attempted to explain the (p.98) differences
    between the early damage and late damage cases in terms of retained moral
    motivation in cases in which moral knowledge is preserved: they argue that late
    damage patients are not violent because they are motivated by their moral
    judgments. However, alternative explanations of the modest moral infringements
    characteristic of late damage patients fit better with the psychological profile.
    Late damage VM patients do not show skin conductance responses (the small
    changes in the electrical conductivity of the skin caused by changes in sweating)
    to moral situations, whereas normal people do (Damasio, Tranel, & Damasio,
    1990). This is due to the fact that the brain regions involved in making moral
    judgments are disconnected from regions involved in translating goals into
    action. In normal people there is a causal connection from regions associated
    with moral judgment to regions involved in desiring and executing action; this
    connection is disrupted with VM damage. Late damage patients’ lack of violence
    is perhaps better explained by the absence in these people of immoral
    motivation and the operation of habit.

    In general, the evidence accords with thinking of patients with VM damage as
    examples of a disconnection syndrome. Recall the picture of motivation sketched
    above. As we understand it, moral judgment happens in higher cortical regions,

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    Moral Motivation

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    either in frontal areas or in areas that project to them. Motivation is due to
    reward‐system‐mediated activity being sent to basal ganglia and pre‐motor
    areas. Associations between the cognitive moral judgments and the motivational
    system are mediated by connections from VM frontal cortex to the basal ganglia:
    fiber pathways from VM frontal cortex link the output of moral deliberation to
    the motivational system. The connection between VM cortex and motivation is
    thus a causal one, and causal connections are contingent. Damage to VM cortex
    would thus sever the link between the cognitive judgments and motivation,
    leaving intact the judgment and its content, but not causing motivation that
    might normally result. Such an effect would establish that moral judgment was
    not intrinsically or necessarily motivational, but that instead the link between
    judgment and motivation was contingent and defeasible (Roskies, 2006).

    What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Sentimentalist?

    Evidence from psychology and neuroscience indicates that emotions are
    involved in normal moral behavior, and this is good news for the sentimentalist.
    Results from brain imaging suggest that at least some moral judgments involve
    operation of the emotional system (Greene et al., 2001, 2004; Moll et al., 2002).
    Studies of psychopaths also indicate that emotions play a role in moral behavior,
    since the moral emotions are blunted in psychopaths (Blair et al., (p.99) 1997;
    see also Blair et al., 2005). But what do these correlations suggest about
    causation? Are the moral emotions key causes of moral motivation, or are they
    typically by‐products of moral beliefs and moral desires? Or are they something
    else entirely?

    The primary regions of the brain identified as realizing motivation (the motor
    basal ganglia, pre‐motor cortex, and motor cortex) are distinct from those brain
    structures, such as the amygdala, states of which have been most frequently
    identified with emotion. As indicated in Figure 3.1, there is input from the
    amygdala to the reward system and so (indirectly) to the motor basal ganglia,
    but it seems clear that the basal ganglia as influenced by the reward system can
    operate independently of the amygdala (a complete amygdalectomy does not
    prevent motivation, for instance). Upon a second look, then, it might seem as if
    the situation is just as dire for the sentimentalist as for the cognitivist.

    One response available to the sentimentalist here is to claim that while
    motivation simpliciter might be intact in absence of emotions, moral motivation
    will be absent. Sentimentalists who hold that moral judgment depends on the
    emotions (e.g. Nichols, 2004) might defend sentimentalism about moral
    motivation by maintaining that moral motivation depends on moral judgment.
    Alternatively, the sentimentalist might maintain that motivation only counts as
    moral when it is generated by moral emotions. So if Jen lacks emotions but helps
    the homeless man, her motivation for doing so isn’t properly moral. She can’t be
    feeling compassion, for instance. Or guilt. Perhaps she is helping as a result of
    rational calculation about the benefits to her reputation. But a sentimentalist

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    Moral Motivation

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    might say that this doesn’t count as moral motivation. Although this move is
    available to some sentimentalists, it does require a substantial concession. One
    of the most important traditional Humean arguments for sentimentalism
    proceeds as follows: moral considerations motivate; only the passions motivate;
    therefore moral considerations motivate through the passions. The brain data
    undercut this traditional argument, for they suggest that motivation does not
    require emotions. Thus we can’t conclude that sentimentalism is true from
    general considerations about the nature of motivation.

    A much different sentimentalist response appeals to general considerations
    about the nature of the emotions. It is far from clear where one should localize
    the emotions in the brain. Much hangs on the nature of the emotions
    themselves. If emotions are, first and foremost, the immediate causes of the
    changes in heart rate, breathing, gut motility, and so on that we associate with
    powerful emotions, then emotions might be localized to the amygdala, or
    perhaps to a system made up of the amygdala, its immediate inputs from
    perception and cognition, and its immediate outputs to hormonal and visceral
    systems. On this (p.100) way of thinking, the fact that massive damage to the
    amygdala does not seem to impair motivation greatly in general would seem to
    be a damaging blow to the thesis that moral emotions are crucial to moral
    motivation—unless there were some special evidence that, while self‐protective
    motivation does not depend on fear, the motivation for restorative justice does
    depend upon guilt. Being aware of no such evidence, we conclude that prospects
    are not good for the sentimentalist who holds a purely amygdala‐centered theory
    of the emotions. However, as noted, other limbic and paralimbic areas are also
    crucial for normal emotional function, and so it is doubtful that the emotions
    should be localized to the amygdala in the first place.21

    Some philosophers hold that, rather than being the causes of distinctive bodily
    changes, emotions are our experiences of these changes (James, 1890; Prinz,
    2004). If this is right, then the emotions are perceptual states. In particular, they
    are perceptions of changes in heart rate, breathing, gut motility, piloerection,
    and the various other bodily changes we associate with emotions. Should the
    sentimentalist embrace this view of the emotions as correct for the moral
    emotions in particular, then it would seem that the moral emotions do their work
    motivating us through connections from the right perceptual structures to the
    motor basal ganglia. But this would seem to revive some of the problems that
    the cognitivist faced. The cognitivist has difficulties explaining moral motivation
    in part because there appears to be no reasonable pathway from mere
    perception or cognition through to motivation independently of the reward
    system (and so, independently of desire). And just as this held for beliefs about
    rightness, so it would seem to hold for feelings of gut‐wrenching guilt. As Figure
    3.1 makes clear, there are no important structural differences between the
    connections that cognition enjoys to motivation and those perception enjoys.

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    There does seem to be something special about feelings of gut‐wrenching guilt,
    however, that makes them more motivating than the mere belief that one has
    done wrong, and this is how very unpleasant it is to feel gut‐wrenching guilt. As
    the literature on pain has amply demonstrated, however, the displeasure of a
    perception of one’s body needs to be sharply distinguished from the perception
    of one’s body itself (Dennett, 1978: ch. 11; Hardcastle, 1999). If the
    unpleasantness of gut‐wrenching feelings of guilt is what is so motivating, then
    this is because displeasure itself is what is so motivating. Note, however, that
    this need not be inimical to the sentimentalist’s view of things. The
    sentimentalist might hold that the moral emotions are what motivate (p.101)
    morally worthy behavior, and hold that they do so by involving, as an essential
    constituent, pleasure or displeasure.

    If this is the position of the sentimentalist, then it is unclear how successful the
    sentimentalist is in accommodating the neuroscientific facts. For it is unclear
    exactly how important a role pleasure and displeasure play in the production of
    behavior. Morillo (1990) argues that pleasure is realized by the activity of the
    reward system, and so pleasure is the immediate cause of much of normal
    motivation (and likewise, one would assume, for displeasure). But following
    Berridge (1999) and Schroeder (2004), we have treated pleasure as often caused
    by reward signals rather than identical to them or realized by them. In Figure
    3.1, for example, pleasure and displeasure are treated as having the structural
    properties of perception and cognition, so far as connections to motivation are
    concerned. If this interpretation of the neuroscience is correct, then again it
    would seem that there are difficulties for the sentimentalist: if the causal
    connections of pleasure and displeasure are just those of any perceptual or
    cognitive state, then they will be subject to all of the problems facing the
    cognitivist. However, many philosophers hold that pleasure and displeasure have
    privileged connections to motivation, perhaps necessarily so. If they are correct,
    then the problems facing the sentimentalist might be less severe.

    The position on the emotions that seems most likely to assist the sentimentalist
    is a form of cognitivism found in, for example, Green (1992), on which the core
    of any emotion is a combination of a belief and a desire regarding the object of
    the emotion. On this view, feeling guilty that P entails believing that one did P
    and desiring not to have done P, for instance. (This is only a necessary condition
    on guilt, on the view in question. Other factors are required to distinguish guilt
    from non‐moral regret, sadness, etc.) If moral emotions are constituted in whole
    or in part by combinations of beliefs and desires, then they can produce
    motivation in just the way that beliefs and desires can produce motivation, and
    the sentimentalist is at least as well off as the instrumentalist.

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    What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Personalist?

    Our personalist might seem the best off of all the theorists we have considered,
    for our personalist holds that a complex combination of factors jointly produces
    moral motivation, and this might seem to fit the neuroscientific picture better
    than any more restricted view. Invoking both desires and emotions, the
    personalist would seem to have the virtues of the instrumentalist and the
    sentimentalist combined, while lacking the problems of the cognitivist (see, e.g.,
    Casebeer, 2003). (p.102)

    Considering again the details of our personalist’s view suggests two changes
    that might be appropriate, however. One is a form of liberalization. The other
    change is more conservative.

    As we sketched the view, the personalist begins with perceptions and thoughts
    that might well be unsystematically linked to morality, and eventually reaches a
    moral belief. Perception of someone crying might lead to the thought that the
    same person is in distress, for instance. But until a specifically moral belief is
    formed—that the crying person should be comforted, for instance—no morally
    worthy action can begin. Is this restriction necessary? As Figure 3.1 suggests,
    there are dense connections between all of our perceptual and cognitive abilities
    and our motivational system, both directly and via the reward system. So it is
    certainly possible to see someone crying, for that perception to be desire
    frustrating, and so for someone to be moved to offer comfort—all without the
    intervention of a belief that comfort is what is morally appropriate. Should the
    personalist hold that this is not an appropriate route to moral motivation?

    The issue is difficult. After all, it is not morally worthy to be moved by every tear
    one perceives—even every genuine tear. Sometimes it is wrong to offer comfort:
    perhaps it would have been wrong to offer comfort to those convicted at the
    Nuremberg trials, for instance. This suggests that being moved just by the
    perception of tears and a desire that others not cry is insufficient to be moved in
    the morally worthy way.

    There are ways of getting more sophisticated without ever arriving at a belief
    that a certain course of action is morally right, however. For instance, it might
    be that all the factors perceived and believed in by the subject—all the factors
    that would justify the belief that a particular action is the morally right one in
    the context—bear down upon the motivational system, directly and through their
    connections to the reward system, so as to bring about the action that is, in fact,
    the right action. This holistic combination of causal influences appears very
    complex, but there is no reason to be found in Figure 3.1 to think that the motor
    basal ganglia cannot learn (through processes such as habit formation) to
    respond with the morally right output to input that entails what is morally right
    even though it does not explicitly encode what is morally right. We suggest that
    philosophers who think of themselves as allied to the personalist should consider

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    keeping their ears open for information that confirms or disconfirms this
    possibility.

    Turning now to the way in which the personalist might need a more conservative
    view than that sketched: the personalist holds that all three of desires, emotions,
    and habits are necessary to produce morally worthy motivation. But as we saw
    in discussing the sentimentalist, it is unclear that (p.103) the emotions have a
    privileged role in action production that is distinct from the role accorded to
    desires. If this is borne out by future research, then the personalist should
    contract her list from three items to two: it might well be that morally worthy
    motivation requires only desires and habits as inputs, along with appropriate
    perceptions and beliefs. Because this was the central issue discussed in the
    previous section, we shall not belabor the point any further here.

    Turning now from our four views of moral motivation, we finish by considering
    two further topics: weakness of the will and altruism.

    How is Weakness of the Will Possible?

    It is an old worry in philosophy that it is impossible to act voluntarily in a way
    that flouts one’s considered judgment about the best thing to do. The worry goes
    as follows. If Andrea says that she thinks it best to skip dessert, but then plunges
    into the crème brulée, then either she didn’t really think it best to skip dessert or
    her action wasn’t voluntary. For it seems plausible that one acts voluntarily when
    and only when one acts from one’s considered judgments. There is a voluminous
    literature that tries either to explain how akratic actions—actions contrary to
    one’s best judgments about the best thing to do—are possible, or to show that
    the cases of apparent akratic action are only apparent, and that there are no real
    cases of akratic action.

    Considered judgments are, of course, a product of higher cognitive processes,
    and such judgments are produced in cortical brain regions associated with
    perception and belief (so we suppose, at least, in the absence of evidence to the
    contrary). As we stressed earlier, the action selection system (i.e. the motor
    basal ganglia) is guided by higher cognitive processes, but it is also guided by
    other, subcortical, factors including the amygdala and the reward system (again,
    see Figure 3.1). It is worth noticing that the basal ganglia form a relatively
    ancient system that was presumably involved in action selection prior to the
    evolution of cortical areas capable of realizing complex deliberative processes.
    This suggests, first, that it is likely that action selection can sometimes
    completely bypass considered judgments (perhaps in the case of phobias).
    Second, it suggests that more primitive pathways are still operative in action
    selection in normal humans. These subcortical contributors sometimes carry the
    day, leading to action selection that differs from the action preferred by
    considered judgment.22

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    Now, somewhat less neutrally, map Andrea’s consumption of the crème brulée
    onto this model. The worry about the possibility of akrasia is, to repeat, (p.104)
    that either it was not Andrea’s considered judgment to skip dessert or her
    eating of the crème brulée was not voluntary. To take the first disjunct, on our
    model there is an obvious way to preserve the claim that it is Andrea’s
    considered judgment that it would be best to skip dessert. The higher cognitive
    processes that go into those judgments are in cortical regions, and we could, no
    doubt, find numerous signs that Andrea actually has the higher‐cognitive
    judgment that she should skip dessert. Indeed, in light of our model, it strikes us
    that it would be rather desperate to deny that it is Andrea’s considered judgment
    that it would be best to skip dessert.23 Of course, there are also subcortical
    factors that strongly incline Andrea to eat the crème brulée. Sometimes these
    subcortical factors get integrated into the process of coming to a considered
    judgment. But it is also the case that the subcortical factors can influence action
    selection in the basal ganglia in ways that are not routed through cognitively
    oriented cortical regions. That is, the subcortical mechanisms make direct
    contributions to action selection, unmediated by considered judgments. In such
    cases it would be strange to identify those subcortical contributors as part of the
    considered judgment. Why should structures we share with many animals short
    on considered judgments count as constituting part of our considered judgments
    just because they move us?

    The philosopher who is skeptical of akrasia might opt instead for the view that
    while Andrea did have the considered judgment that it is best to skip dessert,
    her consumption of the crème brulée was not voluntary. The issue here is more
    delicate, because the philosophical category of the voluntary is far from any
    neuroscientific category, but we will attempt to integrate the taxonomies. One
    conceivable way to exclude Andrea’s dessert eating from the realm of the
    voluntary is to maintain that it is a necessary condition on voluntary action that
    the action is selected because it is one’s considered judgment. That is, actions
    are voluntary only when the considered judgment carries the day in the basal
    ganglia. This would serve to exclude Andrea’s dessert eating from the realm of
    the voluntary, but it is hard to see what the basis would be for such an exclusion.
    Appeal to folk practice would be no help, for the folk are quick to say that
    Andrea chose to eat the crème brulée and it is her own damn fault if her pants
    no longer fit!

    We think that a more promising approach is to consider again the role of the
    basal ganglia. It strikes us as a plausible sufficient condition that when an action
    is selected from among other possible actions (represented in the pre‐motor (p.
    105) cortex or motor PFC) by the basal ganglia, then that action is voluntary.
    Recall from earlier in this section that Tourettic tics are bodily movements
    produced without the movement being promoted by the basal ganglia. This
    seems to show that promotion by the basal ganglia is a necessary condition for a
    movement being voluntary. But we think it is also sufficient, at least barring

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    injury, disease, and the like.24 For—turning again to our pre‐human ancestors—it
    would seem that other animals are also able to perform voluntary behaviors,
    even in the absence of beliefs about courses of action being best. (Voluntary in
    what sense? At least in the senses that (i) these actions are not compelled (not
    compulsions, fixed action patterns, and the like) or produced by otherwise
    pathological processes, and (ii) these actions can be evaluated as more or less
    reasonable given the epistemic and conative standpoint of the animal. And this
    seems voluntary enough.) And again, actions performed with such spontaneity
    that there was never any time to consider whether or not the action was best
    (rapid‐fire conversation perhaps best illustrates this phenomenon) are
    nonetheless performed in part through the action of the basal ganglia, and
    appear to be as voluntary as any action might be. If these considerations stand
    up, then Andrea’s consumption of the crème brulée is voluntary. Several
    different actions were available in the motor cortices, and the basal ganglia
    selected eating the crème brulée from among them.

    Thus akratic action can easily be accommodated on our model of motivation. The
    key fact is that action selection depends on contributions not just from our
    considered judgments, but also on less exalted psychological factors, like
    reward, dopamine, and emotions.

    What does Neuroscience Reveal about Altruism?

    Hedonism is perhaps the most prominent view that denies the existence of
    altruistic motivation. According to hedonism, all ultimate desires are desires to
    get pleasure for oneself and avoid one’s own pain. If hedonism is true, then an
    individual’s actions will always be ultimately motivated by narrow self‐interest—
    the motivation to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Hence, if hedonism were true,
    there would be no ultimate desires for the welfare of others. If I am motivated to
    help a neighbor child with a skinned knee, this motivation ultimately gets traced
    back to my pursuit of pleasure and flight from pain. (p.106)

    One of the more interesting implications suggested by the neuroscientific work
    is that hedonism is false. For as we argued in Section 4, it is plausible that
    intrinsic desires are realized by the reward system, and it is also plausible that
    the reward system is distinguishable from the structures that support pleasure
    and pain. A person can have an intrinsic desire to act in a certain way even in
    the absence of any pleasure (or pain) signal.

    A number of studies have shown that there is significant overlap in the brain
    regions involved in experiencing pain, imagining pain, and perceiving pain in
    others (Singer et al., 2004). Since reward signals are involved in governing
    actions that lessen one’s own pain, it is plausible that reward signals (to be
    distinguished from pleasure) may also be involved in lessening others’ pain.

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    This is hardly the final word on whether altruism exists. For there are non‐
    hedonistic versions of egoism (see Chapter 5 for further discussion).
    Furthermore, it might turn out that all of our other‐regarding desires do derive
    from connections to pleasure and pain. Nonetheless, if the neuroscience helps to
    rule out hedonism as a universal account of desire, this will be an important
    result for the longstanding debate about altruistic motivation.

  • Summary
  • Motivation is a causally efficacious, occurrent mental state. An exploration of the
    neuroscience underlying motivation provides a structure from which to consider
    the question of what the neural states are that realize morally worthy
    motivational states. We have characterized four familiar philosophical views of
    what moral motivation consists in: the instrumentalist’s, the cognitivist’s, the
    sentimentalist’s, and the personalist’s. The instrumentalist’s story of desire and
    belief leading to moral action fits well with the neuroscientific picture, and
    suggests that motivational states are to be identified with states of the motor
    basal ganglia or immediate “causally downstream” structures, such as pre‐motor
    or motor cortex, that directly control bodily movement. The neuroscience raises
    difficulties for the cognitivist’s story, since our moral behavior does not appear
    to be under the control of cognitive states alone, independently of desire. The
    sentimentalist’s view is also under threat, because the emotional system, while
    closely linked to the system underlying voluntary action, will turn out to be
    nonetheless distinct from it unless emotions are themselves built in part from
    desires. The personalist’s story, on the other hand, fares relatively well. At this
    point our understanding (p.107) of the neuroscience is only partial, and each of
    the criticisms raised may be countered. However, our understanding of the
    neurobiological systems underlying complex social cognition are still in their
    infancy. We suggest that further attention to the actual structure and function of
    the systems underlying moral motivation and action could serve to constrain
    future theorizing about the structure of moral agency, as well as have an impact
    on discussions of other philosophically interesting phenomena, such as weakness
    of will and altruism.

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    Notes:

    (1) Here we focus solely on motivation to act in specific ways, not motivation to
    refrain from acting. It is likely that neural basis of the latter depends upon a
    neural system the underlying neurobiology of which is not well understood.

    (2) It should be noted that each of these four views provides a story about moral
    motivation, assuming that the judgments or feelings are elicited by a moral
    situation. We have nothing to say about what sorts of things make judgments or
    feelings genuine responses to moral facts, features, or situations; to the extent
    that an account of the moral facts is required, we don’t presume to provide a
    complete characterization of moral motivation. But we take it that a variety of
    different accounts of moral facts can be added on to our stories about moral
    motivation, and so we set this issue to one side.

    (3) Contrast this with Michael Smith’s Humeanism, in which beliefs about what
    it would be rational to want guide the formation of desires (Smith, 1994). On
    Smith’s Humeanism, belief often precedes desire, rather than vice versa.

    (4) Our instrumentalist thus ignores Hume’s own distinction between the calm
    and the violent passions.

    (5) See, e.g., Jeffrey (1990), Sen (1982).

    (6) Williams (1981) is often taken to be the starting point for contemporary
    instrumentalist argument.

    (7) There is a substantial literature about what, exactly, the content of Jen’s
    desire and belief must be for her motivation to be morally worthy. Michael Smith
    has argued that to act on a desire to do what is right as such is to fetishize
    morality (Smith, 1994), and Nomy Arpaly has argued that one can perform
    morally worthy actions even while being mistaken about what is right, so long as
    one’s motivating desire has morally relevant content (Arpaly, 2003). In this work
    we do not mean to take a particular stand on these issues, and will write of
    desires to do what is right and beliefs about what is right purely for the sake of
    convenience.

    (8) For intimations of this, see, e.g., Korsgaard (1986).

    (9) The personalist can, but need not, hold an explicit theory of right action on
    which the right action is the one the person of full virtue would perform
    (Hursthouse, 1999).

    (10) Like Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, the personalist holds that doing
    what courage requires merely out of love of money, or irrational optimism about
    one’s chances, or the like, does not amount to action out of a virtue.

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    (11) We include the cranial motor neurons with the spinal cord for our exegetical
    purposes.

    (12) See Jeannerod (1997) for more on this sort of input to action production.

    (13) Things get complicated if you are a neosentimentalist. If, like Gibbard
    (1990), you hold that moral beliefs are endorsements of norms for certain
    emotions, then moral belief will not be realized entirely in higher cortical
    structures, but rather by a relationship between these structures and conative
    regions of the brain.

    (14) Morillo (1990) holds that the reward signal realizes pleasure, rather than
    causing it. But work published since 1990, much of it summarized in Berridge &
    Robinson (1998) and Berridge (1999), suggests that the reward signal is rather a
    crucial normal cause of pleasure.

    (15) Except insofar as the instrumentalist maintains that instrumental motivation
    is the only form of moral motivation; in the next section, we address the extent
    to which the scientific evidence rules out certain views of this sort.

    (16) Kandel et al. (2000), ch. 50.

    (17) As noted earlier, there is room for many more subtle specific details about
    the contents of the desire(s) and belief(s) in question. We continue to set these
    details aside for ease of exposition.

    (18) One theory of moral worth that might be congenial to the instrumentalist in
    general, but that might hold moral worth to be diminished insofar as an action
    expresses a mere habit, is found in Arpaly (2003). Although Arpaly is not focused
    on the moral significance of habits, this sort of conclusion seems in keeping with
    her theory of moral worth, since she holds that moral praiseworthiness is
    proportionate (all else being equal) to the degree to which the act expresses a
    desire for what is morally good.

    (19) Koenigs et al. demonstrate that the moral judgments of patients with
    acquired sociopathy do not exhibit the profile of normals across the board. They
    are statistically different, in that in situations that Greene et al. (2001, 2004)
    categorizes as “up close and personal,” VM patients make judgments that are
    more utilitarian than emotionally driven. This result comports with their
    neurological profile. Nonetheless, we think that this minor difference in moral
    reasoning does not preclude their inclusion as moral reasoners for two reasons.
    First, a proportion of normals (and in particular, some moral philosophers!)
    make moral judgments with this pattern; second, despite the difference in
    pattern, there is no evidence that the content of their judgment is impaired, so
    there is no reason to think they are making judgments that don’t qualify as

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    moral. If they make moral judgments and are not motivated, our cognitivist is
    refuted.

    (20) Roskies (2007) suggests what data are needed to resolve the issue.

    (21) There are compelling arguments to the effect that it is not possible to have
    a single, unified localization of the emotions (Griffiths, 1997).

    (22) Related ideas are explored in depth in Stanovich (2004).

    (23) Here we are assuming that judgments about what it is best to do are
    genuine cognitive states, and not mere expressions of motivational states or
    complex combinations of these two things.

    (24) One empirical bet we are thus making is that obsessive‐compulsive disorder
    and related disorders will prove to be like Tourette syndrome in that they
    generate behavior that is not released by the basal ganglia in the normal way we
    have described.

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      Moral Motivation
      John M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group
      Moral Motivation
      Timothy Schroeder
      Adina L. Roskies
      Shaun Nichols
      Abstract and Keywords
      Moral Motivation
      1. Motivation
      Moral Motivation

    • 2. Philosophical Approaches to Moral Motivation
    • The Instrumentalist
      Moral Motivation
      The Cognitivist
      Moral Motivation
      The Sentimentalist
      Moral Motivation
      The Personalist
      Moral Motivation
      3. The Neurophysiology of Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      4. Initial Implications of Neurophysiology
      Implications for Instrumentalism
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Implications for Cognitivism
      Moral Motivation
      Implications for Sentimentalism
      Implications for Personalism
      Moral Motivation
      5. Some Pressing Questions
      Does Neuroscience Bear on the Truth of Theories of Moral Motivation?
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Instrumentalist?
      Moral Motivation
      What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Cognitivist?
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Sentimentalist?
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      What Problems does Neuroscience pose for the Personalist?
      Moral Motivation
      How is Weakness of the Will Possible?
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      What does Neuroscience Reveal about Altruism?
      Moral Motivation
      Summary
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation
      Notes:
      Moral Motivation
      Moral Motivation

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