In this chapter, I sketch a way in which contingent extended foundational attitudes could be naturally selected.
First, I argue that there would be selection for individuals to hold that they are of value (full stop) rather than that they are of value because they possess non-moral characteristic C. It is just as advantageous, it is easier for it to develop, and it is harder to eliminate.
Second, I argue that there would be selection for foundational attitudes because they improve the ability of holders to carry out longer term projects.
Third, I argue that there would be selection for acknowledging others because doing so would enable co-operation on long-term projects. People demonstrate that they are reliable co-operators by treating others as being of value, which, by hypothesis, amounts to acting morally.
Finally, I argue that extended foundational attitudes would become contingent on an individual’s being able to desire to avoid injury to himself, his family, and his friends, because it helps him avoid paying too great a price for acknowledging others.
Unconfirmed evolutionary hypotheses are derided as “just so stories,” named after a collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling. However, the hypothesized set of adaptations has implications that can be confirmed.
First, there should be a correlation between being amoral and lacking the normal ability to carry out long term projects (because foundational attitudes were selected because they improved that ability and because they are part of a complex that has morality as a by-product). The only truly amoral human beings are psychopaths and they do lack the normal ability to carry out long term projects. When I was developing the theory, I realized that this had to be the case. I was, however, completely ignorant of abnormal psychology. I was pleased when I discovered that what my hypothesis told me should exist actually did exist, especially because it might not have – the improved ability might have reached fixation in humans, the point at which all members of the species have the adaptation.
Second, because inconsistency is a bad thing (for reasons that I discuss in my book but don’t mention here) and because acting morally is always a cost, we ought to try to get away with things by deluding ourselves about our own actions. If we succeed, we avoid both the cost of acting morally and the cost of being inconsistent – by describing our own actions inaccurately to ourselves. This phenomenon is also observable. Happily, the usefulness of this tactic is limited, primarily because it is in the interests of others to keep us honest.
Finally, morality should be universal among human societies, something that we also observe, because the improved ability to pursue long-term projects, particularly in co-operation with others, is advantageous in all environments. If morality includes a requirement to help outsiders, as I believe it does, the universality of morality is not something we can take for granted.
I do not contend that this is conclusive. In principle, you cannot get conclusive proof for empirical theories and this is an empirical theory. But it does show that I am not merely speculating.
Copyright Brian Zamulinski.