The default situation is one in which everyone who holds an extended foundational attitude acts accordingly unless they would have to desire something more than they desired to avoid injury to themselves, to their family, or to their friends.
The main way we avoid doing what we ought to do is by deceiving ourselves about our own actions.
Our intuitions depend not only on our extended foundational attitudes but also on what we believe about the world and our actions. If we have relevant false beliefs and lack relevant true beliefs, our intuitions will be wrong.
Since the members of groups acknowledge each other for the sake of co-operation, isolated groups do fine even though they have mistaken convictions about what they ought to do, provided that they agree on the mistaken views. Groups can deceive themselves about their actions. If they are in competition with other groups, they will be motivated to differentiate themselves from their competitors morally. It makes it easier for them to be indifferent to them, or to exploit them.
The upshot is that we should expect some variation in moral opinions and intuitions. Variation would be a problem if and only if there was disagreement among people who agreed on all the non-moral facts and did not hold different moral theories.
People who act in accordance with a false moral view of the world find it hard to reject the old view. Members of new generations do not have the same handicap and can become moral reformers. The influence of moral reformers and the succession of generations mean that errors do not last forever. So, the theory implies that moral opinions should change over time. This is another confirmed empirical prediction.
Not everyone is equally good at deceiving themselves. If people are not good at it and if they are in a situation where they ought to rescue an unrelated stranger, they will. We approve of their actions because they are doing the right thing. And we regard them as being better than average because they are better than average. Thus, the theory explains the observations mentioned in the first chapter, that some help strangers, that the helpers are regarded as virtuous, and that they are regarded as especially virtuous because they help strangers.
Copyright Brian Zamulinski.